Garden Design: The Natural Palette

Well-designed gardens and landscapes, no matter how varied in style and period, all have certain basic design principles at their core. To create a masterful garden, there must be attention to: unity, scale, space division, light and shade, texture, and tone and color.

Garden designers must also consider maturation of plants and seasonal changes. Finally, there is time-a design principle not required by other fine and decorative arts.

Unity

Perhaps, it is a reflection of our contemporary era that unity is the most lacking in today’s garden. We live piecemeal, hurried lives and tend to patch together lives and gardens as we go along. But the goal of unity is to give a totality, or strength of purpose to the design. Tone and color or texture can be used as unifying elements, but they are not enough to create a garden whole.

Modern gardens tend to be inward looking as very few of us have country estates where we see the horizon over the hill. But even so, we can design our gardens to be progressive or static. The first leads the eye down an axis, while a static garden is built on a central open space where the eye is brought to rest.

Scale

In either design it is important to think about scale. Even an outdoor room must compete with the vastness of the sky. There is a need for ample proportion, and a nodding acquaintance with the laws of perspective. There must be a definition of the space, and it must relate to the human scale. If you have assets of gigantic proportion, like enormous trees, it is best to insert a transition or buffer of medium scale that then relates further to people in the landscape.

As for the scale of all the parts of your design, you have two choices. Either all the parts should fit together as one whole, or one (only one) should dominate. That is how you create a focal point. Consider also how your eye reacts. A view is shortened as you look uphill and lengthened as you look down. You can enlarge and blur boundaries by placing them in shade.

Division of Space

You must also divide your space to make it interesting. You create pattern by how you distribute, and the proportion of, open spaces and solid mass. A prime example is a colonnade of trees leading the eye forward. You must decide how many trees, of what size girth (when they mature) and how far apart to plant them.

In dividing your space, you can either use a firm, architectural style or a loose more organic style.

Light & Shade

Light and shade also are important additions to your palette with the potential to elicit emotional response. Think of the appeal of sunlight falling on an open spot in a glade. The sunlight is a wonderful surprise, and much more exciting when viewed from a shady area.

Keep in mind that texture can only be shown with light. For example, site something highly carved or intricately detailed where it will be illuminated. On the other hand, a structural element can be strengthened if it is sited to appear in silhouette, with little detail and only the shape apparent.

Texture

Texture itself becomes more and more important as pattern decreases. The use of texture is strongest in Japanese garden design. The classic garden, with a highly formal pattern, relies on simplicity of surfaces.

The more modern garden, particularly those of smaller scale, can successfully use textures to build pattern. This is especially appropriate where elements are seen at close range and texture can be fully appreciated.

Tone & Color

Finally, the most appreciated and least understood garden design element, is that of tone and color. We all think we can use tone and color successfully, but it is no surprise that most great garden designers were also artists. To fully utilize color, you need to understand the principles of color harmony. That said, we’ll all continue with our illusions, and have a wonderful time creating our gardens.

Basis For Expression

If all of these design principles are well employed, they create a wonderful basis for truly original expression. The basics of garden design are like the foundation for a house. Once in place, there is limitless opportunity for personal expression.

Modern Garden Design – Artistic Chaos Or Design?

When it comes to designing a garden, there are two different philosophies about how to do it. But both philosophies can truly be considered art. One might be called art by design. This is when someone envisions their completed garden in their mind. They can see where they will place plants, fountains, and statues. They can see the colors of the plants and flowers. They know exactly where everything will be and how it will look when it is done.

The other philosophy might be considered artistic chaos. It involves creating a garden without a preconceived plan in mind. Some consider this more of a modern garden design.

Yet modern garden design really can be either-or both. Freeform, unstructured design that is somewhat chaotic is modern garden design. It is similar to modern art where an artist paints whatever comes to mind in a completely unstructured, somewhat chaotic way. Yet, modern garden design can also be carefully planned. Or there may be elements of both in your modern garden. Today there are a great number of different plants and flowers and accessories you can incorporate into your garden to make it your own.

These days the world is a much smaller place than it used to be. We can communicate with people around the world almost instantaneously. You can purchase things from anywhere in the world and have them shipped to you-and it’s not as expensive as it once was. So you can now select plants that are native to many other areas of the world to include in your contemporary or modern garden design, as well as local species.

While some plants are not native to your area, you may find they can thrive in your environment nonetheless. Before you consider purchasing and importing exotic plants, you should research the type of climate, temperatures, and growing season a plant thrives in before making the investment. But you may be surprised to learn that some of the plants readily available in your local stores today were thought of as exotic only 20 or 30 years ago.

Another great innovation that provides greater flexibility in contemporary garden design is the sprinkler systems you can have installed these days. You can set these sprinklers on timers, control the amount of water that will be dispensed, and in so doing, you can almost simulate the native environment that a plant is accustomed to. This provides you with additional options not previously available.

Greenhouses can be designed to regulate the humidity level for your plants. Soils of all qualities and types can be brought in from other areas. Many other things can also be cultivated to create the perfect environment for the modern garden design you desire.

Contemporary garden design often includes much more than plants and flowers. Typical home gardens in the not-too-distant past usually only included a handful of gnomes and a birdbath. Today gardens often incorporate beautiful and artistic elements that may be exotic, domestic, or both according to each person’s personal taste.

The Internet is one more way many things in the world have become more accessible to all of us. This is one of the reasons today’s contemporary garden design can incorporate so many more options than ever before. A simple online search on the phrase “garden sculpture” or “garden statue” will generate more than 5,000 different options. Locally, you could probably only find a couple of dozen different statues or sculptures to choose from.

In addition to sculptures and statues, you’ll also find gazing balls, decorative garden stones, holiday decor, and much, much more. And if you like them, you’ll also find pink plastic flamingos and colorful garden gnomes, as well. Whether you prefer a contemporary garden design with modern decor or retro style garden accessories like these, there is so much to choose from these days that you are bound to find something you will love.

Just by looking at a person’s garden, you can tell a great deal about that person’s interests and personality. Contemporary garden design is all about creating a garden that expresses your individual taste. Regardless of whether you prefer a structured, planned design or a more chaotic expression of

Surrey Garden Design Inspiration

Other counties might be extolled as the garden of England but the county of Surrey where we have our office is rightfully the home of some of the best gardens in the British Isles. A brief glance at many a best gardens list and Surrey gardens will often appear.

The best known are the large gardens opened by organisation such as the Royal Horticultural Society and National Trust. The former’s RHS Garden Wisley is rightfully one of the most visited in the country. It can at first glance seem a mix of botanical garden with ‘features’ thrown in but after many visits you understand that this garden stands apart as both scientific collection and centre as well as giving inspiration season by season. If you have limited space in your own garden this is a great place to see how borders can be designed to give year round interest. Or if you’re interested in a specific species then you’ll likely get something from a particular area. A top tip, check out the orchards in the spring when they blossom, its an oasis from the crowds that hover down in the main body of the garden.

The National Trust is well represented in Surrey as well. Clandon Park, a Palladian mansion is set in 7 acres of garden, Claremont however os probably more widely known. Claremont is a beautiful garden surrounding a small lake and featuring an unusual grass amphitheatre. The garden’s creation and development has involved great names in garden history, including Sir John Vanbrugh, Charles Bridgeman, William Kent and ‘Capability’ Brown. In 1726 it was described as ‘the noblest of any in Europe’ and the garden today is of national importance. For something more subdued Runnymede is the riverside site of the sealing of the Magna Carta, historically significant with one of the few easily accessible designs of Jellicoe.

These gardens are significant and you can sometimes get inspiration from them, especially for planting but if you want some ideas for smaller gardens than a year of visiting the Surrey gardens open under the National Gardens Scheme is well worth a try. They won’t always be to your liking but some will strike a chord. Small gardens such as Stuart Cottage in East Clandon, Heathside in Cobham, Walton Poor House in Ranmore and Chinthurst Lodge near Guildford are all interesting for the plantaholic in you. Vann in Hambledon and Cleeves near Haslemere are Surrey gardens worth a look for their design ideas for older buildings. And there are other gardens such as Timber Hill near Chobham, a garden that glories in fine trees as well as great planted borders.

And of course these Surrey gardens are all owned by enthusiastic gardeners so it’s always good to go back and see what has happened over the years. A garden such as that at The Round house in Loxhill is constantly evolving often, in this case because of an owner gradually creating a new garden from once neglected market gardens. So the National Gardens Scheme gardens in Surrey are well worth an exploration but be prepared to be both delighted and exasperated. They are private gardens, created by their keen owners, not you, so don’t be surprised if occasionally you see the plants you’re not so keen on. But from experience these gardens will also turn you on to new plants and new ideas that you can twist for your own uses!

Of course we don’t all want the maintenance that is so often involved with these gardens that open for the public. Sometimes it’s good to just see what other people are creating and revel in the seasonal colour whilst going back to our own simpler gardens where we can manage the changes in our gardens. If that’s the case don’t forget about the many resources in the county. Of course many of the gardens mentioned above will sell you some great plants and in the case of some you’ll find something unusual to impress your friends. The other thing you will find in abundance are garden designers for Surrey supports a profession second to none drawn by the great climate, an eager audience and a network of great nursery and landscape suppliers. Looking out of the window of my office it’s almost impossible not to see a local landscape van pass by every hour!