The topic of garden design can be a hefty topic indeed. When we talk about the overall design of a garden there is really no limits to the imagination. It's like art. No two are the same yet each one tells a story or conveys a feeling.
If you get to this point with your garden design you have truly arrived!
This all may sound great but daunting to you as well, especially if you're just getting started.
If so this section is taylor made for you.
We find garden design to be tons of fun! It's exciting to think about a new Garden space, plan it out thinking about what you want to accomplish and then see it to its completion.
That's where we want you to be - excited with anicipation of standing back and looking at the final product, not to mention showing it off to your friends and family with the satisfaction of saying... "I did that!"
You're gardens will look fabulous if you follow our advice here!
The first thing we need to discuss is design principles that come into play as you're planning out your landscape. However, like we've said before in other articles on this site, principles and rules can be broken if you feel it's necessary to enhance the design.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. What may look good to one person may not be appealing to another. That's the fun of art!
You probably know the experience. You're at an art museum, standing there, gazing at a piece of artwork, just not seeing the concept or value in it. You're not liking it, whereas others are just raving over it.
This can happen in garden design as well. Opinions are just that - opinions. So we say, get to it know the design rules, break the rules if needed and design a space you'll like and be proud of.
Garden Design Principles
There are certain garden design principles that most landscape designers know and use when creating their masterpieces.
Here are some of the most important you should be aware of...
Groupings Of Plants:
Russell Page, one of the great twentieth-century landscape designers said it well:
“the most striking and satisfying visual pleasure comes from the repetition or the massing of one simple element. Imagine the Parthenon with each column a different kind of marble!”
This concept is so important to understand for that professional looking Garden.
When you notice other gardens designed by professionals do you see a garden mixed with a large variety of plants, one of this, one of that, and a hodgepodge of colors and design all mixed together? No you do not.
Gardens that are pleasing to the eye contain groupings of plants. Some larger groups. Some smaller groups.
It's okay to use one of an item if it's a focal point or just goes in one particular spot in a garden. However, you don't want to use one each of 20 different plants.
This image is good example of this. Although you probably can't make out the individual plants, you'll notice groupings. In addion, the palms act as the one speciman tree withing the garden as the focal point.
When planning out your gardens, use this principal to help get a cohesive design - a design that looks good and goes together.
The Rule Of Odds:
Generally speaking when you're deciding on groups of plants, you should use odd numbers of plants in each group. for instance 3, 5, 7, etc.
If you happen to be using some perennials that spread and flower, such as coneflowers, counting them it's probably not necessary because they will flower in a mass grouping anyway.
Notice in this image the numbers of plants grouped together.
Although it is small, if you were to enlarge this image you would see odd number of each plant.
Here’s a garden design principle you probably haven't thought of. Notice in some good garden designs that the larger elements in the garden, whether it's tree trunks, hardscape elements such as arbors or bird baths, all create lines.
Sometimes these lines are vericle in the form of tree trunks but other times they could be horizontal in the form of your deck boards or railings.
These lines created in your landscape space will lead the eye from one place to another. This is a good thing.
Keep this in mind as you're designing your garden spaces.
Once you come up with a design you like, are the lines converging and leading your eye to other parts of your garden? If not maybe you could move a few things around? Or, maybe you're happy with it just the way it is, and you know what, that's okay.
Textures And Colors:
Within any garden there should always be a variety of textures and colors, but as we said previously this should not happen because you're planting 1 each of 20 plants.
This happens because your groupings of plants are different.
For instance, if you have a grouping of in patients that are purple with small dainty leaves, you might have another grouping of 3 boxwoods that are deep green Round And larger.
Taking this a step further, you could plant the boxwoods in a u shape and within the open area plantier in patients.
See the image below:
This could be an entire small garden, but more likely it is a small part of a larger garden.
Notice how each plant has a different color, size, and texture. You can now expand on this concept to fill the rest of your garden with plants.
Bold Vs Muted:
Another concept that you've surely seen but weren't aware of it is the concept of bold versus muted.
A good landscape design is composed of some bold elements like vibrant flowers or vibrant leafy plants combined with some muted elements as well.
Generally you would want about 1/3 bold elements two 2/3 muted elements.
These figures aren't exact of course, as nothing in landscaping is, but if your garden is filled with mostly vibrant flowers and very few muted elements such as, say, ornamental grasses or ferns, it will probably need more variety.
Sometimes, this concept does not go over well when we explain it to our clients. Two clients in fact come to mind but one in particular.
This client presented us with a picture of a garden that she wanted installed in her backyard. The picture was of a garden entirely composed of a wide variety of flowering perennials - a veritable plethora of colors, but all about the same height covering a large area.
As landscape contractors, what should we do? Well, we explained to her the concept of bold versus muted in a way she could understand and then we let her decide for herself. As contractors it's our responsibility to lead people in the right direction, even though they might not know what that is.
All gardens should be composed of groupings of many types and varieties of plants.
This means there should probably be an ornamental tree or two, perhaps an evergreen tree such as a blue spruce - combined with other shorter shrubs that could either be evergreen or deciduous, combined with some other leafy plants, finally saving room for some summer annuals or perennials.
Don't use too many varieties though, which begs the question: "how many is too many?"
While there is no rule of thumb here, and it depends on the size and scope of your gardens, 3-5 different groupings of different plants is a middle-of-the-road number that works for most medium sized gardens.
Garden Design Principles Conclusions:
As we mentioned, rule can be broken but it always helps to know them so that you can use them as a basis for your design.
One of the best things you can do is to look at pictures or and actual gardens around your neighborhood and get some ideas from those examples.
What are the elements of a garden?
Of course one of those is plants. However, there are other things that make up a good garden design.
You could include hardscape such as Stepping Stones, rock walls, or borders and edges. Another option is to include a sitting area such as a bench or swing.
Other elements could be bird baths, water features such as a pond or waterfall, trellises, arbors, and other items that can only come out of your imagination.
Indeed if you shop around for other things to include in your garden will find a wide variety. even large metal artwork that could hang on a fence or a wall.
When planning out your garden make sure you consider these other elements as well. They will greatly enhance your design.
Garden Design Conclusions
There you have it. All the information you need to create your own beautiful garden design.
As we mentioned at the beginning, You shouldn't worry about what other people are thinking. It's always nice to get their opinions of course but this is your garden. This is your piece of artwork.
Think of it that way, use the principles we've mentioned in this article. And you can be confident you'll design a garden worthy of a magazine cover.
For more information on designing professional looking gardens, request our FREE report and your entire home's landscape will be transformed, not only your gardens but your lawn too.
Finally, CLICK HERE to learn how other aspects of your garden will affect it's overall health and beauty.
August 6, 2021
Thank you so much for talking about the best kind of distribution between plants for a nice and varied landscape. Going through 4 different kinds of plants and flowers could be a great way to prevent my front landscape from being boring while not going too overboard and making it look like a mess. I’ll definitely start with this idea when I work with a landscape designing expert in the area.