One of the most difficult steps in creating a garden is the first step. What are you trying to express? What type of structure or form will lead to this expression?
There are, generally, two broad approaches to structure apply to all works of art: A logical or Geometric style and an Emotional or Expressive style. Art historians would use the terms "Classic" and "Romantic" to describe these two approaches. Sometimes people use the terms "Left Brain" verses "Right Brain."
Classic design builds gardens using geometric forms. The structure is clear. The design is often bound together by axis and terminal elements. Proportions are measured. There is an elegance and clarity to classical gardens. It is a style often used for public or large settings, but has also been used on very small scale gardens. Such gardens have a formal sense to them.
Romantic design is emotive, surprising and the structure may not be immediately clear. It is often characterized by curvilinearity and irregularity. Abundance rather than restraint may also be a part of such gardens. Views, focal points, logic, may still be a part of the structure, but placement is guided by feeling and intuition. Such gardens have an informal sense to them.
Almost no design is purely "Classic" or "Romantic." Few people are purely left or right brained, and this, of course, is true of gardens and landscapes as well. There are infinite blends of the two approaches. Look broadly at many gardens, pictures of gardens, designs of gardens and notice which draw you to them. Analyse whether they are more "Classic", "Romantic" or a mixture of the two.
Creating your garden with a design concept will guide you in selection and placement of plants and materials. Your garden will have a unity and harmony of expression that will make it a work of art rather than simply a collection of plants.
Next time we'll talk more about observations of specific gardens