A great landscape starts with a great design, and a great design incorporates, as any good work of art, the appropriate use of the elements of design. These basic elements include line, form, texture, and color.
Line is created in the landscape when two objects meet, such as where the bed edge and the grass line join together. They control the movement of the eye and the body throughout the landscape. Straight lines create a formal character and lead the eye directly to a focal point. Curved lines move the eye at a slower pace and create a natural and relaxed feel in the landscape.
Form or shape is created by an outline that encloses a space such as a rounded shrub or a pyramidal holly tree. Form is usually the dominant element in a landscape and can determine its overall style. Highly contrasting forms in the landscape create focal points, but should be used sparingly in the landscape to avoid a chaotic feel. Basic tree and shrub forms include Pyramidal, Columnar, Round, Weeping, Spikey, and Vase shapes. Geometric forms are typical of formal gardens. Whereas organic forms are found more often in naturalistic settings.
Texture refers to the surface of plants like the leaves and bark and are considered as having a coarse, medium, or fine texture. Coarse textured plants are usually the most dominant in a landscape and fine textures such as ferns tend to be understated yet unifying in the landscape.
Color in the landscape adds interest and variety. It can be monochromatic or complementary. Monochromatic plays on the different shades of green and the addition of one other color such as white. On the other hand, complementary colors are those that are opposite each other on the color wheel such as yellow and violet, green and red, or blue and orange. Cool colors are more calming; warmer colors are more exciting and passionate.
Have some fun and spend some quality time considering these basic elements for your next landscape project to make it truly unique and truly beautiful.