What components comprise a professional landscape?

As a landscape professional, I ask a fairly complex question of my customers; “what look do you have in mind for your landscape”? On many occasions I get, “I’d like my yard to look great” or “I want some nice curb appeal”. These generalized statements are exactly what designers constantly address. The fact is many customers lack an understanding of what a professional landscape can entail. I will cover some of the basics in the design concept below.

Per Wikipedia – Landscaping refers to any activity that modifies the visible features of an area of land, including:

1. Living elements, such as flora or fauna; or what is commonly referred to as gardening, the art and craft of growing plants with a goal of creating a beautiful environment within the landscape.
2. Natural elements such as landforms, terrain shape and elevation, or bodies of water;
3. Human elements such as structures, buildings, fences or other material objects created and/or installed by humans; and
4. Abstract elements such as the weather and lighting conditions.
Landscaping is both science and art, and requires good observation and design skills. A good landscaper understands the elements of nature and construction, and blends them accordingly.

The above definition speaks of elements both natural and human. A landscape professional will have an eye for combining these elements in a creative, harmonious, and sustainable manner. In a perfect world, I have a few elements available right out of the shoot. The first natural element I prefer to have or add is elevation. In the picture below, one can clearly see how the ground slopes. This is a good example of elevation change. Elevation change allows one to stack items, if done properly; nothing is hidden behind taller items. Depth is visibly created in the bed through the use of contrasting elements. The picture below does a nice job of featuring contrast as well. We see contrast in color from plant to plant and through the introduction of boulders. I also see the use of contrasting texture as some plantings offer long grassy leaves where others have small dainty leaves. I see too many landscapes where there is very little contrast between one plant and the next. This slope planted with only plants providing green foliage would have presented an entirely different look. Again and again, I see my eye drawn to landscapes that combine elevation change, stone elements, contrasting foliage color, contrasting foliage texture, and differing heights. If you can maintain these principles your landscape is off to the right start in my opinion.