Saturday, September 25, 2010

Garden Design II - Design Strategies for Creating a Concept

Plan the shape and lines of your garden
Now that you have your base prepared (see Garden Design I-Getting Started with a Plan), you can begin to sketch out the shape of your planting beds on it.  Use trace paper over the base, or make several photocopies to draw on.  Keep an original clean base so you won't have to redraw it - you'll use the base throughout the design process.

Concept Plan
Allow yourself to think freely.  At this concept stage, draw very loosely and focus on the lines, masses and focal points you want to create with your planting.  Brainstorm and draw as many variations as you like.  Although you may have specific plants in your mind, don't limit yourself at this stage - focus on the overall layout of masses.  You'll define and then assign specific plants to the masses at later stages, which we'll discuss in the next few posts.    
The simple sketch here is for the front yard of a home.  A large tree, lamp post and mailbox are all in close proximity.  Creating a planting bed to incorporate the three will unify the area, make mowing easier and provide interest in a nondescript area of the lawn.
Landscape Design Strategies
Some of design strategies to consider as you plan:
Line - Begin with a pleasing shape for your planting.  Curves are more informal than straight lines.  Within the bed, create areas of plant massing.  This is where planning will make your garden stand out from the rest.  Lines within the garden create movement and lead your eye to focal points. 
Read more here.

Line, massing and layering
Massing - Planting in groups creates a more significant display than scatterings of single plants.  Groupings of uneven numbers - 3, 5, 7 or more - create pleasing masses.  Masses help create line and movement in your garden.
Read more here.
Focal Point - Choose a spot where you want the eye to rest and create a focal point - a specimen plant, a tree, a garden sculpture - even a simple bird bath.  A plant with a fleeting season of interest won't make an enduring focal point, but can be a part of a sequence of focal points throughtout the year. 
Read more here
Layering  - Planting tall plants at the back, with shorter plants in front gives a sense of depth to plantings.  This also avoids the gangly look of shrubs or flowers with bare bottoms.  The more layers, or different plants in ascending height, the fuller the look.  Read more here.
Repetition - Repetition provides continuity in the garden.  Repeating forms, textures, and colors unifies a space.  Read more here.
Contrast - As vital as repetition is in landscape design, contrast should not be neglected.  Contrast in size, form, texture and color adds interest and variety as well as drawing attention to focal points.  Read more here.
Repetition in color; contrast in form
Year round interest - Choose some plants that provide year round interest.  Every plant doesn't have to perform all year, but select plants with different times of peak interest, so that there is interest throughout the year.  Don't forget to consider the winter display your garden will provide.

In the next post (Garden Design III - Defining the Concept), we'll discuss the next step in planning your garden - defining the plants to fill the areas you've designed.
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