When you think about something as seemingly subjective as a garden design, it’s easy to believe that ‘the rules’ don’t apply. Surely, you can just dig a bed here, whack some plants in there, and eventually, you’ll have a garden? Well, yes, but you’re equally likely to end up with an unsatisfying, chaotic arrangement that will never be right. So, before you set out on creating your dream garden, before you put in any landscaping plants or anything else, consider these 5, reasonably technical, landscape design principles taken from a professional landscape designer and architect.
1. Follow the ‘Law’ of Significant Enclosure
This one is a ‘law’ not just a rule! The root meaning of garden is ‘enclosure’. This law is correctly observed when the vertical edge of a space is at least one-third the length of the horizontal space we’re enclosing.
2. The Regulating Line
This rule is taken from architectural design principles. In a way, this is something we often do by instinct. We create an imaginary regulating line from an existing element of architecture or prominent garden feature. This might be a building’s edge or doorway, and we use this ‘line’ to place other features such as a deck, pathway or pool. Essentially, this creates a sense of order and cohesiveness.
3. Use the Golden Ratio
The Golden Ratio is a ratio of proportions that’s been used for centuries. It helps create a good sense of balance and order. So, what is the ratio? The ratio’s practical application is called the Golden Rectangle and is the ratio of the short side to the long side is equal to the ratio of the long side to the sum of both sides. This is expressed as (a/b = b/a+b). Simply put, this means 1: 1.6. For instance, a garden bed measuring 5 x 8 or a paved patio at 10 x 16 both display the ratio.
4. Landscaping Plants – Go Big to Small
Careful planting is the crowning glory of any garden. To achieve this, the most important rule is simple. Starting at the boundary, plant big to small. So, start with trees, then shrubs, then perennials, and lastly ground cover.
5. Landscaping Plants in Masses
Planting the same landscaping plants in blocks is very effective. Indeed, one of the great garden designers of the twentieth century, Russell Page, once remarked, “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!”