Whether you are adding a bit of a landscaping or starting a whole new garden, it’s often a good idea to take a step back and look at shape of your garden’s layout.
By this, I am mean the shape of the ground plane.
I discussed this a bit in my post on Positive and negative space in the garden, but lets take another look at it today.
The ground plane is the floor of the outside space. It can be made up of a variety of materials.
These materials are usually subject to the most wear in a landscape. They need to be able to withstand use by people, pets, run off from heavy rain, etc.
Where the edges of different materials meet, shapes are formed.
These shapes are a basic element in a landscape design.
Softscape materials (plants) that can make up the ground plane
- Shrubs (often in mulched beds)
- Ground covers
- Flower beds
- Meadows or Prairies
- Wooden decks,
- Wood chip paths
- Concrete – poured,
- Concrete – pavers
- Pea gravel,
- River rock,
- Crushed granite or limestone,
- Water – ponds, pools, etc.
The shapes these materials form on the ground plane usually defines the framework of the landscape. They can also go a long way toward establishing the mood or theme of the garden.
Is using straight lines in a garden a bad idea?
The shapes that the edges on the ground make can be seen as straight or curved.
Curved lines are seen as natural and informal.
Straight lines and the rectangular or angular shapes they make are seen as a more formal way to arrange the garden.
These geometric shapes can show an underlying power to control the landscape by man. This garden space is an example.
It is not uncommon to hear of distaste among gardeners and designers for straight lines and formal gardens. However, showing a human influence in a landscape is not necessarily a bad thing.
“In many studies on people’s environmental preferences, the scenes that receive the most favorable ratings are ones that include both a natural setting and clear human influence.”-P.37-38 of With People in Mind: Design And Management Of Everyday Nature.
A very naturalistic garden such as a prairie garden in a residential setting is a perfect candidate for some straight lines and formal shapes. Formal shapes help show a human touch so neighbors see it as a garden space that is being cared for as opposed to a neglected area.
It seems our minds usually like order and organized patterns as it makes it easier to mentally process. This can reduce mental fatigue and help us relax.
Bobbi Mullins says
Just wondering if I could use one of your photos (witch hazel) on my website and give your blog the credit? I’m writing an article on the herb, witch hazel, today, but I have no personal pix. Thanks for a prompt reply. (Sorry, but I couldn’t find any other way to contact you.) Happy New Year!
Sure, I would ask that you also include a link back to the post.
Reuben Huffman, APLD says
I appreciate this article, especially the quote about ‘clear human influence’ and the last two paragraphs. It rings true to my own experience and what I hear clients desiring. I picture the vast natural expanse found in various national parks – – and then a well-paved path to a vista point with a sturdy attractive bench: just right!