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Basic Principles Of Landscape Design

Planning a new garden next Spring? Keep these principles of design in mind!

When you think about your garden landscape, and changes you want to make, your first priority has to be the purpose.

Do you want to grow your own vegetables or are you more focused on creating a zen space for your yoga practice?

Do you need space for entertaining or do you need your garden to be a safe space for your kids?

You also want to consider the positioning of sun: will you want the patio to face the sunsets or sunrises? A spot that gets a lot of sun in the afternoon might seem great in February, but consider if that will work for dining al fresco in August!

Whatever your purpose is when designing the landscape of your garden, there are a few basic elements that you need to keep in mind.

Establish Form

What do we mean by ‘form’?

Think of your garden as if you were painting a landscape on a canvas. Would you put all tall trees with high reaching branches and nothing else? Probably not. The point here is to look at the style you want to create in the space.

Modern gardens with symmetrically designed pathways and retaining walls—a very formal looking design—might be your style. Or perhaps you care for something a little wilder and more haphazard. Whatever style you’re going for, it’s best to decide on it first as your choice will dictate what you add to your design.

Figure Out The Line

The line refers to how a person’s eye travels through the space and views it. How you lay out your garden will alter how a person sees it.

The eye is attracted to specific lines.

The best way to create functional lines in your garden is to use a focal point. Whether that’s an outdoor eating area or a fire pit, a focal point will draw the eye, and all lines should lead to it. For example, if you create a winding path through your garden with stones, the eye will follow it naturally. The plants you place around the path are therefore very important to the overall aesthetic.

If that line leads to a seating area with a fireplace, all the better!

What you’re looking for here is a natural flow, so that when you view the space, it feels like all the elements are well combined and nothing is placed in such a way that it is jarring to the eye.

Test the lines and views from every vantage point: indoors looking out, from the sides of your gardens and from the back, looking towards the house. These different perspectives will help you to see what is working and what isn’t, in a design.

Consider Scale

You will want to consider the size of elements that you put into your garden, relative to the size of your space and your home. Enormous boulders and a pond will be overwhelming in a small space next to a tiny bungalow.

Similarly, a large garden and expansive building with tiny garden beds here and there will also look ‘out of place’.

In addition to the overall scale of the elements relative to the space, you need to consider the scale of elements relative to each other.

In other words, you want to build up your design with some sequence: from the smallest elements, like a small flower bed or pots of flowers, to the largest, such as trees or large shrubbery. If you place a small pot garden next to a grouping of large trees, they will be lost in the shuffle!

Add Texture To Your Garden

Contrary to scale, texture is where you can add a little disruption to your design.

If every element you add to your design has more or less the same texture, there is nothing to draw the eye or add visual appeal. All leafy green trees, plants and shrubs will be, not to put too fine a point on it, boring!

Repetition of elements is important for a cohesive look, but you need to interrupt that with different elements every once in a while. Otherwise, your design will tend towards the monotonous instead of magnificent!

By repeating textures and colours, with the occasional addition of a different texture and/or colour, you can create a pulled together look that blends well into the overall design.

Look to different plants mixed together to add texture and appeal. Tall grasses, for example, are a great way to add texture and movement at the end of a retaining wall, along a pathway or mixed in with other elements in a bed.

Mixing rocks with soft leaves and flowering shrubs is another way to add texture that creates a beautiful visual.

Always Look At Colour For Your Garden

Consider when your plants and flowers will bloom and what colours they will include or you could end up with a wall of green and brown and not much else for large chunks of time. There’s little appeal in that!

If you’re new to designing your landscape, you might want to start small and take it slow. Pick a corner that you want to change up and work on it until you feel it’s done. Then you can expand your plans logically and organically, creating a cohesive design that flows and is appealing.