Gardens: ‘Imagine if your interiors started to grow and change’

MANY gardens are filled with plants offering diversity through colour, texture and shape, but not many do so with order and structure.

Good gardens use the principles of design to create balance, unity and rhythm. Plant design isn’t easy. Imagine if your well-planned interiors started to grow, change colour, die back or disappear in winter. So where to start?

• Decide whether you favour formal, informal, romantic, naturalistic, traditional or contemporary style.

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• Be realistic – can space be made for more colourful herbaceous perennials that require greater maintenance than shrubs?

• How do the different layers of trees, shrubs and ground cover interact?

Good planting design should have:

• Unity: Is your style consistent? As you move from one style to another, is there a harmonious transition?

• Scale, proportion and balance: Plant growth and maturity mean what is in scale one year, may not be in another ten. Selecting trees and shrubs that embrace pruning is one way of managing this.

• Harmony: If you get the unity and scale right, a garden feels more harmonious and relaxed. Too much harmony and a garden may feel a little dull.

• Contrast: A few focal points using a plant’s distinctive colour, texture and shape reward visitors. Too much and areas will compete for attention.

• Repetition and rhythm: Repeating shapes, colours and textures inside a garden, and borrowing ones outside the boundaries is one way of creating movement and unity.

If you want to know more, I am teaching a weekend course on ‘What makes good garden design’ at Broughton High School in Edinburgh on 2-3 March, 2013.

Rebecca Govier, Garden Designer (0781 750 5571;