7 Principles Of Landscape Design

To achieve a calm, optimal outdoor living space, the 7 principles of landscape design play an important role.

While a landscaper or property owner may opt for different stylistic choices depending on what a property calls for, everything relates back to the key principles of unity, scale, balance, simplicity, variety, emphasis, and sequence.

As we delve deeper into each principle, you will discover how they can be modified with line, form, texture, and color. All of these key tenants of landscape design are interconnected, relating to one another in several ways.

For an experienced landscape designer or property owner looking to do a little of their own layout building, knowledge of these is integral to arriving at a natural, intuitive property that is easy on the eyes.

1. Unity Organizes With Emphasis

There are various ways to use unity within landscape design. Unity can be defined as a way to attract attention by creating orderly groups of line, form, texture, or color within a property’s landscaping.

Unity can define small rooms or small gathering spaces in various pockets of an area’s landscaping. Curves and lines have their role to play in clustering elements together.

The direction and arrangements of plants, trees, and greenery, especially those that repeat, influence the appearance of unity.

Texture is another way to find unity. Foliage and twig size, the size and shape of leaves, spacing of leaves and twigs, colors and shading, and the gloss or dullness of leaves. These textures can present unity, or a lack of unity when little consideration is given to it.

Lastly, color is perhaps where most people see and define unity. Color is very powerful, and influences mood and feeling. As much as it can provide relaxation and calmness, it can also be confusing and anxious when misapplied.

2. Scale Compares Elements To The Fixed Structure

Scale is all about size. Typically, a fixed structure is used, i.e. a house, to compare landscape elements, i.e. a tree. The manipulation of scale can make elements feel large or small.

‘Relative scale’ relates to comparative size, or the relationship of one component to another. Nothing exists independently. There is a relationship between everything on and around a landscaped property. A natural relative scale feels relaxing and peaceful, blending landscape elements with a comparable size to a fixed structure.

Comparatively, there is ‘high scale’ which is used by overly large, tall structures. It can make a small space feel smaller. There is more action in high scale landscape design. It encourages people to move through a space. ‘Low-scale’ also exists and is used most frequently in residential landscaping as an aesthetic to encourage stillness, rest, and relaxation rather than movement through.

All of these terms and concepts around scale help determine what the correct size of individual elements should be.

7 Principles Of Landscape Design Balance

3. Balance Is A Lesson In Equilibrium And Symmetry

Balance is the relationship between left and right, and up and down, and front and back. The symmetry in design, or lack thereof, communicates a lot about the feel and atmosphere of a landscaped property.

You have ‘formal balance’ which is a repetition of left and right. In a sense, this is perfect symmetry. This balance is stable, stately, and dignified. It’s a go-to for a lot of landscape designers and property owners because of the value placed on symmetry but it is not the only way to use balance.

‘Informal balance’ is when there is a difference between left and right. This gives you a feel of liveliness, curiosity, and movement in the landscape design.

As one might imagine, there are lots of ways to use balance intentionally to craft the perfect landscape layout.


4. Simplicity Uses Minimalism And Creativity, And Repeats

Simplicity is to what degree there is repetition. Instead of creating unity with clusters of similar elements, simplicity encourages constant change but can also use smaller clusters so long as there’s not too much variety.

An example of simplicity is a row of shrubs repeating over and over using the same plants. While each plant is its own element, the repetition causes the eye to interpret this row as a single element, allowing landscape design to be creative with form.

Simplicity is often used to repeat plants, make sweeps or groupings, to spread out common greenery across a landscaped garden, and to duplicate common elements in ways that are pleasing to the eye.

Too much simplicity, however, is a bad thing. This is where some variety is needed to keep things interesting.

5. Variety Is About Cultivating Excitement Using Differences

Variety relates closely with simplicity but is its own principle. Variety is about the diversity and contrast of form, texture, and color. Without variety, you have monotony. You need variety to create excitement and avoid dullness.

The most straightforward way to do this in landscape design is by toying with height. A row of shrubs, for example, sits low to the ground. Without anything else, it can be fairly dull to look at. However, add a tree or two into the mix. The contrast in height adds variety and interest.

Another way to do it would be use different pots and plants, or different materials next to an element of simplicity.

Just like too much simplicity, on the contrary side, too much variety can feel awkward. It takes a balance of the two to work.

7 Principles Of Landscape Design Variety And Emphasis

6. Emphasis Choose Dominant And Subordinate Elements

In landscape design, you have the foreground and the background, and there are elements that dominate and others more subdued and secondary.

If every element is a dominant, nothing stands out. Just like you can have too much dominance, you can also have landscaping that lacks enough dominant elements. It takes meticulous planning to define dominance and subordination of a property’s elements, or risk having everything look the same and for a majority of people to lose interest in what they’re looking at.

Emphasis is done by manipulating sizes, shapes, groupings, and also incorporating the unexpected, such as a color, material, or item you might not expect to see where it is.

Emphasis is where a landscape design artist plans out centerpieces and how to best present them.

7. Sequence Defines Changes In Form, Color, Texture, And Size

Lastly, you have your sequencing. How does everything look together and is there a natural rhythm?

You don’t want sheer chaos in your landscape design. Just like in unkempt nature, patterns emerge. There are rhythms in texture, form, color, and size that hint at life, growth, and movement.

You can create sequences based on texture, such as moving from coarser texture plants to finer-textured plants, or do so with color as you move from cooler tones to warmer tones. Proper sequencing creates waves through landscaping that allows attention to naturally flow across everything with beauty.

These 7 principles of landscape design are followed, challenged, and used in gardens and landscaping everywhere to craft intelligent, intuitive outdoor spaces for homeowners and property managers all over the globe.

If you want to transform your outdoor space with professional landscape design, contact Green Earth Environmental Landscaping today! Simply give us a call or fill out the form below.