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Aussie Green Thumb – Top Gardening Tips For Everyday People

Design Series Part 3 – More Complicated concepts

Here at Aussie green thumb we’re always trying to help you get the most out of your garden. We want you to have the best possible backyard you can, really!

One of the most fundamental ways you can get the most out of your backyard garden is to have a sensible and effective garden design. You don’t need to be a qualified landscape architect, but knowing some basics will definitely set you on the right path. Over the next few weeks we’ll be releasing a design series taking you through the basics of garden design all with the intention to make your outdoors area that much better.  Be sure to also check out our 5 Backyard Landscaping Secrets as well as our 7 Rookie Landscaping Mistakes for some more tips

This is our final instalment for the design series, where we’ll cover some tricky concepts – Line, repetition, and continuity. Click here if you missed part two.
Line –

Line isn’t an overly complicated concept to grasp because it’s very physical, and this makes it actually quite easy to work with. We’ve talked in previous issues about the way designs draw our eyes through a landscape, and this all really falls back to the concept of line. It gets complicated in the way that it needs to be used with other concepts like balance to compliment them.

There’s the obvious line of garden beds, footpaths, tree rows and the like, and these are the easier ones to master, but line can also be achieved by subtler features like tree branches or shape pointing upwards or in the desired direction, or even through the heights of shrubs, say for example a gradual decrease of height across a landscape towards our focal point.

Straight lines are the most obvious lines we see in landscapes, through features like footpaths or a stairway. Our eyes are forced down a certain direction towards a certain point. This is a very strict and efficient feeling design feature, and needs to be matched to an equally structured and formal theme. If it’s not, straight lines can make a relaxing garden setting feel restrained and out of whack.


Perfect example of a dead straight lines impact our vision – we are forced to look straight through the landscape without wavering. Les Haines, Flikr.

Curved lines on the other hand are more natural and as opposed to straight lines, and they tend to invite you down a certain line rather than force. These are great for creating intrigue in your garden, particularly if the destination of the curved line is hidden from sight. When used in a broader landscape, curved gentle lines can be used to gradually direct us to a focal point, creating a tranquil feel.
You can still use curved lines in a formal setting, and it’s actually a pretty impressive (and equally tricky) way to create juxtaposition in a design, as well as exhibiting absolute control of nature in a formal garden.



This curved line makes us want to enter this garden and follow that bridge. We don’t know where it goes, but I sure do want to find out! Jonesytheteacher, Flikr.

Repetition –

As you’ve probably guessed, repetition involves repeating certain aspects or features throughout a garden.
Now it’s important to realise that you don’t just do this because you like something so much you want more of it, you use repetition to achieve other aspects of design, like balance and line, to accentuate a formal or informal style, as well as highlight a single feature. It is also absolutely essential for maintaining continuity, but more on that later.

When repeating features in your garden, you need to keep in mind how much is too much. Like I said, this isn’t about putting your favourite thing in over and over, it is about using the same feature for a greater purpose and addressing the other concepts. Too much of a good thing cheapens it, and make it less appealing. When repeating a base feature, like a grass clump, tree line or hedge, we can get away with more than when we repeat a more prominent feature like a vibrant flower or water feature.

It’s also good to consider clumping vs stand alone when repeating features. When we clump plants together, they can be considered as 1 whole feature rather than separate individuals. Clumping is planting close enough where they look like they’re all together, opposed to spacing them out where they then become single features. This works well for smaller ground covers, grasses an shrubs, but is not good for trees or hard features (imagine a garden with 20 different water features and nothing else…yeah exactly).

Numbers wise, here is the general rule of thumb using a basic garden design to help you understand. –

1 is a feature, so make it stand out. In this picture, the fountain in the middle is a single feature. More would look strange.
2 are to be exact opposites, as a frame for a feature. The green trees in the front here are 2’s and frame our setting.
3 can be used to add weight to a side for balance and creating line,  or evenly spread to add formality. This is the both the red trees formalising the setting, as well as the flower groupings in the front.
4+  can be spread throughout the landscape, used in close groupings either side in a formal setting, or spread out evenly. You can also used 4+ plants to create larger groupings like the green trees in the rear, or for a structure like a hedge or tree lined avenue.


A really basic garden design to show how repetition can be used to achieve balance and continuity in a design. Made by yours truly using this super nifty online design tool.


This is the hardest, but most important feature of a garden or landscape design. It refers to the overall fell of the garden feeling finished, and correct, and not disjointed and confused.
This concept draws in all the other and how they work together in a design, and each need to be working in harmony for true continuity to occur.
If a garden has no balance continuity is instantly out, but it also comes down to the types of plants, design themes and features we use.
Packing a garden full of herbs and vegetables in raised garden beds, and then including a landscaped pool in the middle is going to feel off. Just like using small succulents in your English cottage garden design. Even having tall plants in the front with smaller feature plants hidden behind can make a garden feel wrong. I’m not saying you can’t pull these off, but doing say would just feel off, and that is because the garden design lacks continuity.
The final say to sum this concept up, is to remember the keep it simple idea…don’t lose focus, and stick to your theme. Over complicating your ideas, usually makes for a poor garden design.


This garden lacks continuity. Different heights in the shrubs, different foliage textures, and even different sized mulch rings. You can clearly see a lack of obvious theme or intent in the design. Lee Ruk, Flikr.


That’s all from our design series. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and learnt some new tips and ideas to help you on your way to designing the best possible garden you can!




About the author: Professional horticulturalist from NSW. Be sure to follow us on Instagram as well! Aussie_green_thumb.

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