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Landscape design and style

by Max Phelps

Yards to Paradise

Let’s look at these two words with very different meanings, but which are often used interchangeably.

Landscape design is like getting out of the shower and putting clothes on. Landscape style could be a nice dress or suit, or jeans and sandals. You dress your landscape by starting with a design. But you can choose to trim the shrubs or let them be natural, you can have a gravel walk or a concrete one. You can be bold or restrained with color, plant choice, wood versus plastic for fencing or furnishings, and so on.

Designing a landscape for an enormous home or a tiny house—the needs of the occupants and the layout of things as you begin—are considerations which are really about the same. The lay of the lot, driveway, culvert, bridge, ditch, huge tree, steep slope, are all things to take into account before beginning a design. The resulting design could be most anything. But it needs to “work” for you and your household. If you find things “don’t work”, then perhaps a new drive or walk, a fence, a hedge, some trees, a patio, retaining walls, terraces can either be added or removed.

A good landscape “fits” the situation and location. It “works”.

Style of landscaping is something else. A Japanese garden doesn’t look like a cottage garden, but both can function just the same. If arrangement is good for ease of use, it’s not that big a deal if one person wants a look with clean modern lines and another wants a naturalized look with informal trees and shrubbery. From a lush grass carpet to a yard with all flowering groundcover, the “look” of a place can be adjusted for the tastes of the owner. If one person’s style doesn’t make the rest of us happy; well, it’s their yard, really.

Now let’s review. Style fits the personality of the owner or gardener. But design must allow for real needs; things like children’s play areas, a good spot to entertain guests, a screen for privacy, finding some other use of a slope too steep or too rocky, a garden spot for the gardener or a putting green for the golfer.

A marriage of a design that “works” and a style that “pleases” is probably what all landscaping should be about.

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