Landscape design basics

Landscape design basics – Brief Article

Tom Christopher I

Winter is the perfect time to assess the structure of your garden

Visiting the garden at this time of year is like peering into the mirror in early morning before you apply any makeup. Winter doesn’t flatter, but its honesty is invaluable. With flowers and even most of the foliage gone, there’s nothing to mask what designers call “the bones” of the garden. So put on a coat and step out for a look. If those bones aren’t good, you’ll see it now, and you can plan some reconstructive surgery.

what are bones?

This is a term that gardeners apply to many different things. I’ve heard it used to describe the man-made features such as walls, paths, arbors, hedges, and fences that divide the garden into different areas. I’ve also heard gardeners speak of the bones when what they meant was the enduring natural features–rocks, trees, and shrubs–that help to give the garden form. Fundamentally, bones are anything that helps to structure the garden. For this reason, the term should also signify the context of the garden, its views. Playing up a good view and de-emphasizing a bad one heavily influences the garden’s structure.

the importance of structure

In our preoccupation with plants, we often let structure take care of itself. We seem to hope that if all the ingredients are beautiful, if each plant is the most outstanding cultivar of its race, together they must form a beautiful whole. In fact, a garden of more ordinary plants often makes a better display if the elements have been carefully arranged.

structural elements and their uses

Paths: By connecting different parts of the garden and directing traffic, paths dictate the sequence of experiences. The character of the path–flat and straightforward, winding and mysterious–forms the character of your landscape.

Wall, fence, or trellis: Enclosure creates a sense of security; structures may be used to screen or control views, or define disparate areas of the garden.

Hedges: A compromise between man-made and natural that can be clipped and formal or unclipped and informal.

Boulders and outcrops: Visual focal points that invite exploration. Use them as anchors for your planting.

Trees: Conical evergreens are perfect for framing a view; clustered together, the columnar trunks of deciduous trees create a solemn, cathedral-like effect.

Driveway: The first experience visitors have of your garden, this is the real axis of your front yard.

Water feature: A fountain’s splash creates a sanctuary from street noise, a soothing resting place. A pool, whether ornamental or designed for swimming, is an oasis.

Flower beds: By drawing the eye, these direct the visitor’s attention. They’re ideal for framing paths or terraces, for inking in the garden’s axes–the main routes or lines of sight.

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