by Lee Wyatt
(last updated December 21, 2020)
The importance of proportion in garden design can't really be overstated, and in fact, when it isn't properly understood it can easily be seen. The reason for this is that when you look at a garden that doesn't have a sense of proportion to it, everything tends to look somewhat out of whack. Basically, one way to look at proportion is to think of scale (another important aspect of garden design). While it may seem similar, there are a few subtle differences.
Proportion is probably one of the most overlooked, or misused aspects of garden design. The simple reason for this can be expressed by the common thought that "bigger is better." Unfortunately this isn't always the case. When looking for items, accessories, plants, or simply anything that will be put into your garden you need to think about how they will interact and look together. For example, you look at the size of the area that you are working with, let's say something the size of a small balcony. If you had this small of an area to work with, you really don't want to put anything too large in it, or you won't be able to properly use the area. In addition, if you have a really large garden space, you don't want to place a small little fountain out in the middle of the yard all by itself. Instead, combine the fountain with some other items such as a fire pit, benches, trees, or even a pergola or something similar. That way it doesn't look all alone.
Another common mistake that some people make when it comes to proportion is that they don't plan about how things will look five, ten, or even twenty years down the road. Over time things like trees will grow up and change the way that they look. For example, you may think that a poplar tree will look great in your small to medium sized front yard, and that it should look just fine. But what many people forget about trees like this is that they can easily reach a height of about 30 feet or so. That's going to end up dwarfing most homes, and look completely out of place in many yards.
Simply put, when thinking about proportion in garden design, you want to think about the overall effect. Think about how everything interacts with each other and plan accordingly. In many ways, the argument could be made that proportion is where all the other important aspects of garden design meet up and come into play with each other.
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