The Art of Composition

Applying the artistic principles of composition to your planting will transform your borders suggests garden designer, Jonathan Siarl.

The most successful gardens - ones that you long to spend time in - combine a strong design with the use of suitable materials and the pleasing composition of plants. Composition is simply the arrangement of form, colour and texture for visual effect. Follow a few simple rules and your borders will always work.


Use form to define space

Consider the overall shape of plants and the form that flowers take then combine specimens to complement or contrast with each other. Plants can be round, oval, conical, columnar, arching, fan-like and spiky, irregular or trained whilst there are six distinct flower forms:


Spheres and spikes - are best used in drifts, at the back of borders or as a punctuation to a border.

Buttons and spheres - which often grow in concentrated clusters with heads that stand out against a soft background are ideal for placing in the middle of a border.

Upturned bowls - Gently rounded saucer-like forms often resemble wild flowers and work well to ground spheres and spikes.

Plumes - are visually soft and can be used to create a cloud-like effect, useful for softening and balancing stronger forms.

Screens - are light and airy, allowing for the creation of a net curtain effect which draws the eye to stronger forms beyond.

Daisy-like - have tightly packed foliage and simple flowers, useful in all areas of the border.


Create mood with colour

Colour is subjective so choose the colours you prefer but also consider the effect they will have. Green is undemanding, a pure and tranquil backdrop for other colours, yet foliage comes in many shades of greens, greys, silvers, purples and blues for variation. Red is a hot colour that demands attention and appears to come towards you. Yellow is less fiery but will still foreshorten space whilst blue recedes from the eye, almost merging with its background.


Balance textures

ombine different textures to work harmoniously with each other. Coarse plants with large, eye catching leaves draw the eye so are ideal as focal points or for altering perspective. Fine plants with tiny leaves are easy to look at and do not demand attention. Medium plants will link the two, helping to unify and soften the border. Use too many coarse textured plants and your design will become chaotic, whilst too many fine textured plants will make it dull. Balance is key.



Rune creates beautiful gardens of all styles and sizes. To see more examples of our work please visit our website where you will find case studies and a range of testimonials. The design process begins with a FREE initial consultation during which we visit your garden and discuss your needs. To book yours please call us on 01905 841405, 01451 861776 or 07908 734 022.



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