thank you, you make this incredibly easy, too easy, though that illustrates a simple garden and is the best solution.
for the moment I will go with door number 3.. "Sign up, shut up, and line up"
For various reasons we will read the garden from left to right... and use your very first photo with the trees as backdrop.
material selected: stone and log since they are on peoples minds to use most often.
1) "signing up" is a lantern showing light of knowledge with obvious saiga tanden, beneath left is a basin of purifying the movement 'person inducted' from outside to inside.
2) Next to this on the right is a person "signing up", that needs be expressed in a youthful manner - an energetic stone bowing to relate 'signing up' or a shrub thinned to represent youthful growth. (or a young tree showing errant ways of youth and vigor) this forms a triad.
3) to the right of this is "shut up" which is silence and therefore would be empty space.
4) and in the background would be a 'line-up' of on-end logs (or stone) in a pattern that represents discipline of the dojo first line-up. (same as an embankment to hold soil)
Having chosen this layout to imply the message and materials, the soul of the garden is established in the relationships between 1 and 2
then the relationship between the size/position of 1+2 and 3, how much space, how long is the learning period?
- before reaching 4... that is a relationship to the figurative journey travelled
and then with the backdrop of mature trees would be the individuals that have moved past the dojo to establish and grow in their acquired learning. (both past teachers observing and transcended students that returned knowledge to the dojo <- yet here I evolve the setting to establish a maintenance regime and get off topic).
Mark's observation is vital for understanding the relationships between these pieces, that convey a 'soul' = door #1 "forging spirits" to this garden composition.
I try reverting at all times of placement uncertainty to the original "Sign up, shut up, and line up" (blueprint) that provides a suggested relationship aspect between the parts to become a cohesive whole.
IOW's Mark intuits the placements due perhaps to his training, discerning insights and refined aesthetics, not needing to think about placement problems as a novice seeking to 'place' the objects.
Both methods end up at the same outcome, yet in my opinion, without memory, there can be no blueprint, which made me feel that Mark has leapt ahead to writing the tensions/harmonics (hard-wired emotive responses) that give us a sense of 'soul'/spirit of a place + objects = setting, and that is unlimited.
I feel that without consistent acknowledgement, the limitation of the gardens objective "memory" of signing, shutting, and lining up, it is difficult for a novice to ascribe spatial orientation to that setting to enable its maximum potential.
And, the skill of a gardeners taste, is in the expression of the materials used and ways employed, tensions created and conductive relationships referenced...
iow's unlimited materials can be used to create the same 'memory', and the more subtle the better, so that symbol and meaning become unnecessary so that the garden can become 'simply beautiful space', which is when the garden has the most depth of soul... when the meaning has been lightened enough to no longer be 'the point' of the garden ->> now 'without memory'.. just soul or as Mark put it, "certain poetry of form and space".
hoping this is somewhat clear, and I'll let Mark speak for himself with his methods..