5 Principles of Landscape Design That’ll Turn Your Garden From Good to Great

 In Garden Tips

Have you ever wondered why no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to get your garden to look like the neighbors’ or the ones you see on HGTV? Or, just trying to create a sustainable landscape design to call your own? The reason why has nothing to do with working hard – you may be missing some basic principles of design. 

There are five design principles that most gardeners ignore or fail to think about when creating a beautiful garden. An understanding of these principles can make your garden pop and stand out compared to those around you. More importantly, they can help you find a balance between aesthetics and sustainability. This post will examine these five design principles.  

Line in Sustainable Landscape Design

Line in landscape design is a fundamental component of your garden’s aesthetics. They are used to create outlines and boundaries. Within a landscape itself, lines establish patterns and shapes, as well as direct your eye movement. They also delineate where certain features such as hardscapes and softscapes begin, meet and end. 

Linear landscape features include fences, pathways, and sodding. Their type can also classify lines – there are straight lines, curved lines, vertical lines and horizontal lines. They can all be used to create the illusion of more or less space or establish a particular theme in your garden. 

Form in Sustainable Landscape Design

Form refers to the shape that an outline makes and that encloses a space. In the context of landscape design, a form or a shape indicates the placement and presence of a feature such as plant beds, garden ornaments, water features and more. Typical forms take the shape of circles, squares and polygons, among others. 

For example, a circle may indicate a pool or garden section’s presence on a landscape design blueprint. A square may become the presence of stone or brick structures such as a pathway. Forms are more intricate and definitive than lines in that they establish essential features that are more than just boundaries.

Perhaps the most important aspect of considering the form in landscape design is its actual association with plant shapes. When choosing a plant for a particular area, I typically seek out tall and skinny, short and broad, vase-shaped, elliptical, etc. After I nail down this attribute, I start thinking of foliage, bloom color, soil requirements, etc. I think you get the idea. 

Texture in Sustainable Landscape Design

A landscape texture refers to the coarseness or fineness of a particular feature, whether organic or inorganic and indicates its material’s feels and looks. Texture plays a vital role in landscape design because it creates variety and contrast (when used appropriately). There are many ways to establish unique textures in your garden. You can separate them into three categories: coarse, fine and medium

Coarse textures are bold, and the leaf size may be enormous such as the bulbs Elephant ears or Canna lilies. The garden itself can describe pine needles and twigs or rough surfaces such as brick and finishes. 

Subtle textures are thinner and lighter features such as the blades of grass and ferns, or the pots, glass ornaments or pool water surfaces in hardscape materials. A very fine-textured plant that I like to use for contrast is Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum). It contrasts nicely with larger textured plants such as hostas.

Sweet woodruff with a fine, delicate texture

Medium textures lack both the thickness of course ones and the delicateness of fine ones. You can find them in plant species such as many hollies and yews and hardscape surfaces such as brushed concrete and finished wood.

If you are dealing with limited space, textural consideration of plant material is paramount. Using coarse textures or large-leaved plants may make the area appear even smaller than it already is. 

Color in Sustainable Garden Design

The most recognizable element of landscape design is color. The proper use of different shades and hues create interest, contrast, variety, and more. Ironically, it is the most challenging element to incorporate well. With that said, understanding color theory and color schemes will help you create a visually appealing and stimulating garden, not an eyesore. 

In terms of color schemes, there are three main types to play with: monochromatic schemes, analogous schemes, and complementary schemes. Monochromatic schemes incorporate the use of one color in varying shades of that color. Analogous techniques include any of three to five colors related to each other on the color wheel. Complementary schemes use colors that are opposite to each other but create appealing contrasts. 

Every element in your garden should incorporate color wisely

Whether it’s plant matter or hardscape features. Keep in mind that colors play a functional role by creating focal points, directing visual attention, and even triggering certain emotions. 

Color can excite or comfort. Consider this: have you ever visited a dentist or doctor’s office that was painted red or orange? Probably not. There is a reason for using “cool” colors in interior architecture, just as there is a reason to consider their garden design use.

Scale in Sustainable Design

The last principle of design for garden design is weight, also known as visual scale. This concept entails the grouping of features based on their mass and contrast. You establish visual scale by how you arrange your garden elements using symmetry, proportion, order, unity, and so forth. 

For example, by stacking plant matter that is tall or larger, you can create high visual weight, make low visual weight such as shrubs and flowers together, or balance your garden by placing items symmetrically (i.e. equally-sized flower beds).

You can also emphasize placing a particular feature such as a large pot or tree among smaller elements to make them stand out. You can create unity by fitting hardscape and softscapes that have similar shapes and colors together. 

When you understand visual scale, the creative possibilities of sustainable landscape design will seem endless. 

Combining the Five Principles for Landscape Ideas in Tennessee

The gardens on Pinterest and HGTV, or in your neighborhood that have curb appeal, which you may envy, are the ones that incorporate these five design principles. Blending these concepts is an art, and it can be overwhelming at first. However, making an effort to do so can make your garden look vastly better. If you’re about to undergo a reno or landscaping project and need help with these elements, be sure to check my upcoming posts on how to incorporate them. 
Also, get in touch with me, your local neighborhood Landscape Architect, for some extra tips and pointers on your next project.

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