the importance of planning

The Importance of Planning

SINCE landscape design is primarily the arrangement of land
for use, planning must precede planting. The two must be integrated, the one to
serve as a basis for the other. Too often the beginner starts with planting and
proceeds no further. Then, after the planting is done, he finds that the basic
design and construction are difficult to accomplish.

Too many places are merely planted. When this happens we
soon become dissatisfied with our efforts and wonder why they lack interest and
charm. These qualities are not accidents but the result of well composed garden
pictures. A friend of ours, a careful gardener, had arranged her borders so
that they presented a lovely color display. Her husband, not a gardener,
remarked, "How nice it is that so many things happen to bloom in our
garden at the same time." "Happen," said she, "Happen
indeed! What do you think I’ve been doing all spring with charts, diagrams,
seedlings, and plants?"

Plants have to be carefully selected for definite purposes
and placed properly to achieve any sort of landscape composition worth looking
at. Not until we have designed our landscape pattern are we ready for planting
design. Not before, or at the same time, but after. We emphasize this because
so many people fail to realize it. They start to plant around the new home
before they have designed the circulation, or the areas, or provided for the
various activities.

Perhaps Americans have always been too horticulturally
minded in their gardening like the English who grow plants superbly but too
often arrange them in gardens carelessly, and unlike the French who design on a
magnificent scale and care little about the plants they use. There ought to be
a middle ground. Design must be good, but so must our gardening or else the
whole project fails.

Landscape design, like architecture, has moved a long way
from the Victorian era of the iron stag and the bed of cannas on the lawn. The
contemporary fashion is for simple, broad effects, easy to take care of. Color
is considered garish if there is no adequate background for it or segregation
from the rest of the landscape. The effectiveness of broad expanses of
well-kept lawn to serve as foreground for floral displays is fully appreciated.
The use of intricate garden patterns, except where more than the usual amount
of labor is available, is discouraged. This does not make gardens any less
effective, since we have learned to create simple pictures and lovely color
harmonies that do not need intricate designs.

From one basic design different designers would create as
many different planting plans. Not all would be pleasing if carried out. Those
in which attention had been given to the subtleties of planting design would be
the ones that would be, in the end, the most satisfying.

Many people still think of a garden as just a place to grow
flowers. It is more than that. It is a place set aside in which a series of
compositions, pictures if you will, created out of plant material, are set
forth for our enjoyment. Flowers there may be, and usually are, but there are
many beautiful gardens that contain few or even none at all. The effectiveness
comes from the artistic arrangement of plants which harmonize with each other
into groups. These, in turn, harmonize with all the other groups in the garden
to make one pleasing whole. If the growing of flowers were the only object, it
would be sensible to plant them in straight rows in an open field where they
could be more easily cared for.

Perfection of individual blooms, however worthy an object
that may be for the horticulturist, is not the principal aim in a garden. The
intention is quite otherwise ? the creation of landscape pictures. One cannot
begin to design the planting, therefore, with a list of plants, all of which
must be included in the scheme. They may be incompatible. The better way is to
choose and arrange the background material first, and then against this arrange
herbaceous material that seems to be harmonious, whose colors will blend well,
whose blooming period is the same or forms a desirable succession, and whose
form and habit of growth permit accommodation in the available space. Lastly
plants must be sufficiently interesting in themselves to warrant all this
trouble in placing them. One sees gardens full of the most ordinary and
uninteresting plants and one wonders why the owners bother with them. Use good
varieties, not necessarily the latest and the most expensive ones, but rather
those that have been on the market a few years and are of proven worth.


  • Good Planting Design Not Beyond The Amateur – Since landscape gardening is a fine art and not a science, as is horticulture, planting design, which is the carrying out of the basic design in terms of plant material, is no less an art. It must be approached with the underlying principles which govern good design.
  • Garden Patterns – Successful gardens are designed and planted according to patterns, and each pattern is based on principles of design, which are common to all the arts ? unity, coherence, and balance. For the purpose of study and comparison garden designs may be classified as formal and informal, conventional or naturalistic, geometric or of free form.
  • Locating Your Garden – The location of your garden necessarily depends upon the shape and topography of the lot, the type of house, its position in relation to property lines, and the location of garage, driveway, walks, and service area.
  • Simple Versus Complex Patterns – Too often the beginner selects for his first garden the most complicated pattern he can find. As experience increases he simplifies until finally a simple and direct scheme is produced.
  • Asymmetrical Patterns – There are places where simple schemes are not suitable. Perhaps, the axis cannot be laid out so as approximately bisect the available area as on a narrow lot. Perhaps one side of the area is much sunnier than the other, or perhaps a symmetrical scheme would seem too rigid, or out of keeping with the design of a rambling house.
  • The Importance of Planning
    Since landscape and garden design is primarily the arrangement of land for use, planning must precede planting. The two must be integrated, the one to serve as a basis for the other.

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