I have a good friend who is a bona fide world class Garden Designer (think Southern Living). We were talking of gardens and websites (natch!) and I pressed her on basic principles.
Here is what I learned (both in my words and hers).
I Outside In - Begin as you turn into the driveway. What is seen? How is the eye drawn? How is your car drawn? Check all view levels from ground to sky. How do you get to the front door? Can you get to the front door easily?
II Inside Out - Walk around your house and look out the windows and doors. How do things line up? The garden should be both speaking to you where you stand (or sit) as well as calling you to come out into its beauty. Is there an activity that draws you out into the garden?—a seat where you can meditate, fish to feed, pots to water, fruit, flowers or herbs to pick?—something to feed your soul?
III Colors/View levels/textures and lines - They matter individually and as a whole. Are they of interest year-round? Foliage, especially evergreen, is actually more important than flowers for the overall structure, but flowers provide delight.
IV Collaboration - Your garden should be a work that invites the owner to learn and work with you. Don’t create impossibilities. The garden should be and become an extension of the gardener. Take the owner's resources and level of interest into consideration with your design. Otherwise, it will be frustrating and a source of failure to both you and the owner, which defeats one’s (sic) purpose in wanting to create gardeners as well as pretty gardens.
Over the course of the next four weeks I will elaborate on each of these.