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  • Writer's pictureMartin Ford

Designing Three Dimensionally Gives All-season Pleasure

When we ask for a design for a garden or other landscape setting, we are normally given a two-dimensional drawing showing the placement of both hardscape and planting areas. This layout is functional in showing usage but doesn’t give either the immediate vertical effects or, more importantly, the evolving benefits of the tree canopies as they mature.

Landscapes are different from building designs in that they change over time. When this important aspect is left out of the design process, we lose the opportunity to see the fourth dimension - time. It is this dimension of time which relies upon having the vertical dimension to show what occurs when the softscape literally ‘grows’ into the living space.

So even though the plants are young now, if the design firstly shows the trees’ height when planted and how large they will be after five, ten and fifteen years, then we connect to this space in a much different way and will understand and look forward to the benefits to come. Recognizing how time adds to a design gives us another dimension and something beyond the two-dimensional picture to anticipate.

Anticipation is part of caring. Caring is a tangible feeling and for each of us it is a very personal journey. One of the questions I ask of people who want design ideas is, “What is your background?” This includes the culture they came from, the landscape they grew up with, and whether their parents or grandparents enjoyed gardens or farms. In recognizing their early influences, especially as children, it becomes clear what design elements would be most pleasing to them in the home they will live in.

Our website is set up to show design elements which are much more than simply tidy. In fact, ‘tidy,’ as a guiding design element, greatly limits the organic process that naturalizing a landscape necessitates. When tidy is prioritized, then even such things as falling leaves, plants growing tall, and reduced flowering due to shade become our guiding design requirements and so we end up with a suburban garden that conforms to the neighborhood and not to our own desires.

In a climate which is very seasonal with both long winters and sometimes long hot summers, the cold and heat limit our enjoyment of our open spaces, but if we have trees, rocks, water features and landforms other than flat, then we have varied motives for going outside and appreciating the nature that we are caring for in our own homes and streetscapes.

Each of the features above give the sense of maturity and visual interest which a lawn can never have by itself. An area of lawn in a design can actually be of benefit by showing contrast with the vertical elements, especially when the borders are shaped into curves and therefore soft and interesting.

A planting design which relies on flower and colour will be waiting until summer months before it can be appreciated. But if flowering trees such Magnolia and Redbud, along with flowering shrubs, are the foundation of the bed design then the perennial flower become a complimentary addition to the ever-present tree form – no matter what the season.


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