Elements of Design: Unity

These simple guidelines can help you create a beautiful, unified garden regardless of your plant selection.

By: Rochelle Duckwiler


Repeating a common element--form, shape, texture or, as with this seating area, color--helps bring unity to the garden.

Gardening is an ever-changing and evolving process, so creating a garden in which all the elements appear to belong together can be quite an undertaking. These simple design guidelines can help you reach unity in the garden regardless of your own preferred plant selection:


Planting in groups means making a visual statement--whether the plant is a little snapdragon or this large miscanthus.

Proximity in design means placing elements together to form a grouping. Depending on the type of plant, plant enough of it to create a visual statement. Using just one or two each of many different kind of plants creates a hodgepodge effect. Instead of two or three snapdragons and eight other plant types in an eight-foot bed, plant three times as many snapdragons and reduce the number of other plant types.


Repetition may be used in the garden to relate various visual elements to each other. Don't limit yourself to repeating just one specific plant throughout the space, however. Consider replicating features such as shape, color or texture.


This brick walk disappears around a curve and so adds a bit of mystery and sense of destination to the garden.

Continuation is the process of creating a line or edge — either real or implied — that carries the viewer's eye throughout the space. In the garden, there are endless possibilities — create an edge along your garden beds, or construct a meandering path.


A distant crepe myrtle and a castor-bean plant (near background) were figured into this planting of zinnias.

Continuity refers to the visual relationships between two or more planting designs. Rather than repeating the exact planting design of each garden bed, which can look monotonous, arrange them to complement each other. Try mixing plants with similar features such as color, shape or texture. Select plants that may feature similar colors, but are completely different shapes. By creating unified variety among your garden beds, you increase the visual interest.

Remember, just because a garden is unified doesn't mean it has to be dull. Spice up your designs by selecting a variety of plant shapes, colors, textures and heights.

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