5 Simple Professional Design Strategies

5 Simple Professional Design Strategies


It's always about this time of year when i begin to get down to business and really evaluate where I should spend my time in the garden this coming season. Without fail, I tend to go back and take a look at the same fundamental top 10 basic design strategies and how i can improve them or re-work them in my own garden. Here are the first five of my favorites:

1. Your lawn is a design element.

One of the biggest and most important design elements in most peoples property is the lawn. It's usually the largest shape and sets the tone for the entire space.The shape, size, and definition of it it crucial. Re-think the notion of it bleeding off into oblivion and give it a definite shape with boundaries that tie into the overall plan. The lawn should always be another design element, not filler in-between beds. 


2. Don't undersize your flowerbeds.

Variation in height, form, and texture of plants are what makes beds successful.

In order to get the maximum effect you need to have significant sized beds. Beds should be at least 3 feet deep, but ideally at least 6'. If space is at a premium, use columnar shaped plants or vines at the back of the bed to maximize the height of the planting. 


3. Create strong bones.

Bones of the garden are the structural plants which give your garden its foundation. I prefer them to be the cornerstone of the design and usually make them evergreen shrubs for year round interest in the garden. Once the framework is created, it then becomes significantly easier to infill with flowering plants, groundcovers, or flowering shrubs.



4. Keep the planting simple.

Before I begin any design project I sit down and create a very rough list of the plants which are appropriate for the setting. As I'm working through the design on paper, i continue to reference the list to avoid creating a design which is cluttered with too many things. In most cases, I end up with 6-8 basic plants which i arrange in repeated patterns for an overall coordinated effect and then use an occasional different plant to keep interest.



5. Use focal points sparingly.

Focal points should be used sparingly and integrated into the design. They can be the design element which makes a garden or breaks it. I use them where they make sense - as a surprise when you turn a corner, at the end of a lawn in the distance, or as an element to draw you out into the garden.

Focal points don't have to be statuary or birdbaths- they can be arbors, swings, or a dramatically shaped tree. Most importantly, don't cheap out as all of the attention of the garden will be on the element.  

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  • Ulysses Hedrick