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Landscape Design Series: Inside the Designer’s Toolbox

This is article two in the Landscape Design Series

Tools of the Trade

Remember, Don’t Panic. Landscape design seems overwhelming, but with the proper tips and tools, you will be able to design the dream landscape that you have always wanted. The previous blog discussed beginning a landscape design by determining our expected outcome.

I hope you had the opportunity to dream about your “perfectly” designed landscape and you are eagerly waiting to put your ideas on paper. To help we will introduce the elements and principles of design.

Whether you are a carpenter, construction worker, mechanic, or Thor, a hammer is a common tool for your profession. Although there are many types of hammers for different jobs (claw, ball-peen, dead-blow, Mjölnir, etc.), it is a versatile tool. Landscape design is very similar. The design elements are the tools in the designer’s toolbox and the principles are how we put the elements to use.

Elements of Design
Lines

Landscape design elements include lines, forms, color, and texture. Lines are the primary feature in a landscape. They are vertical or horizontal and can be straight or curved-helping define spaces. When you walk around a park, garden, or landscape, have you seen the lines? Lines help separate and organize spaces. Great examples include walkways, landscape bed lines, or property lines

Forms

We create form by combining lines. Form is the three-dimensional space created by intersecting lines. Geometric and naturalistic forms create formal or informal landscapes. Geometric forms, such as squares, circles, and rectangles are more formal-creating landscapes similar to Italian Renaissance Gardens or Contemporary Landscapes. Naturalistic forms are composed of meandering or organic edges that evoke a natural, informal landscape.

Texture

Designing a landscape is not limited to selecting unique plant material but includes hardscape material too. Texture and color are two other landscape elements impacted by plant material and hardscape material.

Landscape textures are categorized into three types: coarse, fine, and medium texture. This is dictated based on how coarse or fine a material looks or feels in a landscape. Coarse texture plants have large leaves, spines in plant material, large branches, large rocks, or other irregular forms. Fine texture materials seem delicate, thin, or strappy-vastly contrasting the coarse texture material. Medium coarse texture material is the gray area-they are the materials that you would not classify as coarse or fine in your landscape.

Color

Color is a prominent landscape element many gardeners, designers, and landscapers incorporate into their designs. Plant material, hardscapes, and structures provide color in the landscape. The relationships between colors create unique aesthetic qualities and affect the users’ mood. Warm colors add vibrancy and life in a landscape, but cooler colors are calming. Plant material creates dynamic landscape color because of seasonal color changes, so plan on your landscape changing throughout the year.

Principles of Design

There are many principles available to designers, but proportion, order, repetition, and unity, are common principles to use.

Proportion is the relative size of items in the landscape. Order refers to the spatial layout of objects and their relationship to one another. Repetition is the repeated use of a line, form, color, or texture to create a logical pattern in the landscape-but be vigilant, too much repetition is monotonous. Unity relates to design styles or landscape character that hold an entire design together.

The landscape principles are a series of relationships in the landscape. How does a turf area relate to a planted bed, building, or outdoor entertaining space? Do the colors relate or contrast? Defining the relationships between landscape elements with the landscape principles in your design will help you take that first step in your future landscape. Do you have what it takes to wield the Mjölnir of landscape design? Probably so and I am rooting for you.

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