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Garden Design Element Two – Line
The line is an extension of the focal point and is related to eye movement or flow. In the overall landscape, the line is inferred in the arrangement of space and its divisions. The line is one of the structural aspects of landscaping mostly related to beds, pathways and entryways. In other words whenever a lawn meets a pathway or a pathway meets a planting scheme, a line occurs. Therefore by controlling, during the design stage, where you place your lines you will determine very simply where the various elements will be placed. One set of lines will define your pathways and show where your lawn begins. Another line will define the division between your lawn and your planting beds.

Straight lines are forceful, structured and stable, directing the eye to a point. Curved or free-flowing lines are smooth, graceful and gentle, creating a relaxing, progressive, natural feel. One of the most useful naturally occurring lines in landscape design is the horizon line, the line that divides your local landscape from the sky. If you are in a position where you have borrowed a focal point from the local landscape then you probably have a visible and useful horizon line. This line can be used to inform the divisions within your garden. If you chose to do this don’t simply follow the horizon line, instead allow it to inform what you are doing in dividing up your available space. Simply think of line as the division between areas; between terrace and lawn, between lawn and flower border etc. The line does not have to consist of anything, but is simply inferred. You can of course create a line if you chose, using edging materials for your driveway, timber edgings to planting areas or a narrow strip of lawn between different types of planting beds.


The curve of this path directs your eye behind the planting and encourages you to investigate the hidden destination. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, using line to conceal a part of the garden, it gives the visual impression of a larger space. A focal point or bench found around the bend is a sweet surprise, making the journey there worthwhile.


Garden Design Element Three – Form
Form and line are closely related. Form can be defined as the external appearance of a clearly defined area, as distinguished from color form or material. Line is considered as the outline or edge of the object while form is more encompassing. Line is by it’s nature two dimensional, however what it defines will have form which exists in three dimensions, height, width and depth.

Plant form represents the basic shape and structure of the plant. The main plant forms that you will come across are rounded, matting, weeping, oval, spreading, spiking, mounding and columnar. Different forms can create different effects within the garden. For example, columnar plants create a pillar effect, drawing the eye upwards to the sky, to a building or to high mountains in the wider landscape. Oval plants with their more rounded form are grounded and bring the eye downwards. They will help you to focus attention on whatever is right beside them. Spreading plants are a great way to visually ground a scheme, whether using ground-cover or larger spreading shrubs or trees.



Structures within the garden also have form and should be considered when you are designing. Existing structures include garden sheds and greenhouses, walls, arbors, and trellises as well as the house itself. When looking at the form of a structure you should take into consideration the style of the building, its construction and the arrangement of parts within the structure. The form of your house will sometimes help you to determine what you should be doing in your garden design. If, for instance your house is a terraced house, you might like to distinguish it from its neighbors by planting a shrub that echoes the height or width of the front elevation. If your house is very tall, then sometimes a somewhat taller, broad spreading tree can be a great way to integrated it with the local landscape. Get yourself into the habit of looking around at how plant and other landscape forms behave in nature. You will soon develop an instinct for seeing which forms and shapes work well together.

Garden Design Element Four – Texture
Texture in your garden design plan describes the surface quality that can be seen or felt. Texture can be roughly divided into three categories; course, medium and fine. Course texture creates a rough and on occasion "messy" appearance, while fine textures give a clean and smooth feel. When we think about texture we commonly think about the tangible qualities that this provides for us. The sense of touch is the first think that comes to mind when we think of surfaces in the garden that have different textural qualities. While it is true that our sense of touch is engaged by texture, there is also a huge visual benefit. For instance how a relatively simple planting scheme is arranged can tell us an enormous amount. Imagine some shrubs or small trees at the rear of a scheme with some herbaceous perennials in front, and a well maintained lawn in the foreground. The trees and shrubs at the rear will give you something ranging from a rough to medium texture, visually that is. The herbaceous plantings will generally be fine in textural terms and the lawn will have a very fine, smooth texture. You can of course go and touch all this plant material, but from a visual point of view the textures of these groupings add value to their form in term of the jobs that you are asking them to do in your garden plan.

Did you know that you can actually use the texture of a plant to visually trick the eye into thinking a space is larger or smaller than it actually is? For example, if you have a garden that is quite expansive it can tend to look a little overwhelming as the eye doesn’t know where to start. Creating intimate rooms and spaces in large gardens are often a challenge. One way to create a sense of intimacy and bring a large space down in scale is to use several plants with bold and coarse textures. Examples might be Rhododendrons, Gunnera or Viburnum. On the contrary, if your garden is on the smaller side, with the use of finely textured plants you can create the illusion of more space. How? Plants with small, feathery leaves or flowers (such as Lavender, Maidenhair Fern, Bamboo or Wood Aster) have a light and airy feel, and can visually recede into the background. Place a plant with bold and coarse foliage in the front and voila! – your small space looks a little larger.

Tip: To help you get texture right take a "x-ray" of your garden.


Taking a black and white photo of your garden will exposes those areas where the texture and form of your plants blend together to create a shapeless mass of boring. In the photo above you can clearly see definition in the garden created by texture and form.

Garden Design Element Five -Scale
Scale, when used in your garden design is closely linked to size. Size on its own refers to a definite measurement, the dimensions of an object, it’s height, width and depth. Scale is the size of that object in relation to another object and to its surroundings generally. For instance, a large fountain would look out of scale in a small front garden of a single story house but is suitable in front of a historic palace in Paris. The human scale is very important and you should consider it when designing spaces, structures and selecting plants. This is especially true for dividing spaces in larger gardens. If the scale of the space is too large a person standing in it will feel lost, disinterested and uncomfortable. The same can be said for a space that is too small as a person standing in the space can feel cramped and uncomfortable. You must try and identify the mood that you wish to set in each space within your design and scale it accordingly; for instance small and intimate or large and open to the surrounding landscape.

Your garden is also a place for people, and their presence will also provide visual interest, color and movement in the space. Whether people are using the space for active play, socializing or passive recreation, they should be part of the picture. Therefore when you are choosing plants, furniture and enclosures keep this in mind. While you are designing, try to have your components, some of which will be plants, sculptures or enclosures, either lower or higher than the height of the average grown up human. Things in a garden space that are exactly the same height as the human frame tend to to be strangely less than visually pleasing in juxtaposition with ourselves. Scale and balance are also related. You will often find that an entity such a planting scheme in the foreground is balanced against another entity such as the house in the background. Experiment & see what works for you.


The garden pictured above makes excellent use of proportion and scale.

Now you have a Focal Point and we have complemented the Focal Point with Line, Form, Texture and Scale. Next we will bring it "alive" with Color.
 
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