Stuff vs. space in a garden can be a quandary. So what is the stuff? The stuff are the elements you choose to decorate your space. Patio furniture, grills, pots, potted plants, trees, shrubs, you know…..stuff. Once you have filled your space, you no longer have space it becomes stuff. Space is the expanse of an area to look across and wonder “what’s over there?” Space is the freedom to move about without banging your shins or stubbing your toes or walking into a tree or bush. It is simple surface, like grass, or pavers, or the surface of water in a pool.
Space vs. stuff is a primary decorating consideration whether inside or outside. Is there a right or wrong proportion? Not really. The harmony of a yard or a room is simply in the designer’s emotion.
The important thing when decorating a garden is to remember that when you buy a plant it is not going to stay the same size as when you bought it, unlike the couch you bought for your living room. It’s probably the same size now as when you bought it, right? I see this mistake all over the place. Someone buys a Blue Spruce and plants it 4 feet from the corner of their house. You’ve seen that right? Ten years later it looks like someone has hung a house on that tree. Realize that thinning even removing plants from your garden may be necessary to maintain your balance of space and stuff. If your goal is to create a coziness within an outdoor living space plants that end up bumping into each other may not be such a bad thing. But if it’s formality you’re after, carefully plot, plan, and ponder how large each of those hedge plants are going to grow and how close to the checkerboard walkway you want them to encroach.
Beginning with the larger picture of the space you will need/want is probably the easiest place to begin when planning the architectural design of your yard. The geometry, the lines, the curves, the hard elements (garden curbing, patio, pool, deck, etc.) is the necessary skeleton from which to add the rest of the stuff.
And for Heaven’s sake, don’t be afraid to remove a shrub that has outgrown itself! If you planted it 12 years ago and it looked good for 11 years, you’ve probably gotten your money’s worth. Rip it out, I say! Leaving everything as it is forever is way too boring for me. It’s like never being able to rearrange your living room furniture. Changing things up a bit keeps life interesting and fun, right?