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Wednesday March 03 , 2021

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

Garden Design Quick Tip - Repetition through Form

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repetition-formRepetition is one of those key elements of garden design that helps achieve that goal of unity in a garden.  Whilst unity is the harmonisation of the whole, repetition is a 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; angular or curvy lines; etc – 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!  You're aiming for balance and accents - 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 our image (above) - as with all things moderation can work wonders!

3 Elements for Repeating Form in Garden Design:

Plants & Trees – Plants come in all shapes and sizes and these characteristics are often used in garden designs for helping to repeat the form of a chosen unifying element. Obvious ‘forms’ can be found in topiary – tightly clipped yew (Taxus baccata) or box (Buxus sempervirens) are good examples but more natural habits of plants and trees can also be used for repetition.

Patios – Circular, square, rectangular, triangular, freeform, smooth, rivened – shapes, textures, lines...need I say more?!

Detailing on boundaries or screens – either through the shapes of openings – like moon gates for instance – or latticework, further finials or the line of boundaries or screens can all contribute repetition of form.




Nicki Jackson is Blue Daisy's garden designer & owner. A former HR consultant Nicki still finds the time to run Blue Daisy, design gardens and planting plans, write a blog, keep our gardening clients happy and offer IIP advice and outplacement support through Blue Daisy Consultancy.

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