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Landscaping Design

There’s more to landscape design than putting plants in the ground. If you want to create a well-designed landscape, be prepared to put a lot of thought and planning into the project. Depending on your budget, you might want to consider hiring a landscape architect or designer.

In the planning stage, you’ll need to know what types of plants to use as well as a proper color scheme to complement your home. You’ll need to keep notes throughout the day that describe the sun’s position and where the pockets of shade are located.

To understand the key elements that go into a successful landscape, including hardscape and softscape, consider the following five elements:

Basic Landscape Design Elements


Color is defined by color theory. To show how color theory is used in landscape design, the spectrum is often divided into four categories:

  • Primary: reds, yellows, and blues
  • Secondary: greens, violets (purples) and oranges
  • Tertiary: mixtures of the primary and secondary categories
  • Neutral: whites, grays and silvers

Proper application of color theory will set the mood for your landscape. For example, blues tend to be calming and relaxing and are excellent choices for a meditation garden. Warm colors add excitement.

Use the color wheel as a tool to help you decide on color choice. It’s divided into slices that represent various color hues. Use the wheel to select adjacent colors in the spectrum for unity, or choose colors directly across from each other to create contrast. Achieve unity by matching warm colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows, or cool colors such as greens, blues, and purples. A complementary color scheme should also be considered against the color of your home or other structures. Plants with green foliage against a red brick house, for example, is a great example of complementary colors.

Seasons change and your landscape changes with it; consider color change throughout the year when developing your garden plan.

Distance Perspective

Colors can also be used to visually alter distance perspective. Warm colors advance an object or area toward the observer. Warm colors near the house’s foundation will make the house appear closer to the street. Cool colors and deep shades recede and can be used to make a house appear farther from the street.


The shape of the plant - oval, columnar, spreading, broad spreading, upright, or weeping - are examples of form. Form is the shape and structure of a plant or mass of plants. Structures also have form, which you’ll need to take into account while designing the area around them.


The arrangement of plants and their borders. Line is related to eye movement or flow. Curvy or free-flowing lines are gentle and graceful and create a relaxing, natural feeling.


The size of an object or objects in relation to surrounding plants or structures. Where size refers to definite measurements, scale describes the size relationship between adjacent objects.


Texture is the surface quality of an object that can be seen or touched. Surfaces in your garden can include buildings, walkways, patios, decks, ground covers and plants. The texture of plants will differ among leaves, twigs and branches from coarse, medium or fine to smooth, rough, dull or glossy.

Incorporate these five elements into your landscape design to ensure balance and visual appeal. Without proper planning, you could end up with hodgepodge landscaping that will detract from the beauty of your home and property.

Other considerations:

Theme and styles

Themes revolve around a specific subject. Any garden style can have its own theme.

Style should be considered in conjunction with your home. The style of your home is an important influencing factor over how you create your landscape style. Examples of styles are formal, informal, Spanish, English, or Victorian. Mediterranean landscape around a Spanish casa is a great example of style.

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