A picture on a piece of paper is 2-dimensional. Even if drawn with perspective, it can only “represent” the idea of 3 dimensions. That’s why people are so often disappointed when a really nice “plan” or “drawing” of a garden turns out to be barely mediocre after it’s implemented.
A garden is experienced in 3 dimensions. You never (or rarely) look “down on” a garden, to see how it’s laid out. You move through a garden, feeling the depth and the height around you as you do. Your eye moves up and down, often peeking “around” something to see what’s on the other side.
This is why we’ve developed the somewhat quirky design process we use at Prairie Eden. If a sketch is required for an HOA, we’re happy to put one together, but it’s not a “design document” in our eyes – it’s a really rough sketch.
The design process starts with the skeleton of the garden – the shapes that are put together with the walls, terraces, and walkways. While the skeleton is coming together, ideas begin to form about how the flesh might develop around the skeleton, and these ideas often help shape that early “skeleton phase”.
By the time the rough plumbing is being laid for the drip system, and the good rich soil is being ladled into the garden, a good bit of the “shape” of plants has come together in the mind’s eye of the designer. We might not have decided for sure which exact plant to put where, but we’ve started to visualize the ways we need plants to enhance the shape that the garden is evolving into. We can see where we need height, and how much. We have a feel for how dense the height needs to be.
It’s a truly fun stage in the design process – where you can feel the garden shape emerging upwards in the eye of the mind.
There are some basic design principles that the mind’s eye is using to imagine the shapes that can emerge – the same design principles that have driven the process to this point. This stage is a little different though, in that the garden skeleton almost begins to “call” or “suggest” what would work best.
It’s not something you could do in advance on a 2-dimensional piece of paper. It’s something that has to come together in your mind as you sit in the space and move through it. Of course, you can put anything you want on a piece of paper, and a good designer can do a fairly good job of predicting what might work well. But to really know – to really feel it and hear it clearly – you need to “be” in the space as it’s come together, and see what it will look like in 3 dimensions.
For the novice who’s a little nervous about starting down the path of building a new garden, this is all really good news. Throw away your trepidation, and listen to the shape the garden wants to become. Most of all, when it comes time to plant the garden, sit quietly in the new shape, and move around it it slowly. The plant shapes will come to you. If you’re not that familiar with different plants, this is a good place to bring in someone who does know plants, and get ideas from them on what might implement the shapes you see emerging in your mind’s eye.
At Prairie Eden, we’re happy to help our customers at this stage. If you’re doing some planting, and want some ideas on what might implement the vision you’re seeing, give us a call and let us walk the space with you.