Square One: Spaces and Shapes for Your Landscape

Whether you plan to follow existing angular boundaries, carve out curving paths or pair circles and squares for interest and flow, it's valuable to try out basic shapes and think about how they'll set the mood for your space.

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Tree-Lined Garden DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

When choosing squares, rectangles or circles for a design, consider the size, shape and location of the space as well as surrounding buildings and boundaries. Small spaces are best fit with one simple shape, while larger landscapes have the room to host multiple forms.

Grab a pen and paper to experiment with different options in sketches. Try layouts based on existing features, the structure of the house and the way the garden will be viewed and used. In general, shapes with straight sides are easier and cheaper to build than circles and ovals.

Right-Angled Shapes

Straight-sided shapes divide the garden into separate areas, provide a strong sense of direction and highlight both long and short views. A long visual line running down the garden will lengthen it visually; a diagonal layout creates more interest. Blocks laid across the plot appear to shorten the garden and take the eyes to the sides, making the space feel wider.

Perpendicular lines and simple shapes give this plot a strong, unified feeling (image 1).

A diagonal layout directs the eye towards the corners (image 2). The overall design evokes energy.

A series of parallel paths tempts your curiosity to follow the paths to view the planting beds from close-up (image 3).

Circular Shapes

Circles are unifying shapes, suggesting harmony and calm. While combinations of circles can create interesting effects, they also leave awkward junctions that can be difficult to plant or fill with the right focal point. Rely on geometric principles to maximize the curvy appeal: for example, a path should lead you into the center of the circle, rather than the side. Ovals offer excellent alternatives to circles; their long central lines provide direction and orientation.

Three overlapping circles, aligned on a diagonal line, freshen classic principles of layout (image 1).

This design is a pleasing, asymmetrical take on the previous design. The shape evokes movement and whimsy (image 2).

Using ovals instead of circles adds a smoother flow by directing the eye along their lengths (image 3).

Mixing Shapes

Combining various shapes can create more interest, but at higher stakes: beware awkward areas carved out when a curve and a rectangle meet. There are a few general to follow when mixing shapes. Keep the layout simple. Experiment with scale and proportion to work out how many different shapes you can use at one time, and which ones. Use plantings as “glue” to bring cohesion to the mixing of shapes, and to focus attention away from awkward areas left by the design.

This traditional symmetrical layout achieves formal effect by using symmetry and concentric circles along a central line (image 1).

Replicating a shape, but changing its size and orientation, delivers a strong contrast (image 2).

This interesting and bold mixture of rectangles and curved hedge allows only one part of the garden to be seen at any time (image 3). In addition to inviting exploration and curiosity, this design strategy allows areas to have different themes.

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Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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