Hi Friends, Today marks day one of our month-long feature on expert advice. Up first is my dear friend and fellow Arkansan, P. Allen Smith. Enjoy! xo, Tobi
Over the years I’ve been the fortunate recipient of a lot of sage and insightful advice. It’d be hard to single out just one piece of advice as the best one. However, one question in particular that I’m asked a lot about is “how do you go about starting a garden design?”
A long time ago, this story inspired a design epiphany in me. In Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, the author’s brother, who has put off completing a school report on birds until the last minute, is paralyzed by fear as he stares at the blank sheet of paper before him. Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, he is uncertain how to begin. The solution comes in some simple advice offered by his father. “Bird-by-bird, Buddy. Just take it bird-by-bird…”
In that same spirit, my twelve principles of garden design are a “bird-by-bird” method of approach.
These universal principles have become the set of tools I go-to when creating gardens that embody all the key elements of the world’s greatest landscapes but are then scaled to each individual’s site, taste and budget.
Enclosure – A garden room is defined by borders of various materials.
Shape and Form – Consider the contour and three-dimensional qualities of individual plants or groups of plants in the garden, as well as the outline of a garden room itself.
Framing the View – Directing attention to an object or view by screening out surrounding distractions while creating a visually balanced and organized composition.
Entry – Have a defined point of entrance into a garden enclosure.
Focal Point – Positioning an object to draw the eye and to create a feature of attention.
Structures – Utilize a variety of constructed features within the garden.
These next six principles add decorative or finishing touches to your garden as well as personality, charm and – last but not least – fun.
Color – Orchestrating the color palette in the garden through the selection and arrangement of plants and objects.
Texture, Pattern and Rhythm – Using surface characteristics, recognizable motifs, and the cadence created by the spacing of objects as elements of design.
Abundance – Use an ample to overflowing quality created by the generous use of plants and materials.
Whimsy – Elements of lighthearted fancy.
Such as a bird house hat…
Mystery – Piquing a sense of curiosity, excitement and occasionally apprehension through the garden’s design.
Time – Various garden styles representing certain ages of design.
Start small using these pointers to help break down the process so that you too can tackle a new project in your own garden.
-P. Allen Smith
P.S. — For more information on these design techniques and more, I invite you to read my book P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home. I’ll walk you through my “garden home” and explain why I made the choices that I did, more about the 12 principles of garden with step-by-step projects showing how to apply the principles in your own garden homes. The book is a good idea resource to have since it’s filled with large, glossy photos and is very detail-oriented. There is a section with tips on how to express your interests (e.g., if you like to travel, think about creating a theme garden based on Japanese or Italian design) and how to decide between different looks.