BASIC LANDSCAPE DESIGN- Tips to Design like a Pro!
By Kathy Beaman
Gardening, a necessity and joy since the beginning of time, has become immensely popular. Unfortunately, as the desire to enjoy our gardens has increased, our time to do so has decreased. We all lead such busy lives that gardening time has often been pared down to a minimum. Because of this, a good landscape design is more important than ever.
It used to be that only the very wealthy employed a landscape designer. Nowadays, these services are available to everyone. In fact, the smaller the lot and budget, the more important it is to have a good landscape plan. Whether your plan is designed by a professional or by yourself, there are basic standards to follow and goals that you want to achieve.
A good landscape design will incorporate the positive natural characteristics of your site with your own individual needs and your lifestyle. To achieve this, we first consider the four basic concepts of landscape design:
Suitability: If I designed a backyard with every bit of space planted with formal rose gardens for an active family of six, it wouldn’t be very suitable, would it? A young couple each working sixty hours a week would rather relax in a “moonlight garden” at the end of a long day instead of mowing acres of lawn. Figure out what is important to you and your family, not only now, but in the future, and plan for it accordingly. Today’s sandbox can easily become tomorrow’s basketball court.
Utility: Let’s be practical. We do not want the fuel delivery man to stomp all over our perennial beds. Nor do we want to relax with company on a patio overlooking the garbage cans. Ideally, living areas of the house should flow into the living areas of the grounds and the work areas of the grounds should be accessible from the work areas of the house. Even in small yards, with a small budget, these areas can often be well defined.
Economy: A successful landscape design depends on economy of space, time and money. In the small home grounds, economy of space is imperative. If possible, care should be taken that all of the ground space is not used up by the house, garage and drive. Leave space for the “outdoor living room”. With proper siting and the use of shade trees, wind breaks, awnings, etc., this living space can be used for three seasons, providing visual interest from inside for the fourth.
Simplicity is the key to economy of time. Keep it simple. Cut down on lawn area by planting ground covers. Keep edge clipping to a minimum by using mowing strips made of brick or concrete. Plant a fence with vines rather than grow a high maintenance hedge. Select plant material carefully. Make good use of flowering shrubs, vines and perennials that require little care and buy disease and insect resistant varieties whenever possible. Grow hardy shrub roses instead of finicky tea roses. And grow things where they are supposed to be grown. Don’t site plants that need a lot of sun in a shady spot and vice versa.
A good garden design will save you money in the long run. Using the concepts of suitability, utility and economy to help design your landscape will not only enable you to make less mistakes than the “hit and run” method, but will also increase the value of your home.
This brings us to beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there are basic concepts of garden design beauty, also. Everything must be in balance, in scale. There should be a specific rhythm, which derives from repetition, but not monotony. There must be unity and harmony, but also a center of attraction. For the beginner or untrained, this can be difficult to achieve – the easiest way to do so is with simplicity.
Don’t clutter your landscape with either plants or knickknacks! Tie all beds and borders together by repeating a certain plant material or color. Don’t plant a “specimen garden” – one of each. Plant in groups of odd numbers – three, fives, and sevens – and add diversity by changing the form and texture of the plant materials.
Group three plants with a rounded blossom and lacy leaves in front of five plants with bold foliage and spiky blooms. For a calming effect, use colors that “harmonize” together – different shades of pink, lilac, and purple interspersed with grays (such as Dusty Miller). Pair red with yellow or blue with orange for a bold look, but use sparingly. Such intensity can have an unsettling effect. Use annuals to add season-long interest and to fill in the gaps while perennials grow.
By using these basic concepts, or hiring a designer to help you, you should be able to have the time to enjoy your outdoor environment – one that is as pretty to look at as it is practical to use. If you need to justify hiring a designer, look at it as a long term investment. A livable, as well as attractive, outdoor landscape is much more desirable than one that is neither.