“Planning Your Landscape Like a Pro (Part 1)” described how to begin the process of creating your own home landscape design, how to measure, document, and print a sketch of your land plat. Now comes the fun part — making design decisions to create a beautiful, well thought out garden plan!
First, take a good, analytical look at your house. Consider design features you already have, such as arches, columns, materials (such as brick, stone, wood), or perhaps the color scheme.
Consider these elements when putting together your overall design.
Form: mostly refers to the architecture, which can be seen as a sense of bulk, expanse, emptiness, height, breadth, straight/curvy, or geometric shapes. Questions you should ask:
–Do I need to add a sense of height (such as for ranch style architecture)? Include including vertical elements?
–Do I need to reduce height? Use weeping plants or distracting the eye with a great deal of interest on the ground plane.
Color: expressed through plant leaves, flowers, fruit, stems/bark, or even furniture, colors of stone, brick, paint, pottery.
–Use three colors max (not including green). Yellow or light green plants can make plants look sick; dark green is somber and heavy; bright blue can distract; warm colors (red, yellow, orange) advance toward you; cool colors (blue and pastels) recede; white is neutral.
–Choose your color palette by referring to a color wheel. On it, find the color you love and what works well with your house color, and then choose the complementary color on the opposite side of the wheel.
–Use brightly colored plants in limited quantities.
Texture: found in plant material (fine textures recede and coarse texture enlarges space and makes for a good accent). Also found in hardscape, which can be soft textures and therefore recedes, or bold (like the use of boulders), which are focal points.
Line: the easiest element to use. Lines draws the eye. Curvy lines show movement and relax the viewer, and slows the pace. Straight lines establish formality and purpose.
The following Design Elements will also provide a sense of order, structure, and unity for planning your landscape.
Simplicity: achieved through repetition, massing, line, materials, color. Limit the different types of plants or their colors. Limit the different kinds of surface or structural materials.
Balance: symmetrical creates formality, asymmetrical creates informality – what’s your preference?
Variety: too much is confusing, and monotone is too boring.
Dominance: be careful not to create too much dominance of one element such as too many accent pieces, repetition of over-powering types of plant shapes, color, etc. A special specimen or accent plant can provide strong interest, so be careful not to overuse it.
Scale/Proportion: a height-to-width proportion of 2:1 yields a nice personal scale, 3:1 is an excellent social or larger setting. If a house is two stories tall plus roof (30’high overall) and has a very dominant physical presence, I would suggest your landscaping beds should be at least 15’ deep(wide), i.e., out, from the house foundation. Within the 15’ setting, sidewalks or patios should be included in the landscaping when analyzing the scale/proportion. If you had only a 6’ wide plant bed along the tall house foundation, the house doesn’t feel “grounded or well-blended” into the landscape.
Repetition: accomplished through repeating curves, angles, shrubs, ground covers, color, hardscape material can all create unity.
A few more suggestions:
–Try using your garden hose to outline a new bed design. Put your patio furniture (tables and chairs) in the space where you think you want a new patio.
–The more the plant beds are covered with spreading ground covers, perennials, and shrubs, the fewer weeds because sunlight, critical to survival, is blocked.
–Don’t plant tall shrubs just 2’ away from the house foundation. Doing so will create problems for cleaning windows, painting the house, blocking crawl space air vents. Research the ultimate size of all your plant purchases. Just because they are 1’ high now, doesn’t mean that they won’t grow to 10’wide x 10’ tall.
–Pop the plants out of their container and see if it is root bound in the pot before purchasing. Roots growing in circles in the pot is a long-term problem for some woody shrubs, and especially trees.
–When deciding on how many plants to use, try to use groupings of 3, 5, or 7. Consider staggering them in a zig-zag fashion, instead of planting in a row. After all, if one dies years later, what are you going to do with an empty hole?
Of course, there are many other environmental considerations to make, such as water drainage, presence of pesky rabbits or deer, soil quality, etc. Look for previous Spy articles that I wrote about soil quality (Spy Gardening: Let’s Talk Dirt) and how to prune plants (Spy Gardening: Winter’s False Start (to Springtime)).
If you have any questions, please call me to discuss your situation.
Meredith Watters, Watterscape Designs, received her Masters in Landscape Architecture in 1985. In her consulting and design of residential landscapes, she maintains a strong focus on ecologically sensitive and creative outdoor solutions.