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An exam commentary for level 3 Garden Planning
by Janet Prescott - Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:36 AM

This one is from R3111 June ‘18 ( question 4 )

a)      Explain what is meant by the principle of balance in relation to garden design. [2  marks]

b)     Describe ONE example of how balance can be achieved in an informal design.  [2 marks]

c)      Describe THREE distinct ways in which design can be used to give an impression of space in a small garden. [6 marks]

This question relates to the following part of the syllabus:

4.1 Explain the principles of garden design.

To include: unity, symmetry and asymmetry, form and space, balance, focal point, scale and proportion, movement and rhythm, texture, colour, harmony.

4.2 Describe examples of the application of the principles in 4.1 to the design process.

Using examples of both hard and soft landscaping to illustrate the principles in the

 indicative content of 4.1.0

It is important to know clear explanations for all of the garden design principles listed in 4.1 of the syllabus. The examiners’ comments for part a) state that ‘Some candidates confused balance with other principles such as ‘unity’ and ‘scale and proportion’’. They continue to suggest a suitable explanation of balance as ‘the selection and placing of objects (or groups of objects) on each side of a visual axis so that they appear to have a similar visual ‘weight’’.

For part b) it is important to understand that an informal garden will be asymmetrical, and a description of how balance be achieved without symmetry is needed. The examiners’ comments suggest that a ‘sketch plan and/or elevation would have been useful in describing what the candidate had in mind’. This is a good idea as by including both the written description and a sketch, it can make it much clearer. The sketch doesn’t need to be detailed and is not essential as it isn’t asked for in the question. However, it will back up your written description and may also show you if your answer works! Make sure you do not spend too much time on this though, as this part is only worth 2 marks.  

The examiners’ comments give a suggestion of showing the informal setting by the axis of a curved path in a site you divide into three sections. The balance is created by showing a large tree about a third of the way up and a group of 3 to 5 shrubs in the top third.

Part c) requires the description of three distinct ways. It is a good idea to use bullet points, headings or numbers to show this clearly. The examiners’ comments state that full marks were award where ‘a clear and distinct statement was made to represent each of the three ways which a candidate chose. For each statement there needed to be a brief description of how it created an impression of space’.

Some of the suggestions of suitable answers  were:

·        By moving the axis of the central space diagonally this will make the site longer. The use of diagonal lines in the ground plan will appear to lengthen the dimensions of a diagonal path or triangular patio.

·        The illusion of increased depth or distance can be created by the use of false perspective by the use of converging lines of a double row of hedging which moves closer together further away from the view point.

·        The use of carefully placed mirrors used to reflect garden views and add apparent depth.

Although not suggested, you may find that sketches help to answer this part as well, but again, make sure you don’t spend too much time on elaborate drawings.