simple versus complex patterns

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

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

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.


  • 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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