Thursday, June 16, 2016

Which do you prefer: Symmetry or Asymmetry?


Who knows why we like the things we do! What is it that makes a certain color our favourite? And what is it about a shape or texture that attracts or repels us? Preferences are a mystery, but we definitely seemed wired to be more attracted to some things and than others.

Though you may not have given it much thought, when it comes to symmetry or asymmetry, I bet you have a natural tendency to choose one over the other. 


In the entry way above, a pair of black urns filled with ivy and pink hydrangeas flank either side of the door. The symmetry continues in the plantings along the pathway. Clumps of Japanese Forest Grass and the pink impatiens are repeated on either side of the walkway. Even the boxwood hedges are meticulously clipped to the same height.

Here is how the dictionary defines symmetry:

Symmetry: the quality of something that has two sides or halves that are the same or very close in size, shape, and position: the quality of having symmetrical parts.

The human body is symmetrical: two eyes, two ears, two arms and two legs. Perhaps that is why symmetry feels so comfortable.


Symmetrical container plantings seems like a popular choice for the front of a house. I think it's because there is something soothing about the perfect balance of like things.

White Alyssum, pansies and white daffodils fill the two urns.


In this garden the symmetry continues all the way to the front door, where a pair of urns are filled with white pansies, daffodils, ruffled ranunculus and branches of pussy willow.



Here is another example of classic symmetry, this time in a back garden. Everything is perfectly balanced on either side of the bench: the lattice work, the evergreen shrubs and the two urns filled with peach flowers.



So here's a little test. 

When you look at this front porch, do you feel like something is amiss? If this were your house, would you feel the urge to plant up a matching pot of pink geraniums and place it somewhere on the opposite side of the door?

If so, chances are you are a person who loves symmetry.


Before you decide which you like best, lets take a quick look at asymmetry. If symmetry is classic, asymmetry feels modern. There is something more sophisticated and edgy in the makeup of this form of balance. Here is how the dictionary defines asymmetry:

Asymmetry: lack of equality or equivalence between parts or aspects of something; lack of symmetry.

In my opening example, there are still two similar urns, but they aren't directly opposite one another. One is at the top of the staircase, and the other is at some distance at the bottom.


Here's a second more traditional example, where the containers are similar, 
but they aren't the same size. 


One is dramatically larger and taller than the other.


The balance of symmetry tends to feel formal and restrained. 

Asymmetry seems to a better job of transcending styles. My first example was contemporary arts & crafts, the second was quite traditional, and the look here may best be described as casual country.



As well as containers, plantings can employ asymmetry. The box balls are symmetrical, but the dominant evergreen tree has no mirror on either side of the gate, so the balance of the whole feels asymmetrical.


At the bottom of this stone staircase, the planting is completely different on either side.


So what do you think? Which pleases you the most? 

Symmetry or asymmetry?

28 comments:

  1. Sounds like a very interesting book.
    I would go for symmetry with a sprinkling of asymmetry to create a bit of healthy tension.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Symmetry! I appreciate the other but I find the symmetrical designs are so soothing and just seem right.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree with the first comment; symmetry with some asymmetry for "healthy tension"! Jennifer, how is your front yard renovation coming along? You should do a post all about it - I for one would be very interested in the process. Also, what rose is that in your header at the very top?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The garden is coming along very slowly. Honestly, I have too large a garden for one person with the hours a day I have to devote to it. Too keep a garden like mine in really good order could easily be a full time job! I will do a post on my garden up next (or at least that's the plan).

      Delete
    2. Sorry, forgot to address the issue of the rose. This was a rose that I saw and admired on a garden tour. I don't know the name, but I have a rose that is similar: John Cabot Explorer Rose.

      Delete
  4. I like a little bit of everything! Lovely gardens!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can I choose both?? I think there are times when symmetry is appropriate and looks best, but the asymmetrical designs look more natural and relaxed. The "casual country" front porch with three pots probably fits my style most of all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course you can choose both! This is just a bit of fun. I do think we have a natural tendency to choose one form of balance more often, but to use an analogy, just because chocolate ice cream is your favourite, doesn't mean you can't opt for vanilla every once in awhile.

      Delete
  6. I think I'm a symmetry person, but I just love all your photos of gardens, perhaps because they are so rich in colour and lush in every way compared with most Australian gardens.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think I'm asymmetry, as I only have one container by the front door, but then I have two by the back door. Opposite the back door is one container at the bottom of the steps to the lawn, balanced by 2 large balls in the same colour, goodness knows what I am!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like you like asymmetry Pauline, but your creative and artistic nature likes to keep things interesting with a variety of approaches.

      Delete
  8. Jennifer girl .. I know this is going to sound .. hum ? strange but none of the plantings felt different to me .. all I was interested in was the plants ! LOL
    Maybe I have a blind eye when it comes to that type of form.
    I don't know but all Ido is look past the placement and absorb the plants !
    Hey .. is it HOT down there ? it is steaming here in Kingston .. phew!
    Have a great weekend girl : )
    Joy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my goodness has it been hot here! Yesterday even the wind was hot! And the garden is dry, dry, dry. Not everyone gets wrapped up with design principals, Joy. Gardens are about the plants first and foremost. You have your eye on the prize.

      Delete
  9. I would have voted for symmetry, hands down, until I saw the next to last picture - so luxuriant and welcoming, but I wonder if it would have the same effect when the shrub on the left isn't blooming to carry the red across the path. The style of the home plays a part too, which begs the question: does a symmetrical exterior require a symmetrical landscape or is that carrying it too far?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jennifer, I'm the Queen of Asymmetrical/Symmetrical Chaos here. I have urns in an orderly fashion and a yard full of nonsense, all depending on what part of the garden you're in. I actually adore formal gardens the most, I love symmetry; my problem is I just can't commit. :-) I love this post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like your approach keeps things interesting Karen.

      Delete
  11. Jennifer, I loved this post! I truly have a symmetrical soul, but it just doesn't seem to work for me. Every time I plant two of something one either fails to thrive or dies completely. Now, instead of doing identical plantings, I go for something similar in size or shape. I also do a lot of groupings of three like items; same color or pot style, or accessories. Luckily I live in the country and please no one but myself and the wild life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Planting things that aren't identical, but similar in size or shape sounds like a nice way to approach symmetry. In a large country garden groups of three items sounds like a great strategy, but pleasing oneself is the best plan of all.

      Delete
  12. Great post & pictures! Our house is at the back corner of our lot, overlooking a tidal river, so we have a lot of asymmetry naturally. I love the look of both but have much more asymmetry in my plantings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A corner lot overlooking a tidal river sounds amazing. I bet you have a lovely garden with a view.

      Delete
  13. I much prefer asymmetry! I have to say, though, that in that one picture, I'd still want the matching urn, because urns are by nature quite formal, and seem to require symmetry. Most of the houses shown here are very formal in nature, and if I lived in a formal house, I'd go for symmetry, even though I infinitely prefer asymmetry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Urns do seems to scream out for formality, don't they? And a formal house does seem to set a definite president when it comes to balance. You have got me thinking that how you respond to such these influences probably says a lot about a person. In this type of situation, perhaps you are the type of person who goes with the flow (symmetry) or your a rebel who follows your own inclinations no matter what the influencers ( asymmetry).

      Delete
  14. I did enjoy seeing such lovely examples of both, in fact I like both.xxx

    ReplyDelete
  15. Your examples are lovely! I think balance is what is important. One can have asymmetrical plantings, which may be more appropriate in front of an asymmetrical house, but as long as the visual weight is similar, it looks good. I love the formality of symmetrical plantings in front of a beautiful Georgian estate, and I also love the asymmetrical curves of a Japanese garden. My garden is very asymmetrical, as it is planted in natural woodland, but I have carved out one space, the arbor garden, where I have attempted something more formal and symmetrical. I really feel the need for that one place that declares the gardener has been here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am intrigued by your association of natural and asymmetrical Deb. I hadn't considered those two things together. A formal planting or symmetrical arrangement of things does have more of a man-made feel to it.

      Delete
  16. Interesting! I think I can go for both. I took a look around my garden and found that in the front of the house I have things arranged more formally (symmetrical) but in the back of the house and garden it is asymmetrical. I wonder what that says about me??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting! Perhaps the public space at front of the house feels more formal, so you respond by balancing things classically/symmetrically. At the back of the house maybe you feel the atmosphere is more relaxed and casual, so you balance things more asymmetrically?

      Delete
  17. Uh oh, I am going to have to say both, Jennifer.
    Asymmetry when it comes to wildflowers, and symmetry when it comes to most else.
    You have shown such beautiful examples of both here.
    Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you. Thanks for leaving a comment.