The difference between an uninspiring landscape, and one that takes your breath away, is in the intangibles, those things that defy reason – a little accent here, a whimsical addition there. An inspired landscape design is borne of creative fancy – an intuitive mix, integrating function (a logical process) and feelings (an intuitive process).
The logical process is about information: gathering data from site conditions; circulation needs; solar orientation; soils; slopes; plant selection; and scanning your memories, for a sense of what you have liked and disliked in the past.
The intuitive process is altogether different, because it is not about thinking at all – but feeling. A successful garden should generate a “feeling” of happiness, contentment, and hopefully, spiritual renewal.
The two processes are intimately connected, and creativity stagnates if both are not given equal say. Focusing on the logical by itself, i.e. correct plant selection, circulation, etc., may yield a functional but boring garden. However, if you are overly whimsical and playful with your design, and oblivious to its function, you may end up with a confusing, non-workable space.
The ideal to strive for is balance, a blend of both, the logical and the intuitive. If this is done correctly a synchronicity is achieved between function and feeling. Great garden landscapes are living examples of this balance. When walking through such gardens, we experience beauty and harmony and it stirs our soul. The experience reaches beyond our mind, and affects our inner being. Unconsciously, we relax, the worries of the moment start to dissipate, and weigh a little less heavily. We have the opportunity to take a calming breath, and to remember that life is here to enjoy.
It is not always easy to know what you want, especially if you have never had an inspiring garden. The following exercise will get your creative muscles working, and will help you get clearer and clearer about your perfect landscape. Take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. Under the left column list everything you have loved, about gardens you have seen or experienced (including feelings they have invoked in you). Under the right column, list things you do not like or do not want. Then, one by one, cross through these negatives on the don’t want side and convert them into positives on the do want side. For example, if you do not like formality and straight lines, write this down under the don’t want column, then cross through it and list the opposite (informal, natural and curvilinear lines). Continue converting all of your negatives into positives. Review this list often, and continue working on it, even after your garden has been installed.
A landscape designed by you and for you, will be completely unique, because it will be a reflection of your personality. It is a way to share yourself through your creativity, with others and for you, the experience of walking through a landscape space, borne of your own research and creative fantasies, will be awe-inspiring and a joy to behold.