Credentials & Services
John A. Morley N.P.D., B.Sc., M.Sc.
BASIC PRINCIPLES AND ELEMENTS OF
Simplicity is the essence of design. This is an objective that I have always
tried to achieve in all of my previous residential, commercial, institutional
and recreational projects. How a designer creatively combines plant material and
other design components into a simple, unified scheme is always an exciting
Simplicity is the
essence of design.
In the landscape palette, the designer is dealing with living plants that are
subject to a myriad of weather conditions, different soil types, insect and
disease problems, and a host of other environmental and physical circumstances.
The landscape artist must deal with plants that celebrate the seasons with the
unfurling of leaves in spring, the aroma and visual delight of ephemeral
flowers, and the bareness of branches in winter. Change in the landscape is
never constant as the seasons come and go. How the designer successfully
combines plants and other material components in the Landscape Planting Plan
involves paying careful attention to detail, a thorough knowledge of practical
horticulture, and a good understanding of the basic principles and elements of
design. The designer faces the challenge of creating a plan that is pleasing to
the senses and that visually, functionally and aesthetically improves the
appearance of the landscape at an affordable cost.
(Japanese Flowering Quince) Seasonal design considerations.
Viburnum opulus (European
Highbush Cranberry) Winter fruit is an important design consideration.
LINEIn curvilinear design, lines should be dramatic, done with a sense of
flamboyancy and be very expressive in their shape. Curvilinear lines that have
weak, scallopy edges will not be visually interesting or pleasing to the eye.
Curvilinear, meandering lines suggest a naturalistic look that invites the user
to casually stroll through and experience the landscape.
Effective use of
circulinear line form.... Vancouver Parks Board.
On the other hand, linear lines such as those found in a straight hedge or
the edges of paving materials suggest quick, direct movement. Angled lines can
create opportunities for creating the "bones or the framework of the
landscape". Lines that interconnect at right angles create an opportunity
for reflection, stopping or sitting.
Weak, scallopy edges
leave a lot to be desired.
Through skillful use of lines in the landscape, the designer is able to
direct the attention of the viewer to a focal point.
Linear / curvilinear lines
FOCAL POINT OR EMPHASISThrough the use of emphasis, eye movement is directed towards a center of
interest that takes a position of prominence in the landscape. This could be a
single tree, a beautifully designed water feature, a piece of sculpture, or a
collection of ericaceous plants that automatically draw the eye to this point of
interest. Open lawn areas, paths and strategically placed plants can lead the
eye to the principal feature without distraction. Plantings should be placed to
easily lead the eye to this center of heightened interest.
Sculpture / maze garden
in Japan. Elevated pieces of sculpture create emphasis in the landscape.
Secondary features of landscape interest can also be created. In this case,
while this components are beneficial in contributing to the unity of the site
and tying the total composition of the site together, they have considerably
less overall impact than the focal point.
FORMForm relates to the natural shape of the plant. For example, a plant that is
very fastigiate or upright in its habit of growth is said to have a vertical or
aspiring form. Ginkgo biloba "Princeton Sentry"- Princeton Sentry
Ginkgo- is a good example of this form.
Other plants that are spreading in their habit of growth are said to have a
horizontal or spreading form. A shrub example of this form is Taxus x media
"Hillii"-Hill’s Yew- and a tree example is Quercus palustris- Pin
Oak. The Hill’s Yew could be effectively used as a hedge to provide special
definition between two properties. When horizontal forms are placed together as
is the case in the hedge, the individual vertical forms take on a horizontal
Weeping, drooping of pendulous forms can also be used to create softer lines
or as interesting accents in the garden. Fagus sylvatica "Purple
Fountain" – Purple fountain Beech- is an excellent example of this form.
A magnificent example
of Fagus sylyatica 'Pendula' (European Weeping Beech).
There are also rounded or globular forms that are useful in creating large
masses. The majority of shrubs fall into this category.
TEXTURETexture relates to the coarseness or fineness of a leaf, roughness or
smoothness of the bark, heaviness or lightness of the foliage or other
components used in the landscape plan. In terms of plants, the large, glossy
leaves of Bergenia cordifolia "Bressingham Ruby"- Bressingham Ruby
Bergenia- make it a coarse textured plant when compared to the medium textured
plant Pachysandra terminalis- Japanese Spurge- used adjacent to fine textured
Ornamental grasses and
herbs are complimentary in texture.
(Ironwood) A native tree that exhibits excellent texture.
When using ornamental grasses for example, a gradation of textures from fine
to medium to coarse could be as follows:
1. Festuca glauca "Elijah Blue"- Blue Festuca Grass
2. Deschampsia caespitosa- Tufted Hair Grass
3. Calamagrostis x acutiflora "Karl Forester"- Feather Reed
Texture in the landscape depends upon the distance from which the plant is
viewed by the observer. In distant views, the overall mass of the plant is the
dominating feature and the fineness or softness of a leaf or branching pattern
Fagus grandifolia (American
Beech) smooth bark texture.
In terms of the overall planting plan, texture must balance in relationship
to the axis. Weight on one side should equal the mass on the other side of the
axis. For example, much fine texture- as the case would be in using Buxus- is
required to balance relatively little coarse texture, as the case would be in
the use of Viburnum rhytidophyllum, the Leatherleaf Viburnum. Intermediate
plants are recommended to provide the necessary transition from one textural
extreme to the other.
COLOURColour theory is a very complex and very personal matter that expresses
individual taste and feelings.
Vigorously use colour in
Warm colours advance...Salt
Lake City, Utah.
Warm colours such as reds, oranges and yellows tend to advance towards to
viewer while blues, violets and greens tend to recede into the landscape. Warm
colours read well and affect the eye more quickly than do cool colours. When
using warm colours, they should be used in sequence which must be smooth and
gradual. For example, red to scarlet to orange scarlet to orange to bronze to
orange yellow to yellow to pale yellow to cream to white.
Consideration of the use of colour in plantings requires a thorough,
practical understanding of the personality of the plants. To vigorously use
colour and effective colour combinations requires a thorough knowledge of
plants, their colours and seasonal changes with detail of twig, leaf, flower and
fruit as well as principles of colour.
BALANCEBalance is either formal (symmetrical) or informal (asymmetrical) in nature.
In formal balance, the mass or weight or numbers of objects on either side of a
central axis should be exactly the same. Plants are frequently clipped, lines
tend to be straight, and edges are clearly defined. For asymmetrical balance,
plants should be irregularly placed on either side of an imaginary axis so that
the mass or weight on either side of the axis appears to be balanced. Curved
lines, obscure and merging edges and natural contours identify asymmetry in the
REPETITIONBy repetitiously using identical or similar components elsewhere in the
landscape, the designer is able to achieve a unified planting scheme. However,
it is important not to excessively use any materials too frequently as this
could lead to monotony. A delicate balance is necessary to achieve a design that
is visually, functionally and aesthetically attractive.
|Repetition of diamond
flagstones creates movement in paving pattern.
||The repetitious use of
paving stone creates unity in the landscape.
VARIETYIt has oftentimes been said that "variety is the spice of life". In
terms of landscape, it is often important to remember that a variety of lines,
forms, textures and colours is required in order to achieve an interesting
landscape. Without variety in both the use of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’
landscape materials, this can lead to unfavourable results.
A variety of forms
creates significant landscape interest.
GROUPINGMuch greater appeal is achieved when odd numbers of plants are used in the
landscape. Groupings of three, five, seven, nine plants etc., will create a
strong feeling of mass and a bold landscape statement. Plants should be
irregularly spaced and every effort should be made to avoid placement of plants
in an equilateral triangle. When grouping, a designer usually starts with a
specimen that establishes the scale of the landscape. Around it are grouped
slightly less important plants which complement the specimen in colour, texture
and habit of growth. Planting one of this and one of that will create a spotty
MASSMade up of plants that cannot be seen in their entirety from any one vantage
point. Seasonal stability and variety in plant mass is accomplished through a
mix of evergreens and deciduous plants. Only rarely should a design consist
exclusively of evergreens or deciduous material instead of a mixture of both.
Mass planting of
groundcovers for slope stabilization.... Seattle, Washington.
To create a harmonious effect in any group, a designer should strive to
properly fit together plant forms, textures and colours into a harmonious whole
or mass. Size of any mass or composition depends upon its location in
relationship to other factors such as the need for screening, proximity to other
groups, etc. Mass can be any size, but smaller masses or clumps are not normally
as effective as larger, bolder mass plantings.
SCALE AND PROPORTIONGood proportion and scale have no hard and fast rules. Generally speaking, it
is a matter of "does it look right?" Scale usually bears reference to
the size of a thing or object that appears to have a pleasing relationship to
other things or to the design as a whole. It essentially relates to some finite
measure of universal application or a standard of known dimension.
This moon gate is in
perfect proportion to its setting.
Proportion is the relationship of the width to the length of an area or the
relationship to parts of an organization.
RHYTHMRhythm is expressed through the placement of plants, park furniture, etc.,
either individually or as group. For example, several benches could be placed at
regular indentations along a shrub border. If every other bench was replaced
with an attractive piece of sculpture, rhythm would be created that would
relieve any monotony from the overuse of one landscape component.
Repetitious use of
sculpture in landscape reduces monotony and results in the establishment
SEQUENCEThe effective use of sequence is oftentimes employed to create visual
movement in the landscape. It is an important consideration to take into account
in the development of the overall planting pattern. For example, sequence could
be an orderly natural combination of plant material. In this case, low objects
would appear in the foreground, intermediate objects in the middle ground, and
tall objects in the background.
An orderly, sequential
arrangement of heights.
Triggered by the term "experience", how effectively the designer
addresses people’s needs and the functional requirements of the site,
considers ongoing maintenance requirements and the selection of appropriate
plants, efficiency and economics will all combine to measure the aesthetic
success of the project. All of the above must be carefully woven together to
create an outdoor room that is truly pleasurable and enjoyable on a year round
basis. Celebrate the seasons in style. Start the most fascinating of the fine
arts by developing a garden that takes into account the above principles and
elements of design.
John A. Morley