Principles of Design Part 2

We will be dealing with more principles that should help you with designing your own garden.

Diagram showing repetition



Repetition is the technique of using element, size, form or texture throughout a composition. It provides a common tie or visual link amongst the various parts.

Picture of Art center gardens

The repetition of the Camellia hedges at the Art Center in Melbourne creates repetition throughout the garden.

Picture of repetitive use of Agapanthus

The repetitive use of the Agapanthus in front of the house helps to also create unity.

Diagram showing interconnection



Interconnection is a technique for producing unity by physically linking various elements of the composition together. In this diagram element F has been introduced to join the individual elements in a formal way whilst the next slide shows informal interconnection.

Diagram of interconnection

Joining elements makes a more pleasing composition. The eye seems to travel more easily rather than stopping on each individual shrub.

Digital Camera

By connecting plants you create a more cohesive composition with the eye taking the scene in as a whole, rather than having the plants compete for your attention individually.



Balance is the equalization of visual weight from one part of the composition to another. Size, colour and quantity of elements are major considerations when providing balance. There are two types of balance: Symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Symmetrical balance is the repetition of elements from one side of the composition to the other. This is most appropriate with formal designs.
Asymmetrical balance is created by implying equal visual weights on either side of the composition without actual repetition. This style of design is most compatible with informal designs.
Picture of formal balance

This picture of a garden in Hampton Court shows a formal, symmetrically balanced lay-out. The large mix of colours of the plants, however, takes away from the feeling of balance.I call this “Chocolate box” gardening because it reminds me of the old chocolate boxes with masses of flowers in random and often clashing results.

Picture of balance in herbaceous planting

This herbaceous border shows balance, but in a more muted and I feel pleasing way than the previous picture

Diagram of balance of form

The triangle is one of the most stable of forms and has natural balance, that is why creating planting with width as well as height then we have strong visual balance

Diagram of balance and height

The plant added to the bottom of the bank provides a visual balance to the composition.

The slope in this picture can also be used to deliberately create an emotional reaction from lack of balance, think about the way it makes you feel when you are at the base of a cliff looking up!

Sketch showing interest in garden


There are many ways that you can create interest in the garden.The illustration at the top shows how you can create a change of level (this is also useful because it provides somewhere to put the fill from digging the pond out!) as well as hinting there might be more around the corner, which encourages exploration. Focal points, as in the drawing at the bottom, helps to lead the eye around the garden.

Picture of a mirror placed in the garden

This verandah area looks like it stretches quite a way, but in fact there is a mirror placed behind the wrought iron gate. This makes the area look larger than it is, but if you do use mirrors, try to place something in front of them (like the gate) to discourage birds from flying into the mirror!

Picture of garden path in Art center

Changes in levels, even if they are quite small, can create interest.

This raised path creates a different level from the lawn and encourages people to walk on it rather than the lawn, creating less wear and subsequent maintenance.

The raised mounds with trees planted on them also perform two purposes, a different level as well as providing drainage. This is something that you could consider with lemon trees on clay ground.

Miscanthus, flax and tamarillo together

Often when buying plants from nurseries, people get taken in by spectacular flowers and then try to find a spot to put them, I call this “Plonking”.

It vary rarely produces a pleasing or harmonious composition. Try to consider the foliage of plants to provide interest.

The miscanthus grass next to the flax with the Tamarillo in the background gives variety and interest.

Mill stone water feature

Water always provides atmosphere and another dimension to gardens, the sound is soothing and the movement of water always provides interest.

This water feature has been created as child safe as the water resevoir is under the pebbles and inaccessible to children.

Path through Tee tree wood

Try not to leave everything in your garden visible at once, a little mystery encourages exploration, that is why I like to incorporate seating areas and paths through garden beds, to create a change of atmosphere, even in a small garden, as well as encourage exploration and thus a deeper experience of the garden. This path is through Tee-Tree woodland and the overhanging braches create a feeling of mystery and adventure.

Children playing Mah Jong

Gardens should be of interest to all ages, and that is where the sense of exploration is so important to children so give them plenty of little areas to explore and experience.

This sculpture of animals playing Mah-Yong acted like a magnet to the children and they talked about it for weeks afterwards. Gardens can and should be places of magic and excitement and the things we can do for children are only limited by our own imagination.

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