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Aspects of Landscape Design

Paul Burns, Garden Design & Education©

There is an art to putting plants in a setting that flows together. Ask yourself some questions about how you will use the property to help you plan the form of the garden. Study the environmental conditions that will influence your plant selection.

The first step is finding the physical boundaries of the property. Get the land plat with legal property lines. Call 1-800-282-7411 to have the utilities marked to prevent cutting phone lines, gas lines, or cable. Read any neighborhood covenants. Look around the neighborhood to see if there is a unifying style in the area.

Second, how you will use the property will influence the design. Decide where you will sit to enjoy the yard and find out where your main views and lines of sight will be. Plan room for children to play. Study the traffic patterns in the yard and plan walkways and pathways wide enough for two people. Allow access to all areas. Decide if you need hidden areas for storage.

Third, study the environmental factors which influence plant growth that will help you choose the plant material that you use. The amount of sun and shade an area receives, and how wet and dry it is, greatly influences your choices in plant material. Look at the existing vegetation and see how much can be saved and incorporated into the plan.

Only after you have asked yourself these questions are you ready to be gin designing.

Take a look at your house from each approach on the road. Where does you eye travel? What does it ignore? Where do you need an accent plant or a mass of color, and where do you need a calming mass of green? Look out your windows and see where your eye is drawn. Why plant flowerbeds all around the foundation if you can't see them when you're inside the house? Plant them where they will be visible from a window.

What style fits your house? Is it a formal stucco house that needs a formal planting of trimmed hedges and Bradford pears, or is it a contemporary house in the woods that needs a more casual placement of plants? What style fits the time you spend on maintenance? Do you spend a lot of time gardening, and want lots of flowerbeds to work in? Or, do you try to do a minimum of yard work, and could use carefree masses of shrubs as the dominant plant?

Once you have decided on the style and function of your yard you can begin picking plants. Two elements to consider are repetition and contrast. Repeating a plant throughout the yard will provide unity, but too much repetition will be boring. Contrast adds interest and variety. However, too much contrast is confusing and chaotic. Balancing the repetition and the contrast is where the art takes over from the science.

Paul Burns, Garden Design & Education


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Paul Burns

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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