I’m going to let you in on a secret that not all landscape designers will share with you…good landscaping design is simple! Good design, quite simply, is an idea or inspiration that is transformed into a plan that works for you. To quote an old cliche, the whole is much more than the sum of it’s parts. While the principles that guide good design apply to a variety of disciplines such as architecture, interior design and sculpting to name a few, the difference between landscape design and those disciplines is that in landscape design our finished product is dynamic. A garden is never the same two days in a row let alone two seasons in a row. And personally, I think that is exactly why people find it so intimidating.
Good design is part art and part science, part knowledge and part intuition. It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking about backyard landscape design, front yard landscape design, formal landscape design or sustainable landscape design, the same set of landscape design tools will be utilized. Even if you’re contemplating styles of landscape design as diverse as Japanese landscape design, tropical landscape design or cottage landscape design, the principles that you must follow to end up with a beautifully, timeless design are the same.
Different schools of landscape design may have more or fewer basic principles and they may call them by different names but I believe that if you fully understand and follow each of the following basic principles when developing your landscape design, you will indeed end up with a plan, built on your inspiration and ideas, that is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
As I see it, the five basic principles of good landscape design are:
- Unity: All elements of the design should belong together and should tell the same story.
- Balance: A design that is in balance has a definite level of comfort and order to it. Sometimes it’s easier to see ‘unbalance’ than balance.
- Proportion: Refers to the relative size of one design element in relation to nearby elements. Size and scale greatly influence proportion.
- Rhythm and movement: This can be the way you physically move around a garden or the way your eye is drawn around the garden.
- Interest (focal point or emphasis): Good design will incorporate elements to attract attention and to draw the visitor deeper into the design.
While I have only listed the basic principles here, in future postings I will discuss each of the five landscape design principles in detail, giving you examples and ideas on how to use each one, so you can really understand them and begin to incorporate them into the design for your own garden.