Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5 Elements of Landscape Design

photo from A Certain Cinema
Imagine trying to explain to someone step-by-step how to ride a bike.  I think it would be pretty difficult to explain how to balance without actually being on a bike, don't you think? This is kind of how I feel about explaining the five major elements of landscape design.  It's difficult to explain, and some things just feel right, but you won't know until you're doing it.  So, let's just jump on the design bike, try to find some balance and start pedaling!

In my opinion, there are five major elements of design. Click HERE to watch a quick video where I discuss these points on WFSB's Better Connecicut. 

1. LINE. Line defines not only the shape of planting beds but also defines space.  Good lines will direct the eye to or away from an area.  Lines should be dramatic and not fussy. 

2. SCALE. The size of plant materials and objects in the landscape should be appropriately sized, relative to the bones of the property.  Imagine the mature size of plant material, or be prepared to do a lot of pruning to prevent plants from taking away from an area.  Dwarf plants along the foundation of a 4,000 square foot home will look ridiculous.  A friend once told me, "Landscaping is the icing on the cake.  Don't skimp!" I couldn't agree more. 

3. COLOR. Pick a color scheme, stick to it, and repeat.  If you are more attracted to warm colors, plant reds, yellows and orange.  If you like the cool colors of blue, plant that along with purple and pink.  Personally, I'm a cool girl.  I love the calmness of a garden filled with shades of blue and white.  Whatever you do, don't try to plant a rainbow garden.  The colors will compete together and cause stress on the eyes. 

4. BALANCE.  There are two types of balance- symmetrical and asymmetrical.  One is not better than the other, it just comes down to personal preference.  Symmetrical is easiest to describe.  If you were to draw and imaginary line through a design, shapes and plants would be the same and equal on either side.  Asymmetrical balance if for the seasoned designer.  Plantings appear or feel balanced based on the weight of plant materials, the size of space or the placement of a walkway.  This is the reason that many homes have an anchor tree on the opposite side of the house of the driveway.

5. TEXTURE. A planting of all broadleaf plants would be terribly boring.  A planting of all feathery grasses would be a yawner.  But mix the two together and wow! Plant a bunch of ferns next to a couple of hosta and each plant will complement the other like you've never seen before.  Mix heavy and light, soft and prickly and remember that opposites attract!
These textures are too similar to be interesting
Many different textures make this landscape very interesting
Keep the five points above in mind when designing a landscape or even a small garden and repeat them over and over.  Your landscape will have no choice but to be magnificent!


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