The Rule of Thirds in Garden Design

This past weekend, I was able to hear Northern Gardener columnist Eric Johnson talk about garden design and inexpensive, do-it-yourself projects that bring drama to the garden at a local horticulture day event.thirds

Eric’s talk was full of inventive, fun ideas, such as using marbles in a fence to create light and interest in the garden or fashioning a mosaic garden gazing ball out of a bowling ball (no need to worry about it rolling away!) But, amid the projects and ideas, Eric also conveyed solid garden design theory about proportion, scale, creating a narrative in the garden and the all important “rule of thirds.”

If you are a photographer or an artist, you may be familiar with the rule of thirds, which points out that there are sections within an image to which the human eye is drawn and which give an image or scene a balance, harmonious feel. If you look at the photo above, you’ll see two lines to divide it in thirds horizontally and two to divide it in thirds vertically. (I did this freehand, so it may not be perfect, but you’ll get the idea.)  The main part of the image encompasses about one-third of the photo and centers on where two of the lines intersect. For gardeners, Eric says, the art work you are placing in the garden should encompass about one-third of the scene you are creating and be placed in one of these prime spots. For a more detailed discussion, check out this post on what’s called “the golden mean.”

art in the gardenThis helps the artwork be in scale with what’s around it. Notice the large sculpture in the photo at left: It’s big enough to be noticed amid the trees and plantings that give it a setting.

Eric spoke at the Rice County Horticulture Day, one of many great educational events available for gardeners in the spring.

—Mary Lahr Schier


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