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Lesson 1 - Principles of Landscaping

This lesson is designed to provide you with a general background on the major principles of landscape gardening.

Every landscape consists of living and non-living components. Examples of non-living components are rocks, paths, walls and garden accessories. The living components of the landscape are the plants (and perhaps the animals that inhabit it). A landscape is made attractive or otherwise by the way in which these components are selected and arranged together.

Formal Garden The basic principles of landscape design are those things that influence the way in which the components are used. For example, the overriding principle in Oriental gardens is unity - between rocks, plants and water. For Le Notre, a famous 17th century French designer, a very important principle was that of symmetry, while Capability Brown, an influential 18th century English landscaper, believed the most important principle was for landscapes to be natural in appearance.

Ground form, structures and plants all need to be organised into a pleasing composition of spaces to satisfy the principles chosen by the designer. Some of the principles, which can be used, are described below:

  1. Unity: Unity is achieved by grouping, placing or arranging in such a way that several individual components appear to have a sense of oneness. A desirable appearance needs to be achieved from all points of view. A repetitive pattern can be used to create unity. For example, if you are placing rocks in the garden, use the same type of rock throughout the garden, rather than an assortment of different rocks with varying colours, textures and shapes.

  2. Balance: This refers to an equilibrium, which can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. With symmetrical balance there is a duplication on either side of an imaginary line of landscape components in terms of line, form or colour - for example, two similarly shaped garden beds in front of a house. Symmetry is an important feature of formal landscapes.

    Asymmetrical balance involves dissimilar placement of different objects on either side of the same sort of imaginary line, but in a way that an equilibrium still exists - for example, three or five silver birch trees planted in a group. Asymmetry gives the garden a more relaxed, natural appearance.

  3. Proportion: This refers to the sizing or scaling of components in relation to each other and to the total landscape. For example, tall trees are not in proportion if used in a small courtyard, nor is a small shrub in proportion in the middle of a large expanse of lawn.

  4. Harmony: This refers to the way different parts of the landscape fit together. Overall, most designers strive to achieve a harmonious design, although perhaps not in all parts of the garden.

  5. Contrast: Contrast is in opposition to harmony and should not be overdone. Occasional contrasts are used to create an eye-catching feature in a garden. For example, contrasting foliage texture, colour or form provide a focal point in the garden.

  6. Rhythm: Rhythm is a conscious repetition of equal or similar components in the garden. It is usually created by repetition and transition (the slow change from one thing to another).

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