Properly applied design principles improve a property, making it more attractive, easier to maintain, and more ecologically friendly. These principles include proportion, order, repetition, regulating lines, and contrasting textures.
Defining planes and transitioning between them creates movement in a landscape. Repetition makes a sense of order but should not be so repetitive that it becomes monotonous.
Identify Your Goals
The first step in landscape design is identifying what you want to achieve from your property. This is a personal decision, but some common goals include:
Recreation. This can be anything from sports to relaxing in the sun or shade. Entertainment. This can be an area for outdoor dining or even a garden patio. Utility. This can include areas for storage or composting.
Unity, color, and form are essential for creating a cohesive design. Using a color wheel will help you determine what colors work well together, and forms can range from the rounded shapes of plants like weeping willows to the stiffly upright branches of Lombardy poplars. The use of regulating lines and the unity of three are other elements that promote unity in a design. Using a theme in the landscape also helps to unite these various elements into a cohesive whole. This may seem obvious, but it is essential to understand the importance of this aspect of landscaping.
Draw It Out
Before planning your new landscape, contact a professional Landscape Designer to help you. Lay out a base map of your property on graph paper. Make sure it’s scaled correctly to your property lines and home (a square on the graph represents one foot).
Use a “bubble diagram” to mark free spaces with their intended function. Draw a circular or blobby shape over the space, then label it on your base map as anything from a gazebo to a planting bed. Remember that you’ll want to leave room to walk between these spaces, so keep your plan manageable.
Detail in a landscape is derived from the visual qualities of plants, hardscape, and garden ornaments. For example, a statue can be framed by a bed of brightly colored flowers and a line of paving stones to direct attention.
Form, color, texture, and size all add to the aesthetic quality of a plant. These features are often grouped to create a specific design goal, such as a focal point of tall plants in the front yard or a mixed grouping of evergreens and deciduous shrubs in the backyard.
Plan Your Plantings
Once you’ve got your base map, it’s time to start planning where trees, features, and focal points will go. This is also when you want to do a little weeding and address any problems you might have uncovered on your property (like areas that get too much sun or drainage issues).
On your base map, draw bubbles or blobby areas that represent different ways you want to use the space. Each will be labeled with its intended purpose, and don’t worry if some aren’t possible right away; this is just an initial brainstorming exercise.
Please list what you’d like to see in your landscape; it can be anything from the view from your house or the front door to the smell and feel of the area. At this point, you’ll need to figure out what plants will work best for each function, including those that will act as barriers to hide unwanted views or create implied boundaries.
Many homeowners take shortcuts in their landscape, planting without a plan and relying on quick fixes like annuals, mulch, or fast-growing groundcovers to fill the spaces. While this may work, it will only provide short-term stability and beauty.
Form refers to the visual qualities of plants, hardscapes, and garden ornaments. These include size, shape, color, and texture. They can complement or contrast with one another. They can also be used to highlight the dominant feature of the landscape. The form can be arranged by creating patterns that repeat in the landscape, such as grouping three matching shrubs or placing similar containers at regular intervals.
Consider the ultimate mature size of all the forms you choose for the landscape. This will help avoid moving plants around later when they outgrow their original placements. For example, most trees will not fit when planted along a front foundation, and many evergreens can outgrow power lines or a view.