Planning the layout of a garden means applying all the same design principles you’d use to shape and decorate a room in your house. They’re also the principles involved in creating an enduring work of art. Colour, texture, proportion and balance are all vital elements. But with a garden, climate and soil properties must also be taken into account as well, in order to choose the right plants. Take professional advice if this is not your area of expertise. And look around the neighbourhood to see which species flourish locally.
Colour helps set the overall mood. White, green and pastel colours suggest a soothing tranquillity; reds and citrus shades evoke a sense of energy and excitement. Texture brings visual interest and can be achieved in many ways – different leaf sizes and shapes, for instance, or a mix of glossy and matt surfaces. Edge a pebble path with concrete, trickle water over stone and send ivy climbing up a rough-cast wall.
Observe the principle of proportion by using appropriately sized elements and plants, but also remember that breaking the rules is allowed – a single intentionally oversized element can create an effective focal point. If your ideas lack clarity, assemble a mood board of colours and magazine clippings. Slowly but surely, your preferred style will emerge.
Here, shades of green foliage are perfectly complemented by crisp white elements such as furniture, pots and garden sculptures. Stone retaining walls, concrete surfaces and weathered water features in natural grey tones bring solidity to the overall picture. It’s an uncomplicated look likely to suit contemporary architecture and those who prefer streamlined layouts.
Enliven the restrained palette with a layering of textures and different shades of the same colour. Use green in all its glorious incarnations: emerald, lime, forest, mint and green-grey. This is a garden that suggests discovery. Beguiling views through open screens hint at fresh territory and invite exploration. Just as in New Zealand artist Karl Maughan’s photorealist paintings, the entire garden isn’t revealed at once. Rather, informal pathways of lawn wending between flowering shrubs give a sense that a gentle journey has begun.
Picture in Pink
A pink garden, freshened with occasional hints of purple and framed by white picket fences or trellis borders, has an undeniable air of romance. Somewhat shabby chic in aesthetic, it’s a natural accompaniment to white weatherboard cottages with an English sentiment. This garden is enhanced by the addition of hanging baskets, bird baths, dovecotes, window boxes and clusters of flowerpots; it’s strictly not for those who favour minimalism or restraint.
White woven wicker-style day beds and vintage metal benches are softened by floral cushions and checked throws; freshly baked scones and cupcakes are served for afternoon tea on three-tiered cakestands. As in impressionist master Claude Monet’s famed garden in Giverny, France, colour-grouped blooms and archways festooned with climbing roses underscore the traditional yet utterly timeless tranquillity.
A small urban courtyard can easily be transformed into a cheerful entertaining zone. Container planting is an effective option in the absence of garden beds. Choose citrus trees in terracotta pots then accessorise with flowers, cushions and tablecloths in orange and bright yellow. Shots of teal and brilliant blue offset the sunshine hues and add to the general exuberance of the setting.
With bricks underfoot reflecting the heat and sheltered from wind by the house, this area is sure to be a suntrap so shade is paramount. If there’s no leafy tree or wisteria-clad pergola overhead, employ umbrellas or shade sails. Straw hats and ice-cold drinks are essential. A cluster of aged classical urns, canvas director’s chairs and folding metal chairs add to the casual, semi-rustic ambience.
It’s a mood captured perfectly in Frances Hodgkins’ 1932 watercolour Pleasure Garden. Depicting a long-ago summer, it features sunflowers, canvas awnings and statues and is evocative of the convivial, alfresco lunches we still enjoy today.
Story: Shelley Bridgeman
Photographs: Melanie Jenkins
Stylist: Claudia Kozub