Design Principles – Inner and Outer Manifestations or What You Can Learn from your Garden

“You conceive your world with the mind and create it with your hands.” –  Chris Widener

The Yard Therapist once took a design class where each student was given two twigs, a focal flower and a design in an L-shaped pattern to follow as closely as possible.  Given the structure of the exercise you would have expected 15 replicas of the pattern and yet they varied distinctly in the vertical/horizontal height of the twigs placed to define the frame of the design.  Our instructor continued by stating she could tell each of us what type of dwelling we inhabited. True to every one of us, those who lived in two-story or infill housing designed with the vertical component positioned higher than those of us living in bungalows who consistently chose a lower height to frame the design.  This would support the theory that we outwardly manifest the subconscious over the conscious.  I believe that to be true….to a point.  This year I began to see a distinct correlation between the order of my garden and my inner thought processes.  Trees were uprooted and relocated.  Additions of hardscaping allowed for more privacy and new plants were carefully chosen and placed to create a different rhythm and focus.  I finally got around to composting and mulching the whole garden and have religiously fertilized my tomatoes and flowering plants.  Was this the result of a conscious or subconscious decision?

In my work world I always defer to the unimpeachable design principles, whether it be a store setting or a garden landscape, but in my own garden I found I puttered randomly, adding or deleting on whimsy rather than the thoughtful consideration I placed on the projects I was employed to create.  This year I finally got around to caring for what was mine, ergo, placing value on something intensely personal.  This is significant in that in doing so, I finally assigned value to endeavors that benefited myself on par to those I performed on the behalf of others.  Self actualization comes to all of us at different times and in different venues.  Mine was found on my hands and knees digging in the dirt of my backyard.  I finally let go this year of what did not work and began to follow my true passion, opening the door to a revelation I have read about many times but never really came close to achieving.  By allowing myself true devotion to my real purpose and desire, a key was found and the door opened for a more Unified, Harmonious life where Balance and Unity allows me to find my Emphasis.  Employing Similarity and Contrast bring order and excitement to my days, creating a pleasing Rhythm and sense of Proportion to all that I endeavor.  Did I bring this TO my garden or did my garden bring it TO me, evolving as I worked closely and in Harmony with nature?  I believe it to be a little of both.  I set out with a plan and determination and as I worked things began to fall in to place, in me, and in my garden.

If you ever find your garden, or yourself in a little bit of chaos, I gently recommend you refer to the design principles to restore Unity.

DESIGN PRINCIPLES:  Use as needed.

UNITY:  the quality or state of being one; the state of those who are in full agreement.  Unity’s main goal is Balance, which is turn creates Harmony.

BALANCE:  a state of  equalized tension; a steady position or condition that is symmetrical.

SIMILARITY and CONTRAST:  using related and unrelated components to create interest and appeal.  Similarity without Contrast = an uneventful view.

EMPHASIS:  an accent or focalization, used with Scale and Proportion to present a dominant feature.

SCALE:  a number of similar objects arranged from highest to lowest.

PROPORTION:  the relationship between objects which are part of a whole.



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Avid student of horticulture, active volunteer with the Horticultural Society, maker of beautiful garden spaces. I am now available for Garden Design services, custom planters, DIY consultations in Calgary and surrounding areas. Inquire at 403-837-9980 or

2 thoughts on “Design Principles – Inner and Outer Manifestations or What You Can Learn from your Garden”

  1. reading this brings unity, balance and emphasis to my soul. thanks for the good read and all the clarity and BALANCE it reminds me to hold on to. ❤

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