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Landscape Design 101: Mastering the Basics for Stunning Outdoor Spaces

Landscape design is the application of horticultural science, artful composition and spatial organization to create attractive and functional outdoor “rooms” for different uses. The elements visual qualities-line, form, color and texture-and principles guidelines-proportion, order and repetition-are used to achieve unity in a composition. To do this, the designer must consider the site, soil conditions, growing plants and how they interact with each other, and the client’s needs and wants.

The first step in landscape design is to find inspiration. Study the yards and landscapes of neighbors, friends, relatives, and other local landscapes to discover what features you admire. This will help you to identify your personal style and understand how the elements and principles produce unity, dominance, balance, rhythm and scale.

Line is a fundamental element in landscape design DabneyCollins. Straight lines create a formal character, are associated with symmetry and direct the eye to focal points. Curved lines have a more informal and natural character, are less structured and are associated with asymmetrical balance. They may also be used to connect forms and create a sense of movement and mystery in a composition. The shape of a house or other building may inspire the use of diagonal lines in the landscape or the placement of hardscape materials.

The blending or contrast of colors creates unity in the landscape. To do this, the landscape designer must consider the season and how sunlight will affect color. For example, intense summer sunlight can make colors appear much brighter and saturated than they do in the filtered light of winter. This can be used to dramatic effect or to highlight more enduring plant characteristics.

Texture is a visual element that is important in landscape design, but it must be used sparingly because too much can cause monotony. It is also important to offer variety in the texture of plant materials. The varying texture of plant foliage and wood provides an element of interest in the landscape.

The unity of the landscape is created by linking the various plant and garden ornaments with line, form, color and texture. Interconnection, which involves the physical linkage of features, is another way to achieve unity. Walkways are one of the best tools for this because they connect and organize the spaces in the garden. Continuation of any regulating line can also be an effective way to link the various parts of the garden.

The landscape elements of scale, dominance, and interconnection must be balanced with the landscape function and site conditions. To do this, the landscape architect must consider how plants and garden ornaments will perform. This includes assessing the size of the planting beds, how to use walls, paths and other structures to limit wind and erosion, how water will flow through the landscape, and what effect the environment has on the growing conditions for different plants. This information helps the designer to select appropriate species and adapt them for the conditions on the site. The landscape designer should also assess the accessibility of the property for access to tools, space to work and parking.

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