Landscape Design: The Basic Elements and Principles
Many people take for granted the beautiful landscapes that have been created for them near where they live, work, or relax.
While it’s true that mother nature often provides lots of amazing and natural features in areas, there are also countless landscapes that have been carefully designed, implemented, and maintained.
You might be wondering why landscape design is so important to understand, and why it’s not as simple as putting some trees here and some bushes there. There are many factors to consider when choosing a layout. Plants and hardscapes are considered “features” that all work together to paint a picture, so to speak.
Landscape designers or engineers are skilled professionals who have training and experience to rely on when making landscape layout decisions.
Some of the various factors they need to consider when drafting plans include:
Intended use for the space
Plants that are suited for the region
These are just a few of the aspects that must be planned for.
In the next section, we’ll start with the basic elements of landscape design to build you a strong foundation of understanding before you start your next project.
The Basic Elements of Design
Now that you have an idea for what goes into creating a functional and visually appealing landscape, let’s dive a bit deeper. We’ll start with the basics: what are the elements of design?
There are five most basic elements of landscape design to learn about. Each element is a basic physical characteristic or feature to consider when matching and choosing features.
Where two materials meet, a line is formed. For example, if you have a mulch bed on the edge of a lawn, then there will be a “line” between the two.
Also, a material and empty space can form a line. The contrast is created by whatever is in the background in those scenarios. Imagine the silhouette created by a flowering bush against the backdrop of your building, or a fountain with a tree-line behind it.
Lines are the basic shapes that make up your landscape, and designers use them to control where viewers are looking and where visitors are walking. Lines can establish sections or spaces, they can draw focus and they can highlight themes of the landscape design.
General types of lines and their orientations:
Designers will use different types of lines depending on where they want people to look or walk. Lines are one of the most basic building blocks for outdoor landscape design.
Forms can also be considered as shapes. These forms or shapes are created when a line encloses something. For example, the line around a garden might form a circle, oval, square, rectangle, polygon, etc.
There are also natural forms that don’t adhere to geometric forms. You might have a garden bed with organic edges, or you could have a meandering treeline, for example.
Designers choose and modify forms to control the spatial organization of a landscape.
Each feature has a texture on its surface, or even multiple textures.
Consider a tree in mulch: the mulch is coarse, the bark is medium and the leaves are fine.
What are coarse textures best for?
Shortening the perception of distance
Breaking up or obscuring form
What are fine textures best for?
Creating solid edges
Creating an increased sense of distance or depth
Lightening the feel or look of a feature
Medium textures are just that–medium. They sit in the middle of the characteristics listed above, so they tend to blend in more.
Colors create unity, establish differences, and make a landscape generally more interesting to view.
This element, though, tends to be the most fleeting. Flowers are going to be your boldest pops of color, but they only last a few weeks a year per plant.
Some schemes will rely on one color only. They usually include green (because of foliage) plus the color being used.
Other schemes will rely on multiple colors, and they can complement or contrast each other.
Scale is the size of something. The scale that designers tend to consider most is the scale of humans, who will be using the landscape. Other fixed aspects of a property have scales to be considered, such as buildings.
We’ve given you the basic elements of landscape design. Do you think you’re ready to get started on your next project? Make sure you utilize our excellent site engineers who are trained to get the most out of your landscape for you. Contact us today to get started!
The Basic Principles of Design
If you understand the basic elements of design, then it’s time to move onto the basic principles of design.
The principles of design are how the elements of design are employed. If you understand what the elements are and how they work, then you can focus now on the principles. How you combine lines, textures, forms, colors, and scale will determine what your landscape looks like as well as how it functions.
The proportions of your landscape are determined by the scales you choose. What size everything is as well as how they’re oriented and organized can have widely different effects.
Proportion refers to the relative relationship size among features. The larger a feature is compared to its surroundings, the more it stands out.
Designers focus on proportion when they want to draw attention somewhere specific, like toward a fountain. They can also rely on scale to draw attention away from somewhere, either by using small scale near what they want to divert attention from, or by using large scale purposely away from that spot.
Or, they can create balance with proportion. Read on to learn about balance in outdoor landscape design.
The lack of balance might draw attention toward or away from somewhere, and proportion can be an important aspect. However, balance can be achieved in all aspects of landscape design. You can balance a property by utilizing any of the elements in the previous section.
You can balance by spreading out colors, textures, lines, forms, and scales. Plants and hardscapes can both create balance, and they can both also be used to detract from the balance of a property.
But you might not necessarily want balance. What if you have a beautiful porch that leads up to the entryway of your business? You might want people to notice it, so you could create an uneven balance that draws people to look at or even walk toward the porch.
The perfect balance in a landscape will instead draw attention everywhere in an even way. By choosing to balance a property, there will be no obvious or looming focal points.
Repetition is when patterns or sequences have been established via a landscape’s features. Repetition can be used to set expectations for a viewer and then create a break or surprise: if you have a line of shrubs leading along your drive toward your entry, you might choose to plant flowering bushes close to the entry. It shows the viewer or visitor that something has changed, and it calls attention there. In this case, to the entry.
Repetition can also be used to create cohesion or unity throughout a property. For example, you could use a recurring feature in each corner of your lot, which would work to enclose and unify the space.
Harmony is the broadest principle of landscape design.
It encompasses how all of the elements work together to inform each principle. When a landscape has achieved harmony, it has been utilized to its fullest potential for beauty and function.
Harmony links all aspects of your property together. When the features work together, creating interest (or contrast) as well as balance, then the landscape has achieved harmony.
There are four main types of harmony: dominance, interconnection, simplicity, and three-fold.
Harmony via dominance has a focus point that is highlighted on purpose to draw attention to one specific aspect of a property, and all other aspects are subservient to it.
Harmony via interconnection laces recurring themes throughout the entire landscape to show how all aspects are related.
Harmony via simplicity removes unimportant features to create a minimalist landscape throughout the propety.
Three-fold harmony utilizes aspects of dominance, interconnection, and simplicity in order to achieve its goals.
What are your landscaping goals, and how are you working toward them?
At Exscape Designs, we have the solutions and services for you to achieve your dream landscape. What are you waiting for?
Contact us today to get started on your perfect landscape!
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