Monday, June 30, 2014

Whose Garden is it Anyway – Garden Design Gone to the Dogs

Isabel's Dog's Garden

Isabel Belanger - Etobicoke

Landscape design is both a subjective and an objective response to the environment. The objective response is based on established, time-honoured rules: design elements and design principles.

Design elements include line, shape (convergence of two lines to create a two dimensional object), mass (the third dimension), form (shape and structure), space, texture, and colour. Design principles are the method used to arrange design elements to achieve a desired effect, and include rhythm, repetition, balance + symmetry, diversity, unity, emphasis, and focal point. 1

Therefore design is premised on both mathematics and science, and psychology: the psyche's response to the environment, conscious and unconscious. Design takes chaos and
gives form and function to a space. 'Form follows function'2 – and the function of my garden has been to accommodate a succession of dogs over the years, thus dictating the form.

For many last year's ice storm gave new meaning to the term garden design, or redesign. Add to the mix a new dog, previous designs geared to the psyches of beloved dogs of the past, an 18' x 50' garden which includes an 18' x 12' wooden deck off the house, a garage at the back, and you have a recipe for design disaster. Then add the focal point (design principle #7): a 20' Japanese maple right in the middle of the (not including the deck) garden. This is the design nightmare of a small yard with full sun in spring and lots of shade by the end of May. Darcy is our new, 16 month old adolescent black-brindle Labrador Retriever mix rescue dog, and we have had him for three months now. He is still fixing the garden to suit himself.

The best plan of attack when designing a small garden around a new dog is to study the line of direct descent into the garden. Darcy is anathema to squirrels, but unlike Morse our previous Borador (Border Collie/Labrador Retriever) who tiptoed through the garden and actually caught one, Darcy has all the stealth of a herd of elephants. It takes him two jumps to get to the cedar tree at the left side of the garage in the back. I have already transplanted the plants from the rear left circle surrounding the Japanese maple. So much for balance; asymmetry is the new balance. I am slowly building a landing pad (aka patio), which, in 27 years here, I had not once contemplated.

1 pp. 53-56. Designing the Landscape: The Horticulturist Certificate. University of Guelph. 2007.

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