Patterns I have noticed

My principle for this month is Design from pattern to detail. I have been trying to keep this in mind while I go about my daily business and I have been looking for patterns in nature when I am out and about. Here are some of the things that I noticed when I was walking yesterday.

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The branching pattern is everywhere. Tree trunks and branches, the ribs of leaves, streams and rivers, paths through the woods. It is even inside our own bodies. We can use this pattern to design paths through gardens that are functional and minimise space wastage.

We could also use this principle to plot our journeys through time or plan our projects. Start big and gradually fill in the details. For example if you were designing a new border in your garden you could use the branching pattern to structure your thinking.

1. Start with thinking why you wanted this new border and consider an overall picture of what you wanted to achieve (the base and trunk)                                                                2. Draw a base map of the space/study soil type/ consider orientation (the primary branches)                                                                                                                           3. Add some ideas for plant types/size/purpose/colour (The secondary branches)              4. Consider the actual plants you want (the smaller branches)                                             5. Finally think about placements of plants and companion planting. (the twigs)

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Nature always provides something interesting and beautiful to look at. Even in the depths of winter when the woods initially seem very brown and dull, if you look closely you can find something wonderful. I need to improve the winter interest in my garden and intend to do a post about this very soon.

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People and animals will often take the most direct route. In the woods near my house there are hard paths that create a triangle around a clearing. Most people cut straight across the clearing as it is the quickest route, even though it means having to veer off the path and get muddy. I need to remember this when designing paths. I read something about this too recently. In a building development, the designer didn’t make paths until the housing complex had been lived in for a while. He then went back and noted where people had walked by seeing the muddy paths their footfall had created. He then created paths that followed these lines. A great and simple solution I thought. In my garden I can definitely see a few places where there is a muddy trail through the grass, that is telling me we need a path putting in!

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There is no such thing as waste in nature. Everything is recycled into food or habitat for something else. A fallen tree becomes a home for insects and a host for moss and fungi. Ivy grows up it and a thousand tiny organisms work on it, slowly decomposing it and returning it to the soil.  I need to consider how I can use these patterns of cycling in my garden and make it more self-sufficient.

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In the woods there was practically no bare soil. The surface was covered with plant life or leaf litter. Mulching, ground cover and no-dig methods are following nature much more closely than the traditional autumn tidy-up and dig over. I have been mulching my vegetable beds for the last year or so and have abandoned digging. It is easier on the gardener’s back as well as being more effective. Mulching increases fertility, retains moisture and reduces weeds. By taking our lead from natures patterns we can make our gardens more fruitful and more beautiful.

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