Sunday, August 26, 2012

P. Allen Smith's Principles of Garden Design

Garden Arch

This past week, as I was blowing my nose and coughing and...okay, I admit it, whining...I watched an episode of P. Allen Smith's Garden Home. Not being much of a gardener myself, everything I know, I've learned from watching The Victory Garden and P. Allen Smith. :D

I do love the photos of the gardens Mr. Smith has designed, and he talks often of the 12 principles of design that he uses when creating a garden space.

What I was struck by, however, is how similar these design points are to how a novel is designed. Evidently there is a rhythm and structure to gardens, novels, artwork, whatever, that resonates with people.

I thought it might be fun to take a look at these principles of design and look for commonality between gardens and novels. Since there's lots to talk about, I thought we could look at one point each Monday.

The first point Mr. Smith uses in designing a garden is:

Enclosure - A garden room defined by borders of various materials.
  • Enclosures are vital elements in defining gardens as rooms
  • Enclosures anchor a garden to its location, giving both the house and the garden a sense of permanence and lasting beauty.
  • Enclosures unify house and garden into a cohesive whole, creating a virtually continuous living area.
  • Enclosures set the stage for a variety of moods and experiences.
  • Enclosures add a sense of security and comfort by providing familiar structures: walls, floors, doorways and ceilings.
  • Enclosures establish order by creating manageable sized spaces.

Enclosure in garden design can be compared to genre in novel writing - A novel is defined by genre.
  • A clearly established genre is vital to effectively design and market your novel
  • A clearly established genre will help you plot your novel
  • Staying within your genre will make your novel cohesive
  • Identifying your genre will help you understand what experiences and moods your readers are expecting you to create. Horror/suspense/thriller moods are different from women's fiction/romance/historical
  • Readers appreciate a writer who delivers on their expectations. Readers want to feel uncomfortable for the characters but safe in the author's hands.
  • Defining and staying within your genre will help you to hit the target you've aimed at rather than writing all over the place.
What other similarities do you see?

Some other questions for you:

1. What is your go-to genre to read?
2. What is your go-to genre to write?
3. Are you a gardener?


  1. This is a brilliant analogy, Erica. I love it! My go-to genre is contemporary romance followed oh-so-closely by historical romance. :)

    I'm not a gardener, but I wish I was. Something about it seems like it'd be so peaceful. :)

  2. I love this comparison! I write and read contemporary romance almost always.

    Like Melissa, I'm not a gardener, but I wish I was! I love flowers and plants.

  3. I loved this!!!! Fabulous. I wish I was a gardener, but I'd have to go outside so...

  4. Oh, what a delicious post! I love to garden, and I love to write! My go-to genre is historical romance, and my go-to garden is my little cottage rambling mess here at Crabapple House. It's the end of winter here, and I'm itching to get back into the weeding and pruning. The writing...? Well, that always beckons.
    Blessings, Dotti from Asutralia :)

  5. My go-to genre is mostly memoirs, biographies, true stories taken from historical facts, etc. I'm a writer. When I lived in Washington, I loved tackling the waist-high weeds, laying new mulch and pruning...planting...pruning. I now live back in California, and I pretty much just watch things grow. I occasionally snip off a dead rose.