How to achieve balance and rhythm in your garden 

Gardening tips by Debby Lockey Garden Design

 

When I am designing a garden one of the first things I think about is how to achieve balance in the garden. What is balance in the garden? The balance of a garden refers to the general harmony and comfort a garden offers. It is achieved by getting the right relationship between the open spaces, i.e. the voids, with the built up areas i.e. the masses.

Voids and masses in the garden

Voids would include areas such as patios, lakes, low planting or lawns, while the masses consist of herbaceous boarders, woodland areas or buildings. By getting the balance right between these two entities, you bring a sense of order to the garden.

One of best examples of a well-balanced garden is the formal garden. Here the formal, rhythmic, symmetrical positioning of shrubs, statues and hard landscaping ensures perfect balance is achieved.

formal garden highlighting voids and masses

Balance can also be achieved in natural, asymmetric gardens. In this situation a group of informal shrubs and small trees could be used to balance a high evergreen hedge on the opposite side for example.

asymmetrical garden

But voids and masses are not the only type of balance that can be achieved in a garden.  Gardens also offer the opportunity to explore a more sensory dimension with regards to balance.

Different types of balance in the garden

Movement and rest

The use of different shapes in the garden can affect the balance of a garden. For example a long thin brick path laid in a soldier pattern makes you want to walk quickly to your destination. The path and the pattern of the bricks are very directional and don’t offer any encouragement to stop. But put a circular patio at the end of this long, thin path and you introduce space, and a place to rest. At this point you would want to stop and enjoy the destination. So by using these two shapes in the garden we have introduced a balance between movement and rest.

Light and shade

Other aspects of a garden that can be balanced are light and shade. Too much light and the garden becomes uncomfortable to sit in. But if there is a tree to offer shade, think how much more attractive that garden becomes. Conversely, a gloomy, shady garden could be enhanced by injecting light into the space. This could be achieved through the use of light landscaping materials or plants with only white flowers.

Openness and mystery

Gardens also benefit from having some areas hidden away so there is a balance between sitting and enjoying the garden, and wanting to get up and explore what is around the corner, behind the screen, or down the garden path.

Different heights

It is also good to get some balance between different heights when planting. Only low plants will soon become boring. Aim for ground level, eye level and above head height planting. But again make sure the height of the plants relate to the size of the garden. A large tree, such as an oak, looks perfect in a park setting, but would dominate a small garden.

Assess how good the balance is in your garden

So don’t be afraid to look at your garden and think about its balance. Think about whether your borders are too narrow for the lawn, and increase them until they do feel comfortable. Maybe you need to introduce some mystery and excitement into the garden by putting up some screens, having a winding path that leads to a focal point, or by introducing a new seating area.

But remember, the balance in a garden is always changing. Many plants, for example asters and crocosmia, quickly spread and outgrow their position. They can also crowd out other plants. Alternatively, a plant may have grown taller than expected. If this has happened, be proactive. This time of the year is an ideal time to assess how your plants are working together, as lots of the plants still have a presence in the garden. If they have outgrown their space either divide them or take them out.

Don’t be afraid to take control. When you get the balance right in your garden, not only will it feel more comfortable, it will also be more interesting.

 

For more gardening information and advice, contact Debby Lockey Garden Design.