Is there a secret to great garden design? And if so, what is it? Is it selecting the right plants? Is it having lots of lawn? What is it that makes one garden beautiful and the next just a collection of plants? Is there a secret? Well, I guess there is and it comes down to the intention of the designer.

Portrait of Hyacinthe-Gabrielle Roland Marchioness Wellesley by Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun at Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco

Portrait of Hyacinthe-Gabrielle Roland-Marchioness Wellesley. Painted in 1791 by Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun-hanging in the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco

Garden design is an art, like painting or sculpture, music, theater or film. The painter, composer, musician, sculptor, writer, director, actor is attempting to communicate to the audience. If he/she is effective, the audience is impacted by that communication. There are films designed to scare the pants off the audience and others that are intended to evoke nostalgia, loss or longing. If the writer, director, musicians, composers and actors are successful, the audience feels what the artist intended them to feel.

Garden Design

montecito estate with tea house, waterfall and pond in oak woodland

Teak Teahouse from The Sacred Space in Summerland sits atop a waterfall and pond situated in an Oak woodland in Montecito, CA

When it comes to landscape design the same theory applies. The question one needs to ask is this: “What effect am I trying to create?”. When you answer that one, you have the basis of your design.

Do you want to impress with grandeur? Or create mystery and surprise. The great thing about this is that for everyone there is a different response. Perhaps they have fond memories of a particular place and the garden evokes those happy days. I once met with a client from New York City who was frightened of wide open spaces. So we designed a garden that didn’t have expansive views, but instead consisted of a series of small walled gardens. This was her idea of a comfortable space.

It’s a Matter of Opinion

Brazilian Epi wood yoga deck surrounded by lush plantings of cashmere cypress, loropetalum, artemesia

The “Yoga Garden”

Whether you love lawn, or cacti or anything in between, a garden is an individual thing and is a reflection of YOU. It is a place for spiritual reflection or sporting events, grand parties or intimate family gatherings. Point it is can be anything you want it to be.

A garden, a landscape whatever you call it, is your personal playground. So, splurge on it and when you have the garden you want, be sure to spend lots of time there with those you love or meandering solo, contemplating the universe or nothing at all.

Until next time, fill your garden with joy! xo Lisa