We all love a well-designed home filled with stylish, comfortable spaces, and we especially love when those spaces extend outdoors. The best landscape design blends seamlessly with a house, no matter its style, making it look like the hardscapes and plantings have always been there. But landscape design, like any other design, is definitely an art. We spoke with Louisville-based landscape architect Patrick Henry of Gresham Smith to find out more about the elements he thinks are the most important to consider when creating a design.
SB Note: This article was first published in 2018 and was republished with updated facts on July 18, 2022.
1. Create a plan.
Patricks’s first tip, not surprisingly, is to start with a plan with the help a design professional. “Landscape architects can help on so many levels. I love the projects that I get to take from start to finish, of course, but creating the plan is the best part,” Patrick shares. “I always encourage clients to come to the table with how they want to feel in the space, how they want to enjoy it. The best compliment I ever get is how much a client enjoys being in the space I designed.”
Here are five more landscape design tips to make your outdoor living space inviting and beautiful for years to come.
2. Find a rhythm through repetition.
We know. This isn’t dance or music class. But think about what makes a rhythm – a repetitive sound at regular intervals. Patrick likes using the word rhythm over just repetition because it captures the beauty of the structure found in design. “Use materials – both plants and hardscape – that build a common language within the design,” he says about the best way to find a design rhythm for a space. “Create masses of plants, like grasses or shrubs, to create the foundation. Then add repeating elements, like a particular tree species or stone paving pattern, to create strong, architectural lines.”
3. It’s all in the details.
Just like the wrong shade of lipstick, or adding one too many bangles, details can make or break a landscape design. “A good design becomes great design when the details are well-considered,” Patrick says. “The most important place to remember is when materials come together. Paving can be thought of as a carpet. Stone details can be sculptural. But when these meetings are overlooked in the design process, elements can seem disconnected or even simply won’t work in the build phase structurally. Well-done detail work is the key to elegant, functional landscape design.”
4. Think about texture and shape.
Flowers are seductive – that’s their purpose, right? But don’t get distracted by them. Go for the long-term when selecting what to plant. “Flowering is almost always just one stage – and often a short-lived one – so prioritize the texture of leaves or the limb structure of a tree so your garden is beautiful year-round,” offers Patrick. “The same advice goes for hardscaping materials. Go for naturally beautiful textures and simple, geometric shapes. Combine hardscaping materials judiciously. More than two can become confusing to the eye.”
5. Consider stone.
Natural materials often are the most beautiful and durable with colors and textures that just can’t be recreated. “When uncertain about the best hardscaping material – it can be tough to determine which materials will really work together – stone is often the best option. Stone tends to work with most building materials, like brick, clapboard siding, stucco, and glass,” Patrick explains. “It’s timeless and combines well with any house style – from colonial to Victorian to modern – and comes in a variety of textures and colors.”
6. Use annuals for color.
Annuals aren’t necessarily part of a grand design, but they can be the perfect final touch, and they’re a great way to add a bit of personality and incorporate color. “Once your design is in place, be sure to add containers and fill beds with annuals for a seasonal pop of color,” suggests Patrick. “This is the place to experiment and have fun. Annuals don’t come with a long-term commitment, so play with vines in railings, or incorporate herbs and plants that add a great smell to your entryway. Great containers are definitely worth an investment, and well-selected annuals can add life to an outdoor space.”
Thanks to Patrick Henry for passing along his advice for a well-designed outdoor space. We’re definitely ready to get outside and start creating!
All photographs provided by Patrick Henry, now with Gresham Smith.
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