Working in the field of landscape for so many years, I often assume that most people have a good working knowledge of horticulture and what is involved when creating a beautiful or functional garden.
This may be true in many cases, however; this week I would like to go over some great tips and hidden secrets that can really make the difference when designing your own landscape spaces as well as the installation of your hardscape, trees, plants, lights and water features.
One great secret that I always enjoy giving to people because I can see that it makes them think , is that in nature, there are no straight lines. When you start to think about it, it really is true. Nature is very curvy! She is loves the sine wave or in laymen’s terms, the zig zag.
When you look at an ocean wave, it is really just a bump on the sea. It has a trough and a crest and many brothers following it from out to sea which on big days, creates a corduroy set of sine waves running to the horizon. Rivers also come down from the mountains zigging and zagging around obstacles and cut deep into the canyon sides creating a curvy back a forth transition.
Even the mountain tops and hills in the distance move up and down against the skyline in graceful form and never run in a straight line. The point to all this is that , the design and implementation of curves in your landscape will automatically give you interest, a sense of calmness and mystery and make your garden feel absolutely natural no matter what type of plants or style you choose to impart.
Now here is the trick.
You also have to think three dimensionally when you apply the zig zag. It works horizontally, vertically and linearly. For instance. Let’s say you want to plant a group of trees or plants along a wall to soften it and create a natural looking design. There are many paradigms to this , like the hedge, groupings or focusing on color and texture, but the best way to start is with the zig zag.
The eye loves to see movement. Place your tallest like plants in a small group of three along the wall or structure that you are trying to soften. It will create a screening panel. Then leave an open space between this group and the next grouping of the same tall plants that you are installing. In the open spaces in between these tall groupings, you can put smaller and completely different plants for texture and interest. Make sure the smaller plants have a finite height at maturity.
This allows the heights to vary. If you visually draw a line along the tops of all the plants, it will create a repetitive pleasing sine curve that feels natural .The gaps between the groupings of the taller plants will also allow the space to breathe.
But you are not done yet.
As you place these groupings along the wall or structure that you are trying to soften, do not place them in a straight line mimicking the property line or boxy structure you are hiding. Bring them in and out away from the wall using the zig zag principal. As you do this moving along the planter, you will create greater depth and a much more natural feel for the plantings as they transition in and out of your garden.
The curve itself is also incredibly important for the transition of your hardscape as well. By moving the edge of your patio back in forth in a pleasing curve near a perimeter or structure, you can reduce the flat limiting feeling of a fence. This moving border will create larger planter spaces and accommodate larger plant specimens that otherwise would not fit into a small parallel planting area.
One of my favorite tricks for helping with a “ bowling alley” back yard is to move the hardscape patio border in towards the house while zigging and zagging. This creates interest and a larger planter that will divide the back yard into a couple of rooms or living spaces.