Seeing Your Landscape Design: Line, Form, Color, and Texture

Horizontal Lines In The Garden

Landscape Design Criteria – Line, Form, Color, and Texture 

What do you absolutely love, love, love about your landscape design?

It might seem like a silly question, but have you ever really thought about it before? Take a few minutes and really think about it. Answering this question can tell you a lot about how you're affected by nature. Once you know the answer, it can help you to use what you've learned to become calmer and de-stress even when you're away from home.

You may already have a favorite area in your garden. Today’s blog can help you learn why you love your landscape and the natural world. Start with standard landscape design criteria – line, form, color, and texture.  Squinting your eyes a bit as you look at your garden can reduce distractions and help you concentrate.

Are You Most Fond of Lines?

The curving shapes of flower beds are horizontal lines moving a flat plane against the lawn. Other horizontals may be the edge of a wall, hillside terracing, or a neat row of hedging. 

Or you may prefer vertical lines. Think of the pattern of wooden fencing or the vertical rhythm set up by fences plus tree trunks plus porch posts or house corners. 

Maybe diagonals are your thing. There are fewer diagonal lines in landscapes but look for lattice paneling, garden ornaments, roof lines, the tops of fence posts, even diagonal paths laid out in formal gardens.

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Horizontal lines increase the sense of restfulness and stillness.  If words such as rest, tranquility, stability, calm, cool, peacefulness, serenity, quiet, repose, and stillness come to mind, stand back from your yard and look at the lines. It helps to stand at the edge of the yard and squint your eyes. Or you can take photos. Print them out, preferably in black and white. Then use a colored marker or highlighter to capture the broad lines in the garden. Where are the horizontal lines?

Using Shapes in a Garden

Maybe It's Shapes that Catch Your Interest...

Plants have natural forms, and pruning can create beautiful, deliberate forms.  Many large shrubs can be maintained en masse, with the bottom slightly larger than the top to permit sunlight to reach all the leaves, creating a wedge shape, or pruned into a tree form with several clean and visible trunks topped by a mass of mounding leaves, reminding you of an ice cream cone. Maybe fountains of arching big ornamental grasses speak to your eye or rounded clumps of evergreen ground covers like liriope or pink skullcap sing to you visually.

It is especially important when designing a small garden, or even when transitioning a large garden to containers on an apartment balcony, that shape and pattern match your preferences. Circular shapes, squares, and right angles, used in garden design make all the difference in setting the character of your landscape and heighten your delightt

Using Color In A Garden

Does Color in Your Landscape Design Make Your Heart Sing?

Do you love the bright colors displayed by flowers and leaves, from the yellow burst of spring daffodils to the blues and purples of asters in autumn? Or are you enamored with shades of green through the spectrum – from yellow to blue to grey, expanding the palette in your garden with the play of light on shiny and dull leaves to make even basic greens look different. 

There is no correct or incorrect way to use color in the garden. Color selections are a matter of taste. For some, lots of mixed colors are perfect while a simple palette may appeal to others. There’s more to color choice than blooming flowers. Foliage provides an opportunity to add color in various yellows, reds, blues, grays, browns, and greens.  Consider the color of the fruit, bark, buds, and other plant parts. White foliage and flowers can lighten up dark areas in your garden. 

Using Texture In a Garden

Or Is Texture Your Passion?

Contrast often goes with texture. Here it’s time to consider items such as leaf size from huge to tiny, leaf design from surface to edges to arrangement on the twig. You may like big, deliberate contrasts - the juxtaposition of solid, wide agave leaves with small fat leaves of a succulent ground cover or many fine leaves in short grass or even the smoothness of gravel mulch. 

Maybe it's gradual transitions that catch your gardener's eye – from small fine grasses to medium sized grasses with wider leaves to a big hulking grass that’s the tallest, widest and has the fattest leaves of a collection.

The texture of plants changes with the direction of light. Up close, feathery foliage can create a mood that’s romantic or mysterious, and from a distance, a large mass of plants with a delicate texture looks soft and ethereal. Too much of any texture can be boring, uninteresting to the eye. Consider mixing textures so that they highlight one another.

Putting It All Together

Now ask yourself, “Do I have enough line, form, color or texture to keep me visually satisfied?” If not, imagine what changes you might make to improve what you have. Gradual changes can work well, as the plants mature and take on their full value in your design. All four design elements are essential.

And, look for your design preferences when you are out in nature, whether walking on your subdivision streets and viewing neighbors’ yards or eating lunch in your office building courtyard. While Pinterest is nice, looking at real landscapes in different sun, wind, and seasonal conditions can give you many clues to what works for your “design eye.” Looking differently at landscapes, you’ll find yourself intrigued, engaged, and enjoying your time outdoors – all good to manage stress and age with health.

Scan the composition of a garden’s design closely and study the four elements one at a time. This empowers you to understand how a garden is constructed and make better landscape design decisions in your own garden.

Ann Yakimovicz