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The Elements of Landscaping Design

A well-designed landscape can make your property more attractive and increase its value. Landscaping Harrisburg PA can also save money on your energy bill and help reduce water waste.

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Designing a landscape is an ongoing process that changes over time as plants mature, environmental conditions change, and people use the space. Study the landscapes you enjoy in your neighborhood and community to get started.

Color is one of the most powerful tools a gardener has. It can be used to unify a design, direct attention to a focal point and create a sense of depth. It is also a great way to express creativity in the landscape.

Color can be a tricky part of the landscape to master, but understanding its importance can help you plan a successful garden. There are several ways to work with color, including using the color wheel and learning about warm and cool colors. Using the color wheel is the best way to understand how different colors relate to each other and which colors harmonize.

Choosing the right colors in your yard can make all the difference. It can draw attention to the right features of your property, whether that’s a flower or a rock garden. It can even make a small space seem larger. Warm colors, like reds and yellows, can be used to add energy and excitement, while cool colors such as blues and purples can evoke relaxation and peace.

Other uses of color include contrasting or complementing hardscapes and plants, or utilizing a neutral palette for a more formal garden design. A simple, natural color palette can be very appealing for a rustic garden or a garden inspired by nature.

If you are looking for ideas on how to incorporate color in your landscape, look around at local yards and community gardens. Keep an eye out for the colors that catch your attention and ask yourself what it is about them that makes them attractive. Then try to use those same principles in your own landscape. Remember, though, that it is important to have balance and repetition in your landscape. Too much of the same thing can be boring, and adding new elements periodically keeps your yard looking fresh.


The form of the plants and other elements in a landscape contributes to its aesthetic qualities. Plants may be round, columnar, weeping or spreading in nature and can compliment or contrast with other forms used in the design. Other forms, such as lines or paths, can also add interest to the garden.

The scale and pacing of a landscape is important to consider as well. The proportion of size and distance between plants, hardscape and garden ornaments is crucial for a well-balanced landscape. This includes the relative sizes of different plants, incorporating symmetry and asymmetry into the layout, utilizing repetition of shapes and colors to create familiar patterns in the landscape, and maintaining a balance between new and old elements so that the overall look is cohesive and harmonious.

A good landscape designer will understand the importance of these principles and will be able to incorporate ideas from gardens, public spaces or landscapes they’ve seen that they like. This is often the best way to find inspiration for your own landscaping project, as it allows you to see how other elements and materials are used in a successful landscape and can give you an idea of how they’ll work in your own garden.

Landscaping can be used for many purposes, including attracting wildlife, enhancing property value and increasing livability, providing a place for recreation and contemplation, and even improving environmental quality. Landscaping can soften spaces between buildings, provide pathways to other areas of the garden, accentuate a focal point in a garden or yard and serve as a link between the natural and man-made environments. Landscape can also help soften the appearance of structures such as roads and parking lots, create connections between spaces, serve as a space for outdoor dining or performance, and enhance the beauty of homes.


The visual qualities of line, form, color and texture are the main tools landscape designers use to organize a garden’s features. They determine plant selection and placement, hardscaping materials, surface finishes, water feature types and sizes and more. The elements of line, form, color and texture also play an important role in the design of spaces, such as beds and walkways, that tie together the landscape components.

Line describes the edge between two different materials, or the outline of a shape or form, or a long linear feature such as a pathway or fence. It is an important part of the design process because it evokes emotional responses and directs movement. For example, straight lines are formal and direct, curved lines are natural and flowing and jagged lines can be exciting or distracting. Line is a key element in the design of beds and paths as well as hardscapes such as walkways, sod and fences.

Form is the three-dimensional quality of an object that gives it a specific appearance, such as a round or oval tree form or a tall, narrow shrub or hedge shape. Like line, form is a key component of the landscape design process as it is enduring and permanent.

Repetition is the use of a pattern or sequence of elements and/or features to create a rhythm in the landscape. This can be done through the repetition of line, form or color. When used sparingly, repetition can add interest to the landscape. Often it is achieved by grouping similar forms or features in odd numbers, which adds visual balance and creates landscape unity. For example, a recurring theme of a row of three or more trees along a boundary helps to establish dominance and create a sense of harmony in the landscape.


The texture of landscape elements is important for creating contrast and visual interest. Texture is perceived primarily through touch, but can be conveyed visually as well. The smoothness or roughness of a surface draws the eye and may even create an emotional response. Texture may be created by the size of a plant’s leaves or flowers, its bark and overall branching pattern. Generally, coarser textures are bolder and more dramatic while fine textures such as ferns or hostas are more delicate. Texture can also be provided by the varying surface of a hardscape element such as a brick herringbone pattern or a gravel or pebble walkway.

Color is probably the most basic of the design principles, and it can be used in a variety of ways to unify your landscape. Use warm and cool colors to add contrast, or combine similar shades of the same hue to create harmony. A color wheel is an invaluable tool for planning flower and foliage combinations.

Line is another of the design principles that is a key to a successful garden. Line can be a pathway, fence, edging or wall that draws your eyes through the garden and toward a focal point such as a statue or water feature. Line can also be used to direct your eye away from an area that doesn’t work in the landscape and toward a spot that does.

Balance is an important design principle and a sense of balance can be achieved through the use of lines, color and texture. For example, to draw attention to a statue in your yard, reduce the clutter around it and surround it with a mass of bright flowers or a straight line of paving stones.


It’s important that the separate parts of your landscape work together to create a great whole. This is achieved through the use of all of the elements and principles. For example, the color, shape and texture of plants need to complement each other. The same can be said for special features, lighting, bed shapes and hardscapes such as pathways.

The theme is the overall design concept that guides the selection of plants, materials and other design elements. For example, a garden with a tropical or desert theme would include plants with unique growth habits and shapes. A garden with an informal style theme would include plants with loose growth and a natural appearance.

Line can be used to create sequences and patterns in a landscape, but it must be used carefully. Too many lines can become distracting and confusing. Repetition can also be effective in creating unity, but it must be balanced with variety. For instance, the same form of plant can be repeated throughout a landscape, but a different variety should be used to prevent monotony.

One of the challenges of landscape design is finding a balance between horticultural science and artistic composition. Often, decisions are based on intuition or current consensus rather than on hard data. For instance, there may not be any scientific evidence that a curved foundation planting is better than a straight one, but most contemporaries seem to agree that the curved design looks more appealing. When making these decisions, it’s important to study the landscapes of others to learn what styles you like and what designs are effective in particular site conditions. You can even borrow ideas from landscapes that appeal to you, but make sure to adapt them to your own site conditions.