By Hosea Omole
A part from enhancing aesthetics, patterns in the landscape can meet functional needs as well. They can be used for directing movement or defining special use areas within the garden. But the power of patterns is fully appreciated when the garden is to be viewed from above. Such gardens offer a unique opportunity to transform the two-dimensional ground plane into a work of art.
Throughout history, pattern gardens have been popular. Roman gardeners created patterns using boxwood shrubs, gravel and other plantings. This approach continued for centuries. Traditionally, patterns have tended to be formal; often they were focused on the centrepiece of a fountain or a pond.
Today, more flexible, informal patterns are being developed. Modern approaches are often sophisticated and interesting, utilising a wider range of materials as well as plants.
Here are some more insights into patterned gardens.
The height at which patterns created in the landscape may be viewed is important in their design. The more the distance, the bigger the canvas you have to play with. Unfortunately, in most gardens, the height from which a pattern may be observed is not great; the distance of view is typically two to three metres from a balcony or an upper storey. This has the effect of constraining the size of the patterns you can create.
Short viewing distances also require stronger delineation of design and greater attention to detail. Use subtle differences in texture and form, and contrasts will be lost. For a pattern to be clearly appreciated, you need to prepare a design where there are reasonable areas of different planting and contrasting colour and texture to achieve good visual impact.
Plant colour is an easy way to delineate pattern. You can use colourful annuals within designated edging or frames. But remember that flowers of this type are fleeting and seasonal — glorious at their peak, dull in their off-season. Evergreens offer a more permanent impact. Go for those with contracting foliage colours as well as leaf shapes to create variation.
You can also build upon layers of foliage, drawing from changes in plant heights. This approach combined with the use of free-form plants that don’t need to be clipped to shape allows for a bolder effect of sweeping bands and curves to be formed.