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Principles of Landscape Design

Landscaping is the process by which you take a structure and tie it to the existing surrounding landscape so that everything looks attractively natural. Ideally, when you get through, people will look at the house and say “that house just fits the setting”. There are several principals in attaining a unified design. They are simplicity, scale, variety, sequence, balance, and emphasis. Using a combination of these principals while using the different colors, textures and forms of plants is how you get the perfect landscape.

Simplicity breeds elegance. Simple designs are always more interesting than complex designs that do not allow the proper focus of attention. One way to create simplicity is repetition. Repetition allows your eyes to move comfortably over the landscape, secure in the vision of something familiar.

Variety adds spice and allows the designer to control the mood of the design. However, careful balance must be maintained between variety and repetition. While too much repetition causes monotony, too much variety causes confusion.

Emphasis is used to attract attention to more important areas while less important areas receive less notice. This requires using variety because what is being emphasized must draw and hold the viewer’s attention longer that anything surrounding it.

Balance can either be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is attained using the same plants on both sides of the steps, corners of the house, or back corners on a lot so that one side mirrors the other. Asymmetrical balance is created using forms of unequal size. For example, one tree might balance three shrubs. Symmetrical balance is usually more formal with asymmetrical more informal.

Sequence is what causes your eyes to move over the landscape in an orderly fashion. The form, texture and color must gradually change to prevent anything startling which would cause the sequence to be lost.

Scale could also be thought of as proportion. A two story house would naturally need taller shrubs and trees and yet tall shrubs near a walk would seem overbearing and almost frightening to people walking near them. Emotions can be evoked just by controlling the proportion to scale. Areas can be made to look larger or smaller just by changing the proportion to scale.

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