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?