Introduction to Garden Design

The goal of a landscape design is to create an outdoor living space which is both useful and visually striking.  The success of a design relies heavily on an understanding of a site’s natural conditions.  This includes sun and shade conditions, wind exposure, soil quality and potential views.  Only after a thorough site evaluation should you begin plant selection and design. Ultimately, gardens should be designed to meet the needs of the people who will use and maintain it.

The planting design should be compatible with the existing environmental conditions. But most important, the design should enhance the quality of life for the users. Good landscape design and the arrangement and placement of plants are all based on certain plant characteristics. The visual characteristics of plant size, form, texture, and color contribute to the functional and aesthetic qualities of a planting design.

Plant Sizes

Plant size should be the primary consideration. Large plants, such as shade trees, should be located first; the smaller trees, shrubs, and finally the groundcovers should be arranged to provide a sense of support or framework to the overall design. Shade and evergreen trees, such as maples or spruce, are the most dominant plants in the landscape design. They provide background, visual weight and structural framework. Ornamental trees, such as flowering crabapples and weeping birches, are used as focal points or dominant elements because of their seasonal and often picturesque branching characteristics.

LilacTall shrubs, such as viburnum and Lilac, help establish vertical edges to an outdoor space, create screens, enhance privacy, or provide a lush background. Small shrubs, such as junipers and boxwood, can define edges of garden paths and create garden spaces without blocking views.