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Garden design, lines and themes


I didn’t like dealing with lines and angles in math class, but I love using them when thinking about landscape ideas. Take advantage of lines, shapes, and angles when reviewing your garden ideas and laying out your yard to add drama and impact.

Relying on artistic principles for landscape design, line is one of the most important and useful of all design elements. Everything in the garden involves line. Think about the distant horizon, the line created when a lawn ends and flower borders begin. A side walk, driveway, or fence is a clear and readily accessible line in the landscape. As you plan and design your garden, always consider the line that is created by whatever you are adding.

There are four main ways to describe lines: straight, curved, horizontal, and vertical. None is more important than the others – – each has different effects. Strong lines can draw your eye into the landscape, directing both where people look and where they go.

Curved lines shape informal garden beds and add interest to pathways. Straight lines invoke a sense of order and neatness that is more formal.
Soothing horizontal lines create a sense of stability. Think of oceans and how its wide expanse meets the sky, creating an irrefutable sense of peacefulness and majesty. Vertical lines project a sense of strength and movement.

No matter which types of line you use, be aware that lines lead the eyes. Lines going away from you on the ground draw you forward. Horizontal lines on the ground slow you down. Vertical lines lead the eye up and out of the garden. Curving lines take the eye on an intriguing journey. All are desirable. It is up to you to know where the lines will lead you and what you will see when you get there.

Designing a garden often goes beyond deciding which plants you want to grow and the type of function you want your garden to have. Thematic elements can also influence the look of a garden. There are many different landscape design themes – from simple to complex, but it is helpful to choose one to guide your plant and material selection.


Before choosing a theme, it is important to look at the surrounding views of your property. Decide if you want to open your yard, close your yard, or a little of both, to these views. In other words, do you want the garden to enclose space around you and relate mostly to the house, or do you want the garden to open views and look outward, relating to the surroundings. This will give you a starting point to think about a theme. Care should be taken to choose appropriate themes for your yard based on the architecture, type of environments, the topography and the regional landscapes. This is called ‘‘sense of place,” which means it fits with the surroundings.

Thematic Styles are mostly related to the architecture and they often simplify the design of a residential garden because materials and form are to some extent pre-determined. Many style themes today are a contemporary version of traditional garden designs. Architecture is usually the primary source of a theme, but themes can also represent a time, a culture, a place, or a feeling, such as serenity or calmness. The advantage to using a traditional style theme is the established set of forms and elements have historically worked well together and endured the test of time.

Because architectural styles typically fall into formal or informal category, the complimentary landscape theme tends to be either formal or informal. Formal architecture and garden styles that can be used for inspiration include French, Spanish, Italian and Middle Eastern. Less formal designs include English, American, Oriental. Style themes can also apply to the planting plan and may include tropical, desert meadow, forest/woodland, marsh, or coastal plantings. Themes can be as simple as a color mix or plants with a distinct character such as ornamental grasses used repeatedly in the composition.

Create And Link Spaces
The yard is an extension of the home where a variety of activities take place. A yard can generally be divided into three areas: Public (the front yard), private (the back yard), and service (typically the side yard). The location of activity areas depends primarily on the type of area, the size of the space needed, the type of activity, and the desired proximity to other activities and structures.

A few examples of spaces include the front entry that brings you and your visitors to your home, a cooking/eating/entertaining area (patio or deck), a play area; a dog (or pets) run, a secret garden/relaxation area, a vegetable garden or hobby area, and a trash/compost/work area. Perhaps the most important spatial concept for successful garden design is the creation of outdoor rooms in the yard. These spaces are often separated through the use of plant beds, lawn areas, trees, planters, garden walls, arbors, level changes, and paved surfaces.

The features are used to enclose or define the spaces and give them a room-like feel. For psychological comfort; creating spaces that are of human scale is important because most people prefer to be in places that feel protected and sheltering, rather than open and exposed. The outside wall of the house often serves as the first wall or starting point of an outdoor room.

Incompatible uses should be separated, and related activities such as cooking and dining, should be put together to make the yard more efficient and enjoyable. When using landscape to create spaces, use construction materials similar to that used in the house for continuity from house into the garden.

Pedestrian circulation in the landscape should move people through the yard and provide organisational structure. Outdoor rooms are typically linked by pathways, steps, walkways, or openings with gates or arbors that encourage exploration and use of the entire yard. These spaces can also be linked by visual features such as a creek bed (wet or dry) that meanders through or beside several spaces, or a garden wall that begins at a patio, moves along a turf area and ends along a planted area.

Using similar hardscape features and repeating plants pulls the eye around the garden. Important points along the way can be emphasized with planting or features that draw attention and encourage movement in a particular direction. Moving along the path takes a person from one area to the next and allows the user to have a variety of experiences. In an informal garden, the curves and the bends of the path should partially conceal what lies ahead. This provides a sense of mystery that promotes exploration and discovery of the landscape.


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