Garden Design Quick Tip: Repetition Through Form by Nicki Jackson

Repetition is one of those key elements of garden design that helps achieve that goal of unity in a garden. While unity is the harmonisation of the whole, repetition is part of unity and there are many ways of using repetition in a garden design.

A while back we briefly looked at using repeat planting in a way that ‘steadies’ the planting plan and helps each area relate to another, by adding harmony to the borders. In that example we were repeating specific plants, but this time around we wanted to widen the scope and application of repetition to include form too.

In garden design, ‘form’ generally refers to the visible shape or configuration of something and often it is the plants that non-garden designers tend to think about in terms of form – tall plants, wide plants, bushy but compact plants, etc. While plants are a major tool in achieving repetition, when you widen the scope to include other elements in the garden too, that is when you can really start to see the possibilities for repetition; and consequently for better unity in your garden design too.

Take a house for instance. Our homes more often than not sit in the middle of our owned landscape and are often the most dominant feature of our land. When you consider the ‘form’ of your house – tall and narrow perhaps or low lying and spreading; muted or bright colours; angular or curvy lines – that can immediately help lead you into thinking about how you might repeat that ‘form’, or parts of it, in your garden, so that both your garden and your home can relate to each other better, and thus an easier sense of unity can be achieved.

Let’s take a tall narrow house as an example. In repeating the form of this house you might choose a tall, narrow water feature rather than a low, squat one, for instance; or tall obelisks throughout your borders; tall sculptures as focal points and taller pergolas through which to walk. Your planting scheme could repeat the form through tall spires of flowers or trees with a thinner, taller habit to their growth. The opportunities to start repeating the tall, narrow form starts to expand the more you think about it!

A word of warning here though – you’re not aiming to repeat everything and neither do you want to overdo it with one thing either. The first instance is often the route to chaos and disharmony while the latter can lead to boring monotony, so choose your repeated elements carefully! Just repeating the shape of the finials on the top of gate posts or roof lines for instance can be a simple but stunning use of repetition, or repeating the shapes of windows in the planting, as can be seen in the image above. As with all things, moderation can work wonders!

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2020