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Garden Design

HARMONIOUS colors and sound design are the characteristics that differentiate successful gardens from ordinary ones. Here we discuss the various problems of color, succession of bloom, and garden design from the point of view of many years of professional practice in the hope that others may benefit from our experience.

Most amateurs approach gardening from the planting angle and tend to neglect basic design. They fail to realize that landscape architecture, of which all ornamental gardening is a part, does not deal exclusively with plants but with many other considerations some of them intangible like line, mass, texture, and space relationships, and others quite concrete like garden structures, walls, fences, paved areas, pools, and sculptural embellishments. Only after they have progressed beyond the elementary stages and have learned something about how to grow plants do they begin to want to arrange them effectively in a properly designed setting.

If planting is done before the basic design has been thoroughly studied, mistakes hard to correct will have been made. No amount of planting can cover up faulty design or lack of planning. Good design, also can be ruined by bad planting. Planting design is, therefore, as important as basic design, but it should be considered after the basic design has been done. Not before, or even at the same time, except in a general way.

A garden club woman said to one of us recently, “Why should I bother about studying planting design? I have lovely flowers. Everyone admires my garden. I have so many different plants, people come from miles around to see and admire them. I’ve taken I don’t know how many prizes with my flowers.” Later she went on, “All this talk about unity, balance, repetition, and rhythm may be all right for the big show places but for our little home gardens don’t you think if we give them enough loving care that’s all we need to do?”

No, my dear lady, we don’t think loving care as such, and all by itself will ever produce a really satisfying garden. The important point in all real gardening, or probably we should say in fine gardening, is not the growing of exhibition blooms. The basic thing about garden making is to create a composition of line and mass, color and texture that will be pleasing to the intelligent observer. The closer critical analysis your garden will stand, the longer it will continue to please.

In discussing planting design we will, necessarily, use certain technical terms like unity, balance, sequence, and accent but these words, when we become familiar with their specialized meanings become part of our everyday vocabulary.

It is not always easy to see just how or why a designer solves a particular problem in a particular way. Like all artists, his effects result from two things — imagination and technique. Imagination is something from within which is developed through study and training. Technique is the method of transferring this imagination into fact. Technique can be taught, but one must be born with imagination. It is latent in many and needs but the right text, the right situation, or the right person to awaken it.

  • 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.
  • Principles of Plant Arrangement – The two kinds of design, plant arrangement in the garden and flower arrangement in a container, are closely related, yet skilled arrangers often fail to develop the possibilities for charm and beauty in their gardens. Actually it is only the application which differs.
  • Some Lesser Rules – Whenever possible, attention should be given to these lesser matters, especially when you make the yearly revisions which bring your garden ever nearer to perfection.
  • Basic Plan for Succession – In working out the design of beds, be certain that there is enough room to accommodate groups of plants for each flowering season. In no other way can you have adequate succession.
  • Color in the Garden – Color should be used to provide accent and emphasis, balance, repetition and rhythm, sequence, and climax. These are more helpful in the development of a pleasing garden than all the subtle, close, color harmonies that ever were attempted.
  • Garden Design Guide – Harmonious colors and sound design differentiate successful gardens from ordinary ones. Here we discuss the various problems of color, succession of bloom, and garden design.
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