Garden Designers Roundtable: Design on the Diagonal

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.

Simple diagonal plant repitition

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.

Diagonal repetition of key plants

These elements will be visual guideposts as well as unifying features.  It really doesn’t matter what they are.

diagonal textural plant repetition

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.

multiple design layers diagonals

 

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.

Diagonal garden designOnce mastered, every planting scheme will look good.  Try the diagonal, next time you’re planning a design and ignore the rule of odd numbers too…

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

 

Twig Fence at Terrain

Colorful Willow Fencing

This going to be filed under Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?  I even have the makings for it in my own Chatham, NJ home garden.  Every spring I copice my redtwig dogwood and only sometimes use the twigs.  No longer.

Twig Fence at Terrain

 A plain, yet traditional and beautiful twig fence can be a thing of drama and add a pop of color.  I’ve seen dozens in person and hundreds of images of these fences and took the one above for reference. But, duh! but I never thought of using color beyond the basic grey and brown.  This would be incredible in the winter landscape!

Red Twig Fence

 Image via Gary John/Flickr and Pinterest

Need some instructions to build one yourself?

 

Concrete porch

Garden Design Details: Stenciled Concrete

I’m working with a landscape design client who has a limited budget and a concrete patio that will be re-furbished.  Although she opted for paint and a fun outdoor rug, we discussed the option of stenciling an ornamental (read not stone or brick) pattern on the pad instead.

It’s not often that there’s a technique so transformative that it can be a  simple DIY project or an elaborate professionally done detail.  To start–a Before and After from Grace Reed a professional faux painter from Dallas.  Why not set the bar high?

Concrete porch

And after.

Stenciled Front Porch

The same pattern was used by artist Ray Redondo as a detail.

Stenciled concrete

These patterns can be complex or simple, rustic or sophisticated. Some ideas can be easily achieved.  The concrete has to be cleaned and prepped before any stenciling is done, otherwise it won’t last.  There is a great breakdown of the process on Concrete Network and there are YouTube tutorial videos there also.

Road and parking lot symbols are stenciled.  Here’s a take on a word stencil.  A simple hello..

Simple and elegant organic floral motifs that peak out from the sides of a space…

Stenciled concrete patio

…or take the same idea and create an allover pattern.  The one below is from Royal Design Studio.

Concrete stenciled patio

Get inspired by street art stencils and graphic patterns.  Banksy uses stencils.  Polish street artist Nespoon uses doilies as inspiration and stencils.

Nespoon doily stencil

A further interpretation of this idea is a single color stenciled rug.  The one below found on Pinterest and the one above are stenciled on top of concrete paving.

stenciled rug

Small medallions can be used to break up a solid block of color or again, used as an all over pattern.  This is probably the simplest of all the stenciling techniques.  The two below are from Design Sponge and the Los Angeles Times Blog.

Stenciled medallions on concrete patio

Concrete stenciled patio

I really wish that I’d had the opportunity to explore these first hand on a project, but I will with another client on another project!

Terra cotta floor tiles

Garden Inspiration: Tile Medalions

After a trip, sometimes I don’t see nuggets of ideas until I look at my images.  I chose the shots after all, so there is some vague through line.  So here goes.

When I was in Chicago two weeks ago (was it that long?) some friends and I visited the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens.  The landscape or what’s left of it, is very formal and was designed by Jens Jensen early in his career and didn’t really have his signature prairie style imprint.  What interested me more than that, if you view my images were two flooring patterns.  One inside the house on the second floor and the second on a small balcony off a bedroom.

Terra cotta floor tiles

The second floor pattern in the house incorporated varying squares of granite, terra cotta and glazed squares.  It was worn and beautiful.

Balcony tiles

A small balcony- in disrepair and shot through the locked screen door–off a guest room  incorporated the same patterned glazed squares and bluestone.  Getting closer to my outside design inspiration.

 A small central medallion or an entire pathway could be created using these tiles…but finding frostproof ones?  That didn’t happen until a few days later in Detroit when I visited Penwabic Pottery.  I bought two stoneware house numbers that are frostproof and meant for outside use to experiment with.

Stoneware numbers from Pewabic Pottery, Detroit

I’m going to make an address stepping stone or wall piece that combines those numbers with a previous and different trip’s inspiration – the inlayed street markers in New Orleans.  They fascinated me when I was there and have stuck with me in the inspiration memory banks.

New Orleans Street sidewalk number

I’m not sure yet  if what I make will be brick (a sub for terra cotta) and bluestone or bluestone and granite–both will go with my early 20th century cottage. Somehow all of this inspiration adds up if I let myself be free enough to connect the dots.  I’m sure there will be a pathway or a medallion in a client’s future garden once I get the technique down in mine.

Buntings

Garden Buntings

I have buntings on the brain.  Not those plastic ones that signal the opening of a new liquor store, deli or car wash.  Pretty ones.  Handmade ones.  Buntings that make any garden space feel happier and more festive than it was before they were hung.

Buntings

photo via So leb’ ich

Not everything needs to cost a fortune, and buntings are something easily made from a wide range of materials at hand.  Here’s some ideas on a Pinterest board.

 

Chicken Wire Rabbit by Chris Mossart

Garden Materials: Chicken Wire

I’m in the process of organizing things a bit differently here. So you’ll see new titles like ‘Materials’ and ‘Garden Design Details’ used more often. There’s also a new email subscription form in the sidebar…I’ve never had one of those before. So use it if you’re so inclined. Now on the subject at hand…chicken wire.

Chicken Wire Rabbit by Chris Mossart

Ever since I posted Chris Mossart’s work on the Leaf mag Facebook page, I’ve been slightly obsessed with chicken wire. I used to be a total DIYer–now less so–but a good pair of gloves, sharp wire cutters, a strong pair of needle nose pliers can go a long way to making some of these charming and useful chicken wire garden accessories. I can’t emphasize the need for gloves too strongly though. Chicken wire is galvanized steel and sharp. It is also very inexpensive…a fifty foot roll is about thirty dollars. It can be painted with a good exterior grade metal paint. I’m sure it could be powder-coated although I’ve never done it. As with anything, the quality of craftsmanship is what will keep chicken wire projects from being too rustic and looking too ‘loving hands at home’.

So here is some inspiration for projects that would be worth trying and can be ready by next spring!

For over the table…a chandelier. I love the addition of natural and found objects to this. A complete list of materials and instructions can be found here.

Garden Chandelier

In the potting shed…small plant storage and display cabinet. Complete instructions are available here.

DIY plant display shelf

On the table or in the garden…chicken wire cloche. These are painted black and were found on Andrea liebt herzen (Andrea Loves Hearts)

Chicken Wire Garden Cloche

And last but not least…just in the garden. A small tuteur or plant support via the French style blog resonances.

Chicken Wire Tuteur

Chicken wire can also make great peony supports, but that’s for another day. These examples plus more inspiration can be found on my Pinterest board Chicken Wire.

Garden to Table DIY

Garden to Table- Simplfy the Holiday DIY

I have so little time this year for holiday DIY projects that I’ve been looking for super simple ideas.  I always lean to those that can use seeds pods, cones and whatever else I already have on hand.

Here’s one that could be done with a huge variety of berries and napkins…I have some handwoven ones a friend made and some berries just outside the window…

Garden to Table DIY

This also makes me think I need to plant more things just for this season…things with berries and seed heads that will persist into the winter. The berries above are Charming Fantasy Snowberries from Monrovia.  The napkin image is from Pinterest.

DIY inspiration…Tuesday’s Find

Many of the objects I post on Tuesdays are impossible to duplicate, but here is one that’s not.

Conservatory Plant Stand

Every spring as I purchase more plants than I have places for, many go on a plantstand that I made out deck stair stringers and posts from my local home improvement store.  It’s not pretty even with the lovely blue stain.  This one is so much more elegant and relatively easy to interpret as a DIY project although it would take years to get the same patina.  I’d put on on my patio for sure.

If you want to take the short cut and just buy one…they’re from English Accent Antiques in  Atlanta.