Proportion in your garden design refers to the comparative visual relationship between objects with reference to their volume, size, quantity, position etc. For example a thousand flowering daffodils in relation to a carefully placed, dark green tree could be said to be a visually proportional scheme, whereas two or three daffodils trying to compete with a dozen mature flowering trees is somewhat out of proportion.
Each element used in the garden needs to be in proportion with the others This is possibly the most obvious design principle, yet still requires some planning and thought. For example if you have a small garden, a large rock or statue in the middle would be completely out of place and ruin the appearance of the garden. With the reverse effect being true you do not want to have, for instance, a small pond placed in the middle of a very large and dramatic landscape.
When setting out your garden design plan you will need to identify one fixed entity and use this as a measure of proportion for the rest of your design. For instance if you start with the house you can than make decisions relating to the symmetry and proportion of the garden elements that you will use. You may decide that you will have a group of trees at the end of your garden which will grow to one third higher than the house. You may have some shrubs near the house that will grow to one seventh the height of the building and be three times wider than the doorway. You can decide to locate the barbecue area at a distance from the house that is equal to three times the height of the house.
Proportion is probably one of the principles of design that we deal with successfully at an instinctive level. However a little bit of thought and planning will take your ability as your own garden designer to the next level of success.
Our gardener here is just a little out of proportion with his spade! (Patrick Ketch 2011)