As the arrival of spring gives way to planning, shopping and planting, let’s review some basic landscape design techniques.
1. Define the outdoor spaces.
Decide what lawn space is required for play, entertaining, and transitioning between spaces. The remaining space is left undisturbed or cultivated with trees, shrubs, and perennials, choosing natives first and then backfilling with non-natives.
2. Develop straight lines or long shallow curves for lawn lines.
A professor of mine consistently referred to bed edges as “lawn lines”, always encouraging us to define lawn space first. Keep in mind, gentle curves are more natural, gentler on the eye, and easier to mow.
3. Break down the landscape into more manageable pieces or vignettes with hardscapes (i.e. sheds), transitions (i.e. paths), and trees.
4. Choose interesting plant combinations
The key to good landscape design is how well neighboring plants play off one another. We design and shop for plant combinations, not individual plants. Giving some thought to overall plant size and shape as well as leaf size, color, and texture before shopping will give us some direction and confidence. Then, by physically pulling plants together at the nursery, our plant choices are confirmed and finalized.
The goal is to create some level of contrast between groups of plants. Too much contrast and there’s chaos. Not enough contrast and the landscape is ho-hum boring. By way of a few examples, we suggest weaving groups of small-leaved plants with large-leaved plants, placing chartreuse leaves next to blue-green leaves or creating extremes in plant height and/or form.
Smaller spaces such as containers and mailbox beds can carry more contrast. Use larger masses of the same plant when working on a grander scale. Trees and shrubs act as the bones or structure of the landscape while perennials and annuals are filler. Repeat colors, textures, and forms intermittently to weave the landscape together.
5. Layout an entire section of the garden at one time.
Straight-line placement can be used next to linear hardscaping, such as foundations, decks or patios. Beyond those spaces, avoid symmetry and straight-line patterns. Instead, use triangles and zigzag patterns, striking a happy medium between Mother Nature’s randomness and our craving for order.
Have fun and remember… the landscape is made up of living, breathing plants and wildlife. It is always evolving and never finished. Thank goodness for that!
Welcome to my journal. For over 20 years I've created original landscape plans to help homeowners increase property value and really enjoy their yards. I approach every project as an unique opportunity to develop a work of living art, one that will require minimal care and age beautifully with time. In this journal, I will share some of my field experiences and tricks of the trade with you. Feel free to email questions. Thanks for visiting.