December 4, 2023

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Basics of Landscape Design | Home Guides

Basics of Landscape Design | Home Guides


A solid landscape design gives your house that all-important curb appeal, but, more importantly, it allows you to find an enjoyable respite just outside the doors of your home. Although hiring a reputable landscape designer is worth the cost, you may be able to customize your own design. Armed with the basics of landscape design, a couple of green thumbs and lots of sweat equity, you can transform the look of your outdoor space.


A landscape design theme reflects your preferences and personal style. Formal designs rely heavily on straight lines and symmetry, and may include elements such as knot gardens or stately hedges. Natural designs have curving lines that “bend” and include loose cottage-garden styles. Essential to any design is the consideration of how much time you have to maintain your finished work. If you choose a labor-intensive design, but you work full time, you may have to hire a landscaper or gardener for maintenance. Consider incorporating xeriscaping into any design, which maximizes water usage and reduces labor and watering costs.


Gail Hansen, of the University of Florida’s Environmental Horticulture Department, notes that form is the primary determinant of formal or informal gardens. Plants, structures, garden beds and open spaces reflect form. Deciduous plants may show similar shapes in winter, but their forms may be outlined with bare branches instead of full canopies. Plant forms include round, columnar, upright, weeping and vase-shaped. Form meets function with the choice of shade trees, which should be round or oval, and privacy plants, which are usually columnar or pyramidal.


Plant selections include considerations of size, texture and color. Native plants are good choices for most landscapes because they are adapted to growing in your climate and soil. Perennial plants generally require less maintenance because they’re permanently established, but annual flowers provide a profusion of color that often lasts longer than perennials. Interplanting some annuals with perennials gives you the best of both worlds. Color is not restricted to flowers, but also includes foliage, bark and fruits. Texture often shines in the winter garden, when deciduous plants reveal exfoliating or colored bark.


Achieving a harmoniously aesthetic design instead of a random, haphazard look is the goal of your finished project. You can achieve harmony by incorporating proportion, balance and repetition. Proportion is specific to your home, existing plants and people. If your home is the tallest structure in your landscape, planting taller trees will balance it proportionately. Balance also considers symmetry or asymmetry. Symmetrical designs, which are commonly found in formal gardens, reflect mirror images on either side of a central axis or around a focal point. Asymmetrical designs usually define informal gardens and place similar visual weight on each side of an axis, but with different forms and colors. Repetition is a fundamental of landscape design and is achieved by repeating the same plant, or groups of plants, throughout a garden.

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