Mystical Landscapes is a Marin Design and Build company for all aspects of landscaping.
There are a number of ways to accomplish this goal. One of them is with the use of shapes and lines. For example, starting a bed at the exact corner of a house shows awareness of the house. Doing the bed in a scale that is appropriate for the size of the house also shows awareness for the house. Creating shapes within the garden that complement or echo other shapes in the garden shows that one area of the garden was done with awareness of the other areas.
Psychologically, this makes us feel more peaceful and relaxed. Just as we tend to tense up when an individual is behaving in a way that is inappropriate and awkward in a group, to a lesser degree we tense up when we see a shape, color or object that seems to clash with everything else in the garden.
Balance of attention:
A designer creates an overall sense of balance by creating many individual imbalances, much like a child’s mobile is counter balanced by many weights and crossbars. Perhaps the grade takes the eye away by falling down hill, but a massive tree is used to interrupt the attention on its way down the hill and bring us back to ourselves. A gap in the trees draws the eye with brighter light to the left, while the placement of a fountain to the right draws our attention in that direction. Overall, there is a sense of balance, that can be either very still or very dynamic, depending on how intensely we use the forces that direct our attention in juxtaposition with one another. Stepping outside the context of landscapes for a moment, Cirque Du Soleil uses these dynamic imbalances to pull our attention first to one part of the stage then to another, but always holds our attention on the stage. The goal
applying this principle to your garden is to have your attention come to rest in key stationary areas, such as a bench, a patio or a hard-to-find front door.
Scale is a distinct sub-category of the principle of relationship. In order for our eye to experience the relationship between objects, scale is essential. Typically if one object is more than five times bigger or smaller than the object next to it, particularly if it is a different color, texture or shape, we start to see them as two unrelated objects rather than a composition of things in relationship to one another.
Imagine a three story flat wall that is all one texture and color. When looking towards this wall our sense of scale will typically be determined by it, as the biggest object. Let’s say it is thirty five feet tall and forty feet wide. Using our principle of not going five times bigger or smaller, we might design a bed at the base of this wall that is forty feet long and between eight and twenty feet wide in different sections. In order to strengthen the relationship with the house we might begin and end it at a house corner. Then inside the bed we might plant one fifteen foot wide by thirty foot tall tree, thus breaking up the uninterrupted mass of the house. And below we might put groups of plants in masses ten feet long by three to fifteen feet wide. In this way the bed is in scale with the house. The tree is in scale with the house and the bed. And the lower plantings are in scale with the tree and the bed, as well as the height of the people walking by.
Of course, everything is ultimately in relationship with our own bodies. We would tend to feel out of place when standing next to one of the great pyramids alone in the desert because the awesome scale of our surroundings relative to our own five to six foot tall body highlights how small we are. The pyramid may fit in the desert, but we don’t seem to fit well with either, unless we have a car nearby and can focus on that as our scale comparison.
Scale also relates to distance. The farther away we are from something the smaller it appears, relative to our own body and the things around us. What this means is that in addition to being aware of the scale of objects to one another, we need to consider the distance from which they will be viewed. For example, the delicate shape of blue-bell flowers will be perfectly clear when planted on a pot on the deck, but viewed from one hundred feet away you might need to plant fifty times more bluebells in order for the color blue to be briefly noticed by the casual observer.
In summary: the greater the distance, the bigger the scale needs to be to have a similar result. This can be a bit counter-intuitive because when we are PLANTING a bed we are only three feet away from the plants we plant. It will be natural to think: “This feels a bit boring – let me liven things up,” when we are planting fifty of the same small plants and stand back a few feet away. The important thing to remember is that while it may look boring from three to five feet away, it will look perfectly in scale and a pleasing splash of interest when viewed from one hundred feet away.
Read the full chapter in Successfully Landscaping Your Marin Home.
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