Locating Your Garden
First of all examine your property to determine the best
site for your home garden, and then let the site dictate the design. Never choose an
arbitrary pattern and try to impose it on a site, regardless of existing
advantages or limitations. Where a choice exists, consider carefully. Often the
site that seems most obvious at first glance turns out, on mature thought, to be
less advantageous than some other. In any case try to place the garden near the
house so that you can enjoy it closely through each season and have many
pleasing views from indoors. (Plate 1.)
The location of your garden necessarily depends upon the
shape and topography of the lot, the type of house, its position in relation to
property lines, and the location of garage, driveway, walks, and service area.
It is desirable in the northeastern states to have the garden on the south or
west of the house. A southern exposure offers a better growing place for plants
and, since the living rooms are likely to be there, it is easy to work out an
intimate relationship between garden and house. If the land is level, or nearly
so, it need not influence the choice of site, but if there is a decided slope,
the design of the garden will have to be adapted to it. If the lot is partly
flat and partly sloping, the garden will naturally be placed on the level
space, other conditions permitting.
The establishment of an axial line or backbone is the first
step in evolving a pattern. You will note that we say evolve rather than select
a pattern. This choice of words is deliberate. If you expect to have an unusual
and interesting garden, let the pattern evolve from the site, evolve meaning to
grow out of or to develop naturally from the existing conditions of the site.
The size and shape of the planting areas, their location and
general character, is determined by the use to which the area is to be put, and
the pattern adopted. No one can give specific rules for the determination of
these things. They must evolve from the requirements of the site, through the
imagination of the designer. This is indeed true. Design to be vital must arise
from the inherent qualities of the situation. When a design is arrived at in
this fashion, it has individual charm and is rarely stereotyped. People are
often tempted to adopt plans and patterns without change from books and
magazine articles and to force them onto a site, whether they fit or not. This
is the wrong approach.
AXES AND FOCAL POINTS
As it develops, the axial line may be emphasized by balanced
beds on either side, or it may be left practically unnoticed, as in a
naturalistic setting. Nevertheless the axis needs to be there to give the
pattern unity, and to provide a link between garden and house, or other
principal point of view. The axis line should start preferably at some door or
window of the house and be terminated at the farthest end by an important
feature. If a strong cross axis exists, the feature may be located where the
two axes intersect in or near the center of the garden.
This principal feature or focal point must dominate the
scheme. It must be the most important thing in it, the highest point of
development. Towards this the rest of the design and the planting lead. When
there is no focal point, or when there are several equal ones fighting for
attention, unity or harmony is lost and the serenity of the garden destroyed.
When there is one point of climax, an orderly sense of design results.
The mere placing of a feature on the axis is not enough. It
must be treated so that it does in truth become the focus, the natural center
of attention. It must have adequate background and flanking plantings of the
choicest material, and the area around it must be designed so that it
represents a pleasing picture.
The widening of paths around the focal point and the
treatment of the adjacent area so that it has form ? circle, oval, square, or
oblong ? does much to increase the importance of the feature. If it is located
at the far end of the scheme, a good background planting, a bit of wall, fence,
lattice, or hedge, will block the view beyond and throw the feature into higher
relief, thus capturing the attention. To emphasize and strengthen the focal
point the area around it can be raised or lowered a step or so from the main
level of the garden. Such an open area creates a foreground for the feature and
gives a feeling of openness, and dignity. (Plate 3.)
Where the focal point occurs at or near the end of the
central axis, the garden design is called the terminal-motive type.
It is simple, straightforward, pleasing, easy to accomplish.
It is best suited to long, narrow garden sites.
The simplest of all patterns is then a balanced arrangement
on a central axis, strongly terminated at the farther end, and of course
adequately enclosed. The lines of such a scheme are usually straight, parallel
to the axis, and the result is a simple formal pattern ? two wide borders
flanking a path. If the area is large enough to accommodate a more complex
pattern and still remain in scale, a cross axis may he developed halfway or
two-thirds way down the main axis, and running at right angles to it. (Plate
When the principal feature is located at the crossing of the
major and minor axes, a central-motive design is created.
This produces a rectilinear, square, or round scheme with
two or more strong axial lines crossing in the center. In this design the
central focal point, unlike the terminal, must rarely be above the level of the
eye, for the view of the garden beyond should not, ordinarily, be obstructed.
For a central feature, a pool, sundial, or birdbath is excellent. Interest can
be heightened by accent plants at the corners of adjacent beds, and by the use
of choice plants close by. In simple gardens, a feature may be omitted and only
the surrounding accent plants used. Nevertheless the centrality of such a
scheme will be as strongly felt as though an actual feature were present.
Each minor axis in a design must also have its termination.
These lines cannot be prolonged indefinitely into outer space. They must be
stopped. Sometimes the minor axes are more than adequately terminated, and too
many focal points are created; or the designer fails to terminate them at all.
There can be only one principal focal point, but minor features, if kept
subordinate, heighten the effect of the main one.
Adequate termination is merely a sense of definite ending.
In a small simple garden, an interesting tree or shrub set a little forward of
the enclosing wall, fence, hedge, or shrub border may be all that is needed.
Something is there to stop the eye from continuing in that direction and turn
it back on the garden. In a larger, more elaborate garden a bench of plain
design set against a good background, or a colorful pottery jar or vase on a
low pedestal, makes an excellent termination for a pathway. In more pretentious
gardens a piece of fine sculpture serves the same purpose. All these, of
course, must be selected with the main focal point in mind, for they must
always be subordinate to it.
If a pathway goes through the garden enclosure into an area
beyond, a gate will serve as a termination, provided it is kept closed. An
open rose-arch does not terminate an axis. It enframes it and makes it all
the more important by attracting attention to the vista beyond. When a minor
axis leads out into a lawn area or to another garden scheme, the center line of
the path can be prolonged across this area and terminated there by tree, shrub,
or more important feature, and this terminal can be independent of the main one
in the garden. Since it is outside the enclosure it will not compete with the
focal point of the main garden.
Naturally the focal point of a rather formal scheme will be
more highly developed architecturally and therefore seem more important than
one in an informal or naturalistic design. A focal point, however, is no less
necessary to the informal development. In such a scheme axial relationship is
not stressed. The focal point, although often located on axis need not be
developed so highly as in a formal pattern. Though it may be a wall fountain or
garden house, it can be simple, rustic in character, and unobtrusive. Groups of
interesting plants, trees or shrubs of pleasing shape and texture, may be used
instead of architectural detail. A group of hemlock accented by a tall cedar
and edged down with laurel would be an example. Well placed groups of garden
furniture or sculpture will serve, if they are enframed and given a background
that ties them harmoniously into the scheme.
Because so many gardeners are horticulturally minded, and
want flowers above all, they do not always realize the importance of this
structural aspect of garden design. They rely too much on planting for effect.
During the winter when planting is not at its best, a well-designed garden is
still beautiful with attractive features that create a picture and engage the
attention. Many an otherwise admirable garden is not as effective as it might
be because the principal feature has never been placed. Try to avoid this eventuality.
As compared with plant material, structural features are generally more
expensive, but they are nevertheless indispensable, and should really go in
- Good Planting Design Not Beyond The Amateur – Since landscape gardening is a fine art and not a science, as is horticulture, planting design, which is the carrying out of the basic design in terms of plant material, is no less an art. It must be approached with the underlying principles which govern good design.
- Garden Patterns – Successful gardens are designed and planted according to patterns, and each pattern is based on principles of design, which are common to all the arts ? unity, coherence, and balance. For the purpose of study and comparison garden designs may be classified as formal and informal, conventional or naturalistic, geometric or of free form.
- Locating Your Garden – The location of your garden necessarily depends upon the shape and topography of the lot, the type of house, its position in relation to property lines, and the location of garage, driveway, walks, and service area.
- Simple Versus Complex Patterns – 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.
- Asymmetrical Patterns – There are places where simple schemes are not suitable. Perhaps, the axis cannot be laid out so as approximately bisect the available area as on a narrow lot. Perhaps one side of the area is much sunnier than the other, or perhaps a symmetrical scheme would seem too rigid, or out of keeping with the design of a rambling house.
The Importance of Planning –
Since landscape and garden design is primarily the arrangement of land for use, planning must precede planting. The two must be integrated, the one to serve as a basis for the other.
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