Creativity is overrated in garden design.
When it comes to garden design, I am as original as the Flintstones (Honeymooners), Battlestar Galactica (Star Wars), or Whitesnake (Led Zeppelin) – Man how out of touch with modern culture am I?
At least my 8 year old daughter knows (and can sing) all the cool songs those hip young cool cats are grooving too.
Well anyways, I am not an “original” garden designer and probably neither are you. You know what, that’s OK.
Originality is an illusion. Just like every story has already been told, every possible garden design has already been done. So really, you just have to decide how much of the design do you want to come up with yourself and how much you want to shall we say, “borrow”.
I have yet to ever hear someone say, “That garden is a complete rip off of…..”
As I see it here are some of the levels of “creativity” you can choose from:
- Find a design that fits your site and create it as is.
- Find a design and adapt it to your site by adding/removing plants and adjusting the size of planting beds, etc.
- Pick parts of different designs and mix them together. Maybe you like the bed and path layout in one design, but come up with different plant combinations or choose them from another design.
- Say to heck with it all and buy a bunch of random plants that look good when your’ shopping and try to jam them in your yard somewhere!
There is another alternative. Most people don’t have the time or inclination to take this approach. Especially if #4 is your usual way of gardening.
5. Study designs and natural scenes that appeal to you. Learn design principles from this study. Apply these principles to your landscape design. This is a process that leads to “creative” landscape design.
This however, does not mean your designs are original. It just means you are like all other artists. You are learning by copying and adapting.
Don’t get me wrong. Even if you are taking the last approach, you are still not being original. You are still “stealing”. Maybe not specific design, but instead ideas and principles.
That’s OK. As Austin Kleon says in his book Steal Like an Artist:
How does an artist look at the world?
First you figure out what’s worth stealing, then you move on to the next thing.
That’s about all there is to it.
When you look at the world this way, you stop worrying about what’s “good” or “bad” – there’s only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that’s not worth stealing.
So if you are lost, and don’t know the next step to take in your garden design. Go find something worth stealing.
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