Balance is critical to successfully designs and brings a feeling of equality to your garden design. Symmetrical and asymmetrical balance are the two types of balance that you will encounter in garden design.
Symmetrical Balance is defined by the even spread and distribution of matching elements. When each side of your design matches the other side exactly and a division or axis exists between the two the you have achieved symmetry. This kind of design is often employed in very formal schemes where it creates a very structured feeling and often has a strong plan view. It can be used to good effect if you are able to look down upon the space or if you have clear views down a central axis. Outside of the context of formal gardens this is best avoided, although it is always worth experimenting.
Asymmetrical Balance is more complex and harder to achieve, while at the same time appearing more free and abstract. The designer in this instance employs different techniques at her or his disposal to manipulate the various elements that the have available. He or she may decide to:
Balance a small area of strong colour against a larger area of light colour.
Use a naturally occurring rock outcrop to balance a newly planted area of trees or shrubs.
Texture may be balanced against mass.
Something in the foreground may be used to visually balance with something that is further away.
In the photograph above two purple flowering shrubs are used to balance his bridge at Giverny, France.
Tip: Try taking the different elements at your disposal and, using sketches or roughly made models, determine a central access before placing one in opposition to the other until you are happy that the appear balanced.
You may be forced to think in terms of asymmetrical balance due to the layout, shape and contents of your garden. For example one side of your garden may be completely shaded by large trees, forcing you to use different plants, yet balance can be achieved using other entities such as rocks and colours.
Many opportunities exist here for achieving an integrated and unified scheme that incorporates the existing environment, the building and the new landscape treatment into a visual entity that makes sense.
It becomes clear at this point that there is more to landscape design than simply adding horticultural decoration to a scheme.