The Fundamental Elements of Landscape Design
The Southern Living® Plant Collection, an innovative project first introduced in 2008, is a gallery of plants aimed at solving landscape challenges green thumbs face in their Southern gardens. The project aims to provide “gardeners with innovative new plants designed to solve specific landscape challenges and excel in Southern gardens. Each plant in the collection results from years of plant evaluations, plant trials, and research.”
The horticultural experts at Southern Living ® Plant Collection recognize and embrace the necessity of a beautiful landscape design, writing, “All design, whether in the landscape, on a canvas or in a magazine, draws upon common tools of composition. These design elements include mass, form, line, texture, and color. In the landscape, they are used to transform space and create a unique experience. While color and texture add interest and richness to a design, it is mass, form, and line that are critical to organizing space and providing structure. Understanding these key design elements is the first step in creating a harmonious, unified landscape.”
Lines are a useful element of design that help to carry the eye through a landscape by creating “physical flow and connectivity.” The movement and connections heighten relationships between features in the landscape. Vertical lines draw the eyes heavenward. This lifting of the countenance stimulated by the vertical lines has the visual effect of making small spaces seem much more expansive than they actually are. The effect is powerful and, when artfully executed, is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
A space can take on a broader dimension by applying strong horizontal lines. Low walls, edging, groundcovers such as Liriope muscari (commonly known as Lily tuft), walkways, and paths make a space feel broader. Lines can evoke certain emotions. Straight lines suggest stability, order, and formality, while natural, gentle curves are calming, relaxing, and soothing.
The line element comes into play when choosing hardscapes such as walls and fences. Serpentine walkways and beds can inject verve and drama while generating interest. Whether straight or curved, lines can invite the eye toward a focal point in the landscape design.
The Southern Living® Plant Collection defines mass in the following terms: “In design, mass is a measure of visual size. Mass describes the space or area occupied by an object or group of objects. A planting bed, house, patio, and arbor all have mass, as do individual plants in a garden.”
Achieving balance among the mass of objects in the landscape is the designer’s great challenge and end goal. The singular components are sized in harmony with their surroundings. Balance is the goal. “For example,” the Southern Living® Plant Collection article continues, “planting beds are sized in relation to the adjacent lawn, house or hardscape. Likewise, the mass of individual plants or groups of plants within a bed need to occupy a space proportional to the overall planting.”
Form has to do with the shapes used in landscape features. These shapes include circles, squares, triangles, or more innovative irregular shapes.
Plants contribute a three-dimensional aspect. Spherical, mounding, pyramidal, vase-like, flat, and spreading forms illustrate the different shapes plants can take. By grouping these individual plants, new forms can be created.
As with line and mass, form elicits emotional responses that create ambiance. The article describes the emotive power of form: “Rectilinear forms feel structured and formal, circles are soft, triangles are strong, and irregular shapes are casual and free. We can take advantage of form in a design to set the mood of a landscape. The rectilinear design has a formal, orderly feel while the angular design is more relaxed. When designing a landscape form, strive to complement the style of the house.”
The place and importance of empty spaces
Voids contain visual mass and often frame mass in the landscape. For the designer, empty space is more weighty than occupied space. Voids balance and unite the individual components in a landscape design.
The contributions of landscape lighting to a great landscape design
Low-voltage landscape lighting enables an incredible landscape to be seen, experienced, and enjoyed at dusk and into the evening by the residents and their guests. These additional hours of use and enjoyment are priceless. A tasteful, well-designed, and well-executed installation enriches the landscape’s aesthetic beauty in stunning, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, calming, relaxing, invigorating, and uplifting ways.
Landscape lighting spotlights unique architectural features which set the home and landscape apart from other homes in the neighborhood. Stunning curb appeal makes guests feel welcome and adds real value to the house’s worth. Landscape lighting makes the home and yard safer and more secure.