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When we think about a landscape garden, we picture lush green grass, flowers and trees. But it is so much more than that. Landscaping is an age-old method of designing, creating and curating gardens that are aesthetically pleasing and functional. There are numerous nuances to landscaping.
“Gardens are the result of a collaboration between art and nature.” – Penelope Hobhouse
From choosing the design that works best for your space to picking the right plants, many steps are involved. But to simplify/chalk up the process in a few steps, the basics of landscape principles can be divided into the following:
Do all the elements in the garden look well placed? Does it look pleasing to the eye? Is there something jarring? Balance is the answer to all these questions. In simple terms, balance is a state of equilibrium. We experience the most peace in gardens with a sense of balance.
Balance can be divided into Symmetrical and Asymmetrical.
Symmetrical balance occurs when both sides of the plane are a mirror image of each other, which means the left side of the garden and the right look exactly the same. Gardens with a symmetric landscape are usually stiff and highly maintained. It is usually used in formal landscapes.
In Asymmetric balance, the left and right sides differ, but there is a sense of balance to them. Gardens with asymmetric balance feel more free-flowing and relaxing. It is also known as informal balance.
We may also consider a third type of balance, proximal. It is determined by the balance of the elements in your proximal (near vision) to your distal (far vision). It is a type of asymmetric balance.
Axis and Focal Point
An axis is an invisible line along which a garden is designed. In symmetrical gardens, the axis is the central line. And at the end of the axis, we have our focal point.
A good design has a good focal point, it’s as simple as that. A focal point attracts the viewer’s eye. It could be anything, from a bird bath or a tree to a fountain, depending solely on the design and the layout of the space. Ideally, landscape designers should not overdo the use of focal points. Strike the right balance, find interesting pieces to make your focal point and have fun creating a beautiful landscape.
As the name suggests, keep things simple. Always keep your landscape designs simple, clutter-free and non-fussy. Don’t overcomplicate it by adding too many elements, as it can do more harm than good. Messy gardens can leave people feeling uneasy. Avoid using too many colours, textures, shapes, angles and curves
Rhythm and line
We achieve rhythm when we use a component in regular intervals. It can be achieved by placing plants, trees, rocks or structures (fountains, stone benches, lamp posts etc.) in repetition at predetermined intervals.
Now let’s talk about lines. They create the basis of the form or shape of a landscape. When different materials meet, lines are formed. Think turf next to planting beds or turf meeting hardscapes.
Rhythm and line give a sense of movement to a landscape; it’s what draws you in and gives you a calm, soulful feeling.
Contrast and Composition
While contrast can help highlight certain aspects of a landscape, composition helps gives it a unified look. Elements that contrast catch the eye of the viewer when placed adjacent to each other. Perfect juxtaposition is achieved when complementary elements (colours or structures) are placed side by side.
Since we discussed contrast, I would like to add that finding and achieving the perfect balance between contrasting colours can do wonders for your landscape.
Scale and Proportion
Scale and proportion are significant when picking plants and trees. Scale refers to the relative size of an element. Whereas proportion is the size of the relationship between all the features of a landscape; it includes horizontal, vertical and special relationships.
For starters, let’s not have something way too small or way too large. Go from tallest to shortest when picking and laying plants/trees. Keep in mind the size, width, growth rate and maximum height a plant/tree can grow.
Also, take into consideration the height of the viewer as well. The perspective of an adult is going to be very different from that of a child. The same goes for short people and tall people.
It is achieved when the principles listed above come together in perfect harmony. Unity in design occurs when all elements of a landscape fit together as one piece, like a jigsaw puzzle. Colours, patterns, textures, shapes and sizes come together to give a sense of oneness and create one big unified space.
Unity can be achieved by repeating colours and patterns, creating lines or using materials that have repeating lines, shapes or textures. However, too much of it can be boring. Find the right balance, use contrast in a smart way and create a beautiful landscape.
Ultimately, it all comes down to what your client wants and how much of that can be aesthetically accommodated in the space they have. Use the above principles to create something that is equal parts stunning and soulful.