Whether your garden is a symphony of succulents or a waltz of wildflowers, rhythm brings harmony to your garden.
In art, the term rhythm refers to the movement of your attention through a painting. How your gaze shifts depends on the repetition of elements such as colors, shapes and lines; it can be fast or slow, flowing or erratic.
Rhythm can also be found in nature. Just as music can change tempo, rhythm can do the same when you control the design elements. While accent pillows are used to create subtle or eye-catching focal points in an interior space, you can use plants to create rhythmical accents outdoors. Increasing plant size, changing color intensity and placement are all tricks for adjusting rhythm in the garden.
One popular pattern is alternating rhythm. By repeating an element such as color or shape, you set up a kind of anticipation. Here, the grid-like trellis along the fence mirrors the square shape of the raised beds, which also feature a graduated pattern of varying heights.
Another example of alternating rhythm is the use of different hardscaping. This walkway features a light terra-cotta-stained concrete and a shell aggregate. Tip for gardeners: Try to tie the hardscaping into the overall garden design by duplicating the features of the hardscaping in the color, texture and placement of plants.
An alternating rhythm can be created using just about any hardscaping material or groundcover. For example, alternating turf and Asiatic jasmine offers an attractive contrast to a traditional all-grass lawn. The low-maintenance and highly resilient jasmine requires pruning only a few times a year, and pruning consists of simply trimming with the lawn mower.
By allowing the plants to grow in their natural form, a soft, undulating rhythm of trailing foliage and blossoms rolls along the walkway. The curving contour of these plants also offers a more relaxed, less contrived look.
Diverse cottage plantings can easily get out of control; introducing too many varieties with unique traits can create a disorganized collection rather than a unified garden. But this eclectic garden maintains an orderly rhythm by utilizing the color red. Featuring such plants as the spicy jatropha (Jatropha integerrima), canna, 'Red Hot' hibiscus (Rosa sinensis) and blood lily (Scadoxus), the cottage garden integrates a wider variety of shapes and sizes without a feeling of chaos.
This common pathway solution — a basketweave pattern with diagonally placed bricks for the borders — unifies the area by utilizing the same material with different patterns.
Feature a specific family of plants in the garden, and remember to consider varying sizes and heights — either by mixing larger and smaller varieties or creating height by stacking stones vertically to create a raised area. Repeating shapes and colors in various sizes create a rhythmic movement in this bromeliad garden, which uses raised stone for additional dimension.
With so many methods to approaching rhythm, developing your own scheme is part of the creative fun.