Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Landscaping Made Easy, Part III: Layouts

I'm going to diverge from my plant-by-plant assessment of what (in my opinion) would be appropriate to integrate into a small-Centerpointe-yard landscaping plan, and focus on the issue of how to actually position trees and shrubs around a yard for maximum artistic impact. 

In my mind's eye, I can hear people saying to themselves, "Well, sure, some Texas wax myrtle might be a versatile and cheap choice for my yard... but I don't know how to arrange them and other plants so that they look good."

I use two very general artistic principles in DIY landscapingdiagonals and thirds (and to a lesser extent, the "golden section" rule, which is mostly a reference to focal point).  Even if you do not consider yourself to be artistic, if you simply apply these basic mechanical principles on their face, odds are good that you'll come out OK with a DIY landscape plan.

Basically what these rules say is that your eye prefers to see scenes chopped up into thirds, because a view of stuff chopped into halves is somehow unsettling to the brain.  And it prefers to see diagonal lines because horizontal lines are severe and discordant and visually-flattening, whereas diagonal lines impart movement and energy to a scene.  And the eye wants something to anchor itself as a focus.

Here is an easy smaller-scale example:

I bet your eye finds the scene in that photo to be fairly pleasing, doesn't it?  Here's why:
There are boundaries and visual cues in the scene suggestive of thirds...
...there are linear elements forming primary and secondary diagonals, which impart energy to the scene...
...and there's a nice big focal point.
Design gets a little tougher when you're dealing with a very shallow back yard, however, especially when you have competing objectives:  not only does the vegetation have to look good in the way of making an artistic impact, in Centerpointe, that vegetation has to provide a practical function (privacy screen) as well.  So compromises usually have to be made.  The biggest challenge to many Centerpointe homeowners is going to be creating an illusion of depth and movement when there's almost no backyard depth to work with:
I only have a puny 23 feet of depth to work with in the space between our back porch and the rear fenceline!!  The property is 70 feet wide, but the visual effect is flatter than a pancake because of the corresponding lack of depth.
My freedom to form visual thirds with my design was weaker here because there's a 2-story house behind the two wax myrtles on the right, and I had to concentrate on blocking that to the extent possible.  That was Priority #1. 
I had to concentrate on imparting as many visual diagonals as possible in a space that had almost no depth to work with.  But these two points are important:
(1) Notice how many of the resulting visual diagonals converge on the focal point.
(2) Notice that the focal point is off-set to one side.  Focal points do not need to be in the center of the field of view.  In fact, often times, you will unwittingly create an undesirable "halves-ie" view by centering them. 
Focal point, about which I'll post later.
You'll see these same principles manifesting in other blog entries, such as the one about Italian cypress
So there you have some compositional ideas about how to best turn your sow's ear of a tiny back yard into something that more closely resembles a silk purse.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'm forced to moderate comments because the spammers have become too much for me to keep up with. If you have a legitimate comment, I will post it promptly. Sorry for the inconvenience.