Pull Your Garden Design Together With Lines

As you plan your garden, it's important to create a line—a path or route that leads the eye through the space—to help pull together the overall look of your design.
Oval Lawn

Oval Lawn

The elliptical lawn in the small terrace pulls the eye away from the edges. The decorative element at the end of the lawn works as a focal point, pulling the eye toward the opposite end.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

The elliptical lawn in the small terrace pulls the eye away from the edges. The decorative element at the end of the lawn works as a focal point, pulling the eye toward the opposite end.

Some of the best garden designs are based on strong lines and shapes, which determine the style, proportions, and movement in the garden. The line of a garden usually refers to a path or route that leads the eye and directs you through the space, but in some cases, it forms the basis of the ground plan, and may be less obvious in the final design.

Lines impose order and offer clarity, helping to control the overall look of the garden, while shapes and volumes fill the spaces between them. Rather like laying a rug in the middle of a floor, shapes also provide definition and pattern, and create space for you to stand at a distance and appreciate the different features of your garden. 

Shapes and lines signify the style of your design, too. Curved lines and oval shapes usually give a garden an informal appearance, while straight lines, squares, and rectangles generally confer formality. Lines and shapes can also divide up a yard into smaller spaces, with proportions that feel more comfortable for the human body. 

To design your lines, start by sketching a rough outline of your garden on a letter-size piece of paper, and photocopy it a few times. Then look through photos, books, magazines for ideas on the best lines to use, and start experimenting. The main pitfall is to base your designs on complicated and fussy shapes, which are difficult to navigate. Practice drawing broad, sweeping curves or strong straight lines that make the most of the space, and try to get the proportions right. Think about directing the eye away from the boundaries, unless you have a good view—in which case, create lines that flow toward the vista. And consider how your lines will come to a stop—they should always end with a focal point, be that a specimen tree, beautiful flower border, or piece of sculpture. When you are happy with your lines, fit in shapes around them that are sympathetic to the mood you have created. 

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