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Landscape Design Principles

Good landscape designers understand the need to balance your outdoor garden or yard with your house.  In order to do this effectively, designers will often refer the fundamental design principles to ensure the designed space is not only beautiful, but practical and functional as well.  These landscape design principles include order, unity, proportion, and rhythm.


Order in the design refers to a sense of structure which is obtained using organization and balance.  This can be achieved by limiting the number of different plant species or grouping similar plants.  Another approach involves the use of formal, symmetrical tactics like lining a sidewalk with pruned Boxwoods or planting Holly trees on either side of the front door.  This principle helps to develop unity and is attained when everything is connected through balance and harmony.


Unity throughout the property or garden creates a perceived sense of harmony and connectedness.  This can be done by adhering to a certain theme or style, especially one that mimics the architecture of the house.  Or, a designer may choose to use a strict color pallet.  Another approach involves using various plant varieties within the same family throughout the garden.  An example of this method is a plant list that incorporates Nellie Stevens Holly, Chinese Holly, and Inkberry.  All these plants are in the holly family; thus, they share many similarities, but each has its own distinct attributes.


A sense of scale and proportion is key when designing a well-balanced landscape or yard.  This refers to the size of elements in comparison to other elements in the landscape.  Small, deciduous plants along the foundation of a two-story house will feel unbalanced and empty.  Rather, there needs to be larger evergreen shrubs with smaller plants in the foreground.  Landscape designers must think of scale in reference to people, as well.  For instance, the width of a walkway leading to a patio is influenced by the people using it.  However, that walkway must also be proportional to the surrounding space through which it passes.


The concept of rhythm refers to repetition and movement throughout the landscape.  Repeating specific landscape features and design elements provide familiarity and unity, while also creating movement through space.  Shapes, colors, and textures all play a role in creating rhythm.  For instance, a row of the same trees lining a plaza provide a sense of structure while also moving your eye towards the background (a good place for a water feature or sculpture).  Another effective method is the design and shape of plant beds.  Gently sweeping curves exude a feeling of calm and grace.  It invites people to look and even explore, especially when landscape features are half-hidden around the bend.  This tactic is often used by landscape designers to create a sense of wonder and make the garden even more enticing.

These fundamental design principles are key to creating impactful outdoor spaces that are attractive and functional for different uses.  They help guide the landscape designer in building spaces that are connected within the landscape and to the surrounding area for a completely harmonious experience.