Even if you do not aspire to make arrangements like the ones that Merle Schlesinger created before our eyes there is much to take away from her program. Whether you draw out a design for your garden or (as is too often the case with me) wander around with pots of new plants in your arms trying to figure out where to put them, your garden will make you happier if you follow some of the ikebana principles. Here are some I jotted down as Merle spoke:
Place your plants to encourage the eye to travel. This is true whether you are planting a bowl of succulents or an acre.
Pay attention to negative space. The space between your plants is part of the design.
Plant in odd numbers and slightly off kilter. Merle demonstrated this by creating a triangle with unequal sides. To use another example, if you are planting a bunch of daylily divisions place them in teardrop shape rather than a perfect circle.
Place plants with attention to mass, line, color (remember green counts as many colors), shape, and texture.
Keep in mind that a pleasing design has elements that advance and recede. This effect can be created quite literally or more playfully with color and forced or false perspective.
With each of her designs Merle was careful to disguise her pin holder. Similarly in the landscape it is usually a good idea to anchor specimen plants with underplantings.
Merle did not mention this but I noticed that she used repetition.
Finally, be sure to walk around and look at your garden from lots of angles, preferably with a glass of your favorite beverage.