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Ottawa Garden

Botany – Landscaping – Green Living

Landscaping Design Principles

Flowers in Garden

Design outdoor landscaping, principles of landscape design including landscaping and backyard design ideas

The fundamental principles of landscape design are balance, sequence, contrast, repetition and proportion.

Following is the first principles of landscape design, you should use balance in three ways.

Balance

Symmetrically

When viewing the landscape from any point of view, you will typically perceive central point of reference from which you consciously or subconsciously define a right and left side. The central point could be a front door, a fountain, a walkway, a swimming pool, a field, a building, or a housing development. If the areas to the right and left of this central axis contain exactly the same elements, then balance is symmetrical.

Asymmetrically

Equally weighted objects with different elements on each side of the central axis are said to be in asymmetrical balance. For example, if your patio is centered on the rear of your house, you could plant it using precisely the same shrubs, flowers, and/or statuary on both sides, or grace both sides with identical trees, shrubs, and groundcover. This is considered symmetrical balance and has a very formal effect. If you use a diverse arrangement on the left than on the right, such as a large tree underplanted with low flowers on one side and taller flowers and several shrubs on the other, it is considered asymmetrical balance and has a more informal effect and is part of the principles of landscape design.

Radially

A less frequently used type of balance in the landscape is radial balance that are also part of the principles of landscape design. This refers to an object for which no right or left can be defined, such as a body of water, theater-in-the-round, or a circular garden. In this sort of arrangement, balance the weight equally all the way around the feature.

Sequence

Sequence refers to movement, something that either physically or visually moves you through the landscape. Plants and structures should be set to offer the most comfortable transition from one point to another. It could be as simple as moving your eye from low plants in the foreground to taller plants in the background or as complicated as engineering the entire surroundings to move you through a wonderland of experiences.

Proper sequencing are part of the principles of landscape design and will blend beautiful arrangements of plants, people, traffic, and structures into the surrounding landscape. There are three types of sequence used in the principles of landscape design.

Circulation

The line of circulation helps the mood in the garden. Use curves for a meandering mood. Straight walkways imply movement, which is the most useful to get from point A to point B. People tend to hesitate where there are intersecting lines in the landscaping. Therefore, the point at which two walks come in concert is a good place to design seating in the landscape.

Movement

Consider ways of moving your eyes through the garden. Position plants to catch your eye and keep your visual curiosity. A tree with a low-mounded pattern and lacy foliage such as Cutleaf Japanese Maple is sure to catch your eye. Use low plantings along the front of the maple and mass taller plants behind it to keep visual curiosity and sequence the viewer from low to high.

Design the plants to direct the viewer toward some feature, such as the doorway of the house, a pond, or seating in the garden. Plant shrubs that have visual interest to draw the eye to the rear of your home as well. Try massing Smoke trees in the back of your property to create seclusion. It forms a shrub mass with deep maroon leaves and a pubescence after flowering that looks like clouds colored red by the sunset.

Progressive Realization

One tremendous way to draw the viewer through the landscape is with progressive realization. Place an array of plants to partly block the view or carve a path out of sight, and you will entice a viewer through the garden. This phenomenon has been used by garden designers in Europe and the Orient for hundreds of years and is becoming favored by the genre of the American garden designers.

Contrast

A little contrast is good; too much is confusing and is part of the principles of landscape design. One or two elements introduced into the landscaping that differs entirely from the existing elements in color, texture, or form will create an interesting contrast to your design. For example:

  • Bring in one Blue Atlas Cedar against a background of much greener Jack Pines and you will make the color of the cedar a dazzling contrasting element.
  • Create an attractive contrast in form. Plant a single horizontally spreading shrub against a backdrop of plants with an upright growth habit, which makes the spreading habit stand out in the foreground.
  • One plant with a coarse texture (large leaves), such as a Horse chestnut, would stand out among many finely textured (small leafed) plants such as a hedgerow of upright Yews.
  • If you must cut down a tree, chain saw it into a sculptural element or saw out a seat. It will make an appealing conversation piece and a contrasting element among the other trees. This characteristic could stand for many years as an extremely interesting garden element and is a part of the principles of landscape design.

Repetition

Repetition of the same or comparable elements in design tends to encourage harmony and reduce confusion in the landscape and is part of the principles of landscape design. This rule applies to the uses of color, texture, plant varieties, building materials, and any other design elements. It is a well-known fact within the design profession that repeating the elements of a design tend to reduce confusion and support harmony. This principle holds true: landscaping, paving, planting or absolutely any element of design are all part of the principles of landscape design.

The following are several ways to use repetition in your landscape design work and follow the principles of landscape design:

Before going to the garden store, draft a design and tie collectively the elements. When you are at the garden store, curb your desire to have one of everything. If another plant strikes your fancy, substitute several of these in place of other plantings. Don’t plant one of each plant.

Make it a practice to repeat the same plants or plant groupings in your yard. You don’t want a monogamous planting. Use just enough assortments; too much will be confusing and detract from the aesthetics of the backyard.

Use a unifying element. A single assortment of low edging plant around all planting areas will assist unify your yard. Unity reduces confusion and promotes harmony in the design. Repetition of the same type of edging, fence, walk, ground cover, or wall on the home also makes an excellent garden unifier.

Make anything you are designing appear as though it belongs there. Do this by repeating the theme. If you design a flower garden, repeat those flowers in other beds. If you plant a rock garden, repeat the theme of rocks in other areas of your home. If you design mixed shrubs, use the same mixture again elsewhere.

Proportion

The landscaping design ideas should bring the architectural elements into proportion and bring you into harmony with the surroundings and is part of the principles of landscape design. These principles of landscape design hold for commercial as well as residential projects. Plants, seating, patio furniture, bridges, pond, arbors, walks, entries, pavilions, etc., should always be scaled to sizes that are at ease for people to use.

For residential landscaping ideas, separate spaces can be thought of as outdoor rooms—the outdoor living room. The areas don’t always have to be small. Depending on your individuality and interests, areas could be open with a large lawn and superb vista or small and enclosed. Large areas might appeal to socially outgoing persons. Small-enclosed gardens may be preferred by private, introspective people.

The following are ways of using plants to bring otherwise awkward spaces into people-sized proportion.

Shade Trees. A canopy of large trees will do more for enclosing an outdoor space and bringing it into human proportion than everything else you can plant. No other element takes up the space between ground and the firmament quite as well as shade trees. They provide a ceiling outdoors and give a sense of enclosure from the elements.

Island Plantings. The two-dimensional “foundation planting” of shrubs next to the house can improve the looks of some older homes and offer some energy preservation, but they don’t improve the home so much as islands of plantings. Trees and shrubs can add an extra element or expansiveness to your property if planted away from the house.

They can also reach their full ornamental potential, will be more in proportion to the overall property, and will tie the house into the yard. Lawn is not the only way to fill up your yard. Remember to use your entire yard for designing and to follow the principles of landscape design.

Flowers. Other than annuals and a few perennials, plants are in flower no more than 12 % of the year. Consequently, they should be planted so that they are in proportion to their environment and can develop to their mature size in order to develop to their full potential.

Medium to large flowering trees such as Saucer Magnolia or Yellowwood should be located some distance (15’—35′) away from structures. Smaller flowering trees such as Stewartia or Kousa Dogwood could be used closer to or near a patio or sitting area (6’—12′). Use medium-sized flowering shrubs such as Iroquois virburnum as a background to set off small trees. Low flowering shrubs, including Kurume Azaleas or St. Johnswort, can be planted two feet to six feet from the observer. Inter plant the low shrubs with annual and/or perennial flowers.

Some shrubs should be selectively pruned to flower at eye level or below. Roses are perfect when grown to a height where you can notice the colors and fragrance as you walk by. The fragrant and colorful lots of flowers on Chinese Lilacs are best if they flower at about five feet to sixth feet in height. Without pruning, lilacs usually grow too tall and leggy to be prized by a person. For accessibility, prune hedges to no more than eight feet to ten feet in height and four feet to five feet in width. Proper plant placement keeps pruning to a bare minimum.

Select plants by concept. Pick plants for the way they fit the scale of your home and backyard, not just by name or for their flowers. State the criteria they should meet. How tall will they get? What are their requirements (light, soil, moisture, irrigation requirements)and of course follow the principles of landscape design.