When you start to imagine the garden you want to create, what guides your vision? And when you visit a garden you love, how do you determine what looks good and feels right? These are fun and interesting questions to explore, especially from the perspective of landscape design, which is in part influenced by human psychology. To that end, we recently came across a great article written by Rob Steiner for the Garden Design Magazine website that does a good job of explaining the eight key landscape design principles to consider when planning and building a home garden. You might be surprised to discover that you've seen these principles at work in other gardens, and now you can identify why the space felt comforting or appealing.
1. The law of significant closure
As the article points out, this design principle determines how tall to make a hedge or other vertical element, in order to create the comforting sense of being in a safe, tucked away or protected space. Here's a good definition of the rule and how to apply it: "The law of significant enclosure says that we feel enclosed when the vertical edge of a space is at least one-third the length of the horizontal space we're inhabiting." For example, if your garden space is 12 feet wide, you'd want a vertical element to be at least 4 feet tall.
2. Use the regulating line as a guide
Take a look at your proposed garden space; what architectural components are visible (i.e. a fence, doorway, porch, the corner of your house etc.)? Now imagine an invisible line extending from each of those elements' right-angle corners. These regulating lines can create a natural guide for the layout of your garden, including where raised beds or a walkway might go. When you use regulating lines as guides, you create a sense of order and harmony in your design.
3. Plant big to small
When it comes time to put shovel to earth and start planting, this rule comes in handy. Even though it may be exciting to plant all the pretty ground cover and small items you hand selected right away, try to be patient and put the bigger plants - trees and shrubs - in first. This makes good sense logistically and also visually, as you can fill in the spaces around the large elements in an organized manner. Moreover, it's worthwhile to think of plants as having a key role in creating the space that is the garden by way of a canopy, floor, walls, etc.
Carefully selected trees, thoughtfully placed within the garden, create the foundation and backbone for the future. Perennials are pretty, fun to buy, and less of a financial commitment, so gardeners are often tempted to start there when building a new garden. Begin by purchasing trees and shrubs, and you'll build better bones for your garden.
4. When in doubt, go big
If you're debating how tall of an archway to install, refer to the eight landscape design principles and you'll find that the general rule of thumb is the bigger the better. Size creates an impact, and expands the space, so don't be afraid to buy those large ceramic pots!
5. Plant in masses
As any budding gardener can attest, its hard to resist the temptation to collect a wide variety of plants because they're all so interesting and beautiful, but it's important to remember that "there is a power to seeing a quantity of one plant that is genuinely affecting." That's why it's perfectly fine to plant 20 of the same plants, rather than just 4 or 5. Don't be afraid to group together plants in mass to create a visual impact.
Billowing masses of golden Japanese Forest grass make a bold statement as they line the edges of this wide path.
In addition to these principles, there are other important elements to consider when you're choosing the actual plantings for your garden, including but not limited to compatibility, purpose, texture, color, growing cycle, and more. The eGardenGo web app includes all of these elements in their expertly chosen planting combinations and garden recipes. With a designer in your pocket to consult, planting the garden you've been dreaming of becomes much less overwhelming, a whole lot more rewarding! Sign up today to receive updates on eGardenGo, and to get notified when the app is available for download.
Questions? Contact us!