Four elements of landscape design

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Four elements of landscape design

Landscape designers need a knowledge of four basic types of design.

The first is geometry and topography. To create a good site for a landscape, we need to understand how the elements of the site relate to each other, including distances, elevations, slopes, depressions, and contours. Geometry and topography provide a "blueprint" for all site decisions, and it is easy to see if a site has the right characteristics to be successful as a landscape.

The second type of design concerns site materials. For a good landscape to succeed, it must be made of appropriate materials and have appropriate proportions, as well as an appropriate siting and planting.

The third type of design has to do with selection and siting of plants and shrubs and/or trees. To properly select plants and trees, we must have an understanding of the plants' innate characteristics (such as their genetics, life forms, growth habits, form, texture, color, and growing season). We need to be aware of site and regional conditions that can affect plant choice and siting. We need to be able to estimate the plants' growth rate, how they will interact with each other, and how they will grow in the site over time. To help understand these characteristics, landscape designers must understand basic botanical terminology.

The fourth and final type of design is aesthetics and style. Aesthetics is defined by the interactions of plants with people, and by people with people. As a landscape designer, it is our job to make sure that plant and site choices are aesthetically compatible and that the finished product looks pleasing.

In the next few pages, I will describe the four major types of design and show examples of landscapes in each type.


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