Landscape Designers Chicago IL
Palos Hills, IL
Balance in Design - Good Landscapes Keep an Even Leel.
- Luke MillerFrom Garden Gate Issue 18, December 1997
I went to one of those seminars on success a few years ago. The speaker stressed the need to find balance in one's life. It was a good point all right. As a matter of fact, it could just as well pertain to landscape design.
Successful landscape design is an art. So it's no surprise that the process of designing a garden depends on the same principles that govern the world of art. Those principles include accent, unity and rhythm, as well as balance. They are vital to establishing a pleasing landscape.
For centuries, landscape designers have used balance to create attractive, enduring gardens - from the geometric designs of ancient Egypt to the naturalistic designs of the Orient. Despite the passage of time, the fact remains: What worked 4,000 years ago still works today. Understanding and using balance will help lead you to success when laying out your own garden.
What is Balance?
Balance is like irony: It's hard to define, but you know when you see it. More to the point, you know when you don't see it. The dictionary defines balance as a harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts in a design. What makes the arrangement satisfying is the stability - real or imagined - that it carries.
Think of a tray resting atop the palm of a server. Too much weight to either side and the tray will likely topple. Well, the mind's eye picks up on imbalance in other situations, too, even if there are no physical repercussions. That's why it's so important to strive for visual stability in garden design. It puts the mind at ease.
Visual stability is attained when plants are strategically placed in the garden with color, density, size and form in mind. All four of these traits carry visual weight. For instance, dark colors often appear heavier than whites and pastels while plants with fine-textured foliage (yarrow) strike us as being lighter in weight than those with coarse foliage (hibiscus).
However, density is also impacted by growth habit. Even though it has coarse-textured foliage, winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus) may seem lighter than a fine-textured boxwood (Buxus spp.). That's because the euonymus has an open growth habit compared to the boxwood's tightly packed foliage.
Size and form also affect the weight scale. For example, a tall tree needs an equal mass to balance it - either another vertical tree of similar size or a horizontal feature that's as wide as the tree is tall. If there's not enough room for a wide-spreading feature, you can simply move the more modest version away from the vertical element, just as a lighter kid would move farther from a heavier child on a teeter-totter.
Formal and informal
There are basically two roads to follow when seeking balance in the garden: symmetrical and asymmetrical. Formal landscapes have symmetrical balance. The viewer can determine a center line as well as right and left sides that mirror each other. A ...