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Home & Gardens: Have space and harmony; Andrew Ball tells us how we can all achieve a perfectly balanced garden, just by applying some oriental techniques.

Byline: Andrew Ball

The concept of balance as the key to the perfect garden is not a new one.

Indeed, the principle of yin and yang - contrasting elements that create balance and harmony - is an essential element of centuries old Oriental gardens.

But what does balance actually mean as far as the gardens of today are concerned?

From a design point of view, we look for balance in several ways. First of all is the balance between the garden and the house.

On a basic level this means ensuring that the style you choose for your garden is in keeping with that of your house.

So if you like the idea of a contemporary garden and you live in a traditional cottage, you might need to soften the design of your garden so that it is harmonious to the house.

One of biggest mistakes that people make is to choose the wrong type and colour of landscaping materials and paving for their gardens.

It is extremely important to go for products that match or contrast the colour of those used on your house.

The correct balance between house and garden can also be achieved where you enter the garden. For example, by using decking to create an almost seamless link and giving the impression the garden is a natural extension of the living room.

To create a feeling of balance in the garden itself, it's a good idea to divide the garden into zones that can be categorised by function.

So you might have a play zone, a dining zone, a lounging zone, a plant zone, etc. A good way to achieve balance in a garden which has a surfeit of activity based zones is to add a sanctuary zone where you can chill out, perhaps in a hot tub or with a soothing water feature surrounded by a comfortable seating area.

Balance also needs to be present in the choice of planting. In a contemporary environment the emphasis is going to be on a relatively small number of structural, architectural plants.

Given that they will be few in number, it is even more important that they arecarefully chosen to ensure they fall within a relatively tight band of size and colour - otherwise the whole visual effect will be lost. When it comes to more traditional gardens, plants take on a different role and balance has to be achieved by the correct combination of size, colour and texture.

Gardens cannot be planned in isolation, they really need to be designed as a whole and take into account the house and the surrounding built environment and landscape.

Although the function you want your garden to have may well dictate what is needed, a subjective view should also be taken. To achieve a physical spatial balance does not necessarily mean that you have to put two similarly scaled spaces together, but should play different spaces off one another in order to achieve emotional balance.

Easily negotiated gardens such as Versailles in France, play on our sense of balance, proportion and scale, entice us into the landscape and occasionally reward us with a stunning focal point or view.

There are many methods that can be used to provide balance and achieve a garden that functions and inspires.

Once you've worked out where, and to what scale, your patio, lawn, paths beds should be, you can then dress the spaces with materials. The secret of a good design is the way it uses scale, form, colour and texture.

Andrew Ball is a garden designer with Xternal Dimensions. For further information, you can call Xternal Dimensions on 0870 240 7067 or check out their website at


We might not all have gardens like the Palace of Versailles, but we can still use its principles of balance and harmony for our own patches
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 2, 2004
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