Anyone who has tried to learn the art of garden and landscape design has had the unifying principles of rhythm, and repetition branded in their brains along with texture, form and color. I always found this to be confusing and way too much to think about in the fluid process that is my creative workflow.
What is less discussed and a too often missed is a simple tool I call ‘Love the Diagonal.’ My landscape design students get this drilled into their brains before any of the others because it can unify a design and create an emotive design experience without any of the others. The rule is simple: Use the other principles, but place the same or similar elements (plants especially) diagonally through a design.
It may seem counter intuitive, the geometry, that is, but in the design process, the act of placing and layering elements in diagonal sequences can lead to a complex solution that is both fluid and natural. Several examples below illustrate this process.
These elements will be visual guideposts as well as unifying features. It really doesn’t matter what they are.
Always imagine a human experience. What will the eye see and how will the senses work in concert with the act of moving through a space? How can sight beckon and be the first of the garden’s experiential moments beyond a ‘Wow’? Not a singular focal point, but a siren’s song of visual clues. Changes in color and plant choices can be made without even knowing what they will be until the very end. It’s then easy to go back and edit, identify, and apply the other design principles to the planting design.
Diagonal design in practice is an opportunity to create visual experiences while moving through a garden or landscape. Gardens and landscapes, after all are about human experience. Geranium x Rozanne repeated diagonally on the path in the example below forms visual guideposts to the patio beyond. Color repetition between the yellow Hemerocallis spp. and the Rudebeckia spp. across the path lift the garden experience upward. The fine textural and color repetition of the burgundy Berberis and Acer disectum pull that visual experience through the space to it’s conclusion.
To learn more about design principles today, visit other landscape designer’s posts from the Garden Designer’s Roundtable series.
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
David Cristiani : It’s A Dry Heat : Albuquerque, NM
Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN