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How do I create a beautiful garden? Essential Garden Design Principles - Pt 2

Updated: May 15

Whether you're revamping an existing garden or starting from scratch, understanding the fundamental principles of landscape design is crucial to achieving a successful outdoor space. These principles serve as guidelines to unleash your creativity while ensuring that your garden is both beautiful and functional. In this article, we'll delve into five more key principles that guide all my landscape plans.

So, let's explore these principles and find out how you can create a beautiful and timeless garden.

Less is more: Simplicity

House & Garden - Sue and Brian's park-style country garden - 2015. A simple yet stunning country garden with ornamental grasses and circle lawn

Simplicity is a fundamental principle in landscape design that emphasizes the beauty of uncomplicated elegance. It's about achieving a garden that's easy to understand and visually uncluttered while still brimming with creativity.

A simple garden allows viewers to focus, one element at a time, avoiding the restlessness and confusion that can come from an overloaded design.

The key to simplicity is consistency and unity, striking a balance between a garden that's too busy and one that's monotonous.

This balance is achieved by limiting the variety of plant species, colors, shapes, lines, focal points, and materials used. Repetition of a select few elements, whether plants, materials or structures, brings order and harmony to the landscape. Having different themes or styles in the same garden should also be avoided, unless they can be clearly separated.

Usually one large composition with mass elements and a simple layout are the best option over small elements put together.

Embracing simplicity, with the guiding principle of "less is more," allows a garden to become a harmonious and functional masterpiece where each element finds its place, creating a space of timeless elegance and purpose.


The right size: Scale

One KinDesign. A covered outdoor fireplace area with stepping stones through lawn leading to another outdoor patio

In the world of landscape design, achieving the perfect balance of scale is paramount. Scale refers to the size of elements in relation to the human experience, and to the relationships between different elements within the landscape, ensuring that they are appropriately sized for comfort and harmony.

These principles go beyond aesthetics, profoundly impacting how a garden feels and functions. When elements are out of scale or proportion, the garden may appear unwelcoming and underutilized.

An expansive, empty space can feel uncomfortable, while tiny structures in comparison to the surrounding environment can feel out of place.

In the application of scale and proportion, many factors must be considered. This includes the size of furniture, pavement patterns, timber dimensions in decks and pergolas in relation to the size of the property and of the section.

Mastering these principles in landscape design is the key to transforming any garden into a spacious, inviting oasis, regardless of its size. Neglecting them can result in a cluttered, poorly planned space. Attention to detail, considering the height, width, depth, and volume of each element, ensures that every aspect finds its rightful place in the garden, culminating in a harmonious and welcoming outdoor environment.


Find your axis: Balance

John Davies Landscape UK. A courtyard with asymmetrical balance. A courtyard at night time with stepping stones through water, with outdoor lighting, and steps leading to a higher patio. Planters with small feature trees.

In design, balance is the even distribution of visual weight around an axis, enabling a sensation of stability.

Balance in landscape design can manifest as either symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is characterized by an even distribution of visual weight around a central axis, often found in formal gardens.

Elements on either side of the axis mirror one another, creating a sense of order and tranquility. This style is frequently seen in formal gardens, using topiaries, pleaching, and clipped hedges to maintain perfect symmetry.

Conversely, asymmetrical balance is achieved by skillfully utilizing the varying visual weights of different elements such as plants, structures, and features. Visual weight is determined by size, texture, color, and other factors. Asymmetrical balance introduces a sense of movement and intrigue to a garden, as the elements on either side of the axis differ, sparking curiosity and engagement.

It is easier on the eye and the brain to look at a garden which has an evident axis with similar weight on both sides, it makes it harmonious and easy to read.

When implementing balance in a design, it's imperative to consider the desired style, as symmetrical and asymmetrical balances evoke distinct feelings. The style of the house, existing trees, and structures should also be taken into account, ensuring that the garden seamlessly integrates with its surroundings.

In the hands of a skilled designer, the principle of balance is the key to creating outdoor spaces that are not only visually appealing but also harmonious and engaging. It's the delicate art of arranging elements in a way that invites the eye to explore, guiding the viewer through a garden that exudes calm and beauty.


Emphasize: Focal Points

Howard Design Studio - Boxwood House. A manicured lawn with formal box hedging on the sides and Hydrangeas. At the forefront, a garden bench, and in the back, a sculptural focal point, with an old country house in the background

Emphasis is the importance, stress or attention given to something. In landscape design the principle of emphasis is generally achieved with focal points. It is a way to attract the viewer’s eye to a specific point or area. Traditionally it is located on the central axis of a design, but it can also be used in different ways to create flow and movement.

The purpose of emphasis or focal points is to provide a resting place for the eyes, like a dot at the end of a sentence. Thanks to this “pause”, it is easier to appreciate the overall design. Without it, spaces can feel confusing.

Focal points can be many things: water features, sculptures, feature plants or trees, benches, swimming pools or even borrowed views. There can be multiple focal points in one area, but they should never be close to one another otherwise they will lose their effect.

Emphasis is a great tool to create movement through a garden, in conjunction with lines and shapes, as it will draw the viewer to it. When using the principle of emphasis, you should consider several things. You need to know where you want people to look and move. The size of the garden/space is also important, as the focal point should be in the right scale. But whether the space is small or large, the focal point always needs to be strong and effective to fulfil its purpose.



Texture is what defines the appearance and feel of a surface or a plant. For plants, the texture will depend mostly on the size of the leaves. Large leaves will give a coarse texture while small or thin leaves will give a fine texture. Regarding the hardscape, a texture can be smooth, rough, glossy, matt, soft, hard… depending on the material.

In design, textures are used to provide interest and contrast. The mind seeks change and experiences pleasure when variety is discovered.

If only smooth textures are used, the design could feel quite bland. On the other hand, if there are only rough and hard textures, it could feel aggressive.

Combinations of contrasting textures are usually better and create a balanced and pleasant feeling, as long as it’s not overdone otherwise it becomes overwhelming! Textures also contribute to the creation of a style.

To make successful textural combinations, you can use the hardscape, walls, paving, decks, patios, paths etc. as well as planting, such as groundcover, flowers, shrubs, hedges, trees with different leaf shapes and sizes… Bear in mind that plants are usually better in groups of 3/5/7 (except for statement plants which can be on their own), otherwise the garden will look too busy. Coarse textured plants attract the eye and can make a space feel smaller. Fine plants help unify compositions and can make a space feel larger.


In the world of landscape design, mastering essential principles is the key to crafting outdoor spaces that seamlessly blend beauty and functionality.

Whether it's the art of simplicity, the mastery of scale, or the delicate dance of balance, these principles shape gardens into harmonious havens. They guide the way we understand and experience outdoor environments, ensuring that every element finds its place and purpose.

With these principles at the heart of my designs, I create not just gardens, but captivating, inviting landscapes. Get in touch HERE to arrange a free quote.


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