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Simple Versus Complex Patterns

The elaboration of the garden pattern is influenced by the type of plant arrangement it is to contain. For example, if the garden is to be viewed from a raised terrace or porch a complicated pattern is effective. It can be planted for broad seasonal effects with relatively low-growing plants of only a few varieties. If you intend, however to arrange groups of flowering plants against a background of foliage, wall, fence, or hedge to be viewed close by and as individual pictures rather than as parts of a whole display, a complicated pattern is a hindrance. In such a case the pattern should be simple, preferably, long borders and wide beds against the garden enclosure with plenty of open center space from which to view the various plant arrangements.

Too often the beginner selects for his first garden the most complicated pattern he can find. As experience increases he simplifies until finally a simple and direct scheme is produced. In nearly every other field, even in dressmaking and cooking, the reverse is true. We begin with the simple and obvious and, as skill increases, we pass on to the more difficult. This is a better practice in garden planning and planting too.

There is nothing wrong with a simple garden pattern. Some of the largest and most noteworthy gardens are extremely simple in basic design. A complicated pattern does not achieve anything that a simple pattern cannot produce. On the other hand, a complicated pattern usually results in tightness of design, bad in most situations. Many narrow paths and small, odd-shaped beds clutter up the garden and reduce the planting areas so that it is difficult to make good plant compositions in them. This fault is particularly common in so-called modern designs. Odd- and unnamable-shaped planting spaces enclosed by squares or circles are hard to plant well.

Furthermore it is a fact that the human eye cannot take in completely a complicated pattern. When it is baffled at first, it generally refuses to try further, but is content to focus on something fairly obvious. The broad, open pattern is an immediate delight to the observer. Why then should a designer go to the trouble of creating a complicated picture, especially since it will entail a tremendous amount of labor and expense in upkeep?

This question of upkeep should always be in mind when you are creating a garden. If it were, more beginners would have smaller, simpler gardens. The original scheme can always be improved, increased in size, or further complicated by beds and paths if later, this is desirable.

Consider also the purpose of the garden. Avoid arbitrary patterns. These lack individuality, are difficult to harmonize with a site, difficult to keep in scale, and generally troublesome to handle.

Most small gardens require rather formal patterns because they are located where they are circumscribed by formal lines — the sides of a house or a property line. An informal scheme needs more room and the absence of restricting straight lines for its fullest development. A small formal pattern, however need not be intricate or fussy. A plain, straight-sided, grass panel with a terminal feature and wide flower borders along each side is essentially formal, although it is also extremely simple and an ideal pattern for a small garden where effective plant groups are to be the main feature.

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