I approach my garden design much like a painting composition. Every section in my garden is a separate vignette, with its own color palette and emotional appeal. But the garden as a whole tells a larger story, plantings flowing from one to another, creating an organization of elements that give both paintings and gardens their overall visual integrity. The composition needs continuity, balance, repetition, contrast and movement to create this affect.
When I sketch outside, I sometimes use a picture frame mat so I can “zero in” on a specific area. It unclutters my view, so I am able to concentrate on a portion of my picture. You can use the same process to evaluate sections of your garden. Does the “framed art” have elements that create interest? Does the design use line, color, texture, shapes and forms that work within the entire framework? Using this method may help you resolve a design issue in your garden that doesn’t seem to stand on its own, nor blend into the overall garden design.
When planning our gardens, we are drawn to the glorious colors on seed packets, and work diligently to create attractive color schemes. Color does create big impact and commands the greatest response, so make sure your color combination extends beyond just the blooms. The foliage, bark, and fruit also contribute to the overall color impact. Here are examples of plants that have great overall color appeal.
Texture, shape, and form increase the aesthetic appeal of the garden. Up close, the focus is on the surface of leaves, twigs, bark, and flowers, but viewed from a distance, the interplay of light and shadow becomes more important.
Paring opposites can create visual excitement.
Fine vs. coarse-bold
small vs. large
light vs. dark
round vs. upright
Unlike a finished painting, your garden is constantly changing. I love the play of light at different times of the day, the movement created from a slight breeze, and colors morphing with the seasons. Spring offers me a new canvas on which to paint, and holds the promise of bounty in the days to come.
“No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden.” ~ Hugh Johnson