Elements of Landscape Design

No matter what garden style appeals to you, a successful landscape requires the use of basic design principles. Knowing these principles and how to use them well will enable you to create the look and feeling you want.

Take a moment to think of a favorite garden landscape, either real or imagined. What stands out after studying this landscape? What components of the setting make it distinctive? The trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, and other plants are probably noticeable. Other obvious elements are the physical confines of the site, such as the fences and hedges that define the property line, and the house and the outdoor living areas, such as patios, walkways, decks, and other structures.

Next, pretend you are viewing this landscape from a hot-air balloon high off the ground. Notice how the garden relates to neighboring gardens and to the surrounding area in general. When the landscape is viewed from this height, does the garden appear to have an overall design? Do the textures, colors, sizes, and forms of the plants create a distinctive, balanced whole? Are the outdoor living areas clearly defined? Is the garden designed for people, with places for the activities that will make it come alive? Does a single style predominate? If so, does it complement the house, and does it fit in well with the surroundings? The degree to which each element is considered in creating the garden plan will determine how effective and attractive the final landscape will be.