Landscaping Design Basics

Landscaping Design begins with observing the landscapes around you. Look at yards and gardens with a style you admire, taking note of plant material and hardscape features. Read on Landscaping Harrisburg PA to learn more.

Landscaping ServicesThe principles of order and balance guide spatial organization, ensuring different features carry equal visual weight from side to side and front to back. Symmetry is often found in formal landscapes, while asymmetry balances natural or informal features like ponds and fountains.

The line is a key element of landscape design that creates form. It can take many forms – vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight, curved, or flowing. In landscaping, lines define a path or accentuate a garden feature like a pond or patio. The right balance of these elements can distinguish between a bland yard and a spectacular one.

Lines are three-dimensional and a significant factor in how people perceive the world around them. They can draw the eye into the distance, around a corner, or out of the scene; holding or leading the viewer. This is similar to the way that lines function in a painting, drawing the viewer into and then out of the composition.

Landscape Designers use the elements of line to control movement and bring harmony to a landscape. They also use line to create balance and rhythm in the garden. Balance is achieved by balancing the positive and negative aspects of the design, such as symmetry and asymmetry.

The positive aspects of a landscape include color, texture and scale; the negatives are line, form and space. Landscape designers strive to achieve a harmonious balance of these factors by using the design principles of dominance, interconnection and unity.

To develop a sense of balance, a designer considers the size, shape and location of plants and hardscape features in relation to each other and the house or other buildings on the property. He or she may also consider the sun’s position throughout the day and how light falls on different areas of the landscape.

For example, a formal garden might include straight bed lines and structured, trimmed shrubs; whereas, an informal garden might be dominated by curved lines and a more natural feel. The overall style and feeling of a garden is determined by the design and material used.

To develop a personal style, gardeners can observe the landscapes of their neighbors and community. By studying the gardens that appeal to them, gardeners can identify the underlying design principles at work and borrow ideas that they might want to incorporate into their own landscapes.


The shape and form of plants, structures, hardscapes and other features in the landscape are very important to the design process. Mass, size and color are the other primary principles of landscaping design that help to organize space. These are enduring characteristics that work beyond a single growing season. Form refers to the three-dimensional qualities of an object, while shape is two-dimensional. The difference is very important in landscape design because it allows the designer to create a balance of occupied and empty space in the design.

Form, or shape, is the recognizable characteristic of a plant or other feature in the landscape that distinguishes it from similar objects. Easily recognized shapes can become focal points in the landscape, drawing and holding the eye’s attention. Often, simple shapes can be used to create a sense of order in the landscape by using repetition. This also helps to add visual interest in the garden or yard by adding variety and contrast.

Size is an important aspect of the landscape as well, affecting how much of the garden or yard can be used and how the design fits into its setting. The landscape designer will use scale in the design to ensure that it is proportional to the site and the needs of the homeowner. This is achieved through the careful selection of the various elements in the design and their relative sizes.

Lines and shapes are important in establishing the rhythm of a landscape. The designer will look for parallel lines in the planting beds, sidewalks and other hardscape areas to create a flowing and cohesive design. Other lines, such as curved lines, can also be used to emphasize a specific area or connect different forms in the landscape.

Color is an important factor in the landscape and should be used sparingly. The landscape designer will consider how the color of the landscape will change throughout the year and adjust the colors accordingly. For example, the brighter summer sun will cause certain colors to appear more intense, while the filtered light of winter may make other colors seem more subdued.


Movement is an important design element that adds a sense of flow to a landscape. It is achieved by creating smooth transitions in size, shape and texture. Abrupt changes from tall plants to short ones or a smooth surface to rough one can look jarring and are best avoided. A landscape should also have a sense of rhythm, which is achieved by repeating elements at regular intervals. This can be done by using plants, lines or even paving stones throughout the design.

The use of color is a great way to bring interest and drama to a landscape. Contrasting shades can create visual tension while coordinating colors can help to unify a design. Incorporating both warm and cool colors is also a good way to add depth to a space.

Scale or proportion is the relative size of different components within a garden or landscape. It is crucial that landscapes are designed on a human scale so that they can be easily walked through and enjoyed. Everything from the size of a flower bed to the placement of a bench should be considered in relation to the human body.

Sequence is the way in which elements are arranged around a focal point in a landscape. This can be achieved by using a variety of techniques including line, form, color and texture to draw the eye in a particular direction. For example, a statue can be framed by a line of evergreens, or a garden bed can be lined with bedding plants that match the color of the statue.

Unity refers to the way in which different parts of a landscape relate to each other. A balance should be struck between using a lot of different elements and using too few. Overcomplicating a design can distract from its overall beauty, and a lack of variety can lead to monotony.

The use of these principles can help homeowners, businesses and landscapers create gardens that are both beautiful and functional. By studying designs that appeal to them, they can learn how to use the elements and principles of composition in their own yard or garden.


A central point attracts the eye and guides it around a landscape. Focalization is an important part of any design, and can be accomplished by a variety of means, including a large specimen plant or even a simple lawn adorned with a single accent tree. When focalization is done well, a garden looks organized and refined. Focalization is particularly useful in framing a view or drawing attention to a specific part of the yard, like a home’s front door.

Another essential landscape design principle is balance, which is the distribution of visual weight throughout a garden. This can be achieved in many ways, including through the use of different colors and textures, and through varying the size and shape of plants and trees. It is also important to use a variety of forms in your landscape, as this adds depth and interest. Balance can also be asymmetrical, which creates a more dynamic effect and can be used to draw the eye through or across a landscape.

Unity is the sense of oneness and wholeness that landscape elements – including grass, bushes, and trees – have in common. This is the result of a number of landscape design principles, such as dominance, interconnection, and simplicity in arranging textures, colors and forms. Unity is achieved through the use of different elements that are unified by a common theme, such as the time tested Japanese Garden or Formal Landscape style.

Proximal/distal balance is a design principle that focuses on the relationships between near and far landscape components. It is a type of perspective balance that allows for the relative differences in sizes between foreground, mid-ground and background landscape elements. For example, a shrub that is planted in front of your house visually balances the chimney on your roof by being a similar height.

Transition is the gradual way that color, shape and plant sizes change throughout your landscape. Too abrupt a change in appearance can break the flow of your landscape. Therefore, it is best to make your changes gradually – such as planting a short plant next to a tall one – instead of all at once.