Landscape architecture for beginners: what you need to know

"The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway." This quote from author, journalist and passionate gardener Michael Pollen captures the balancing act between rugged rural spaces and our love for clean lines and organisation. 

In combining these two polar opposites – order and wilderness – and following a few simple rules, you can throw yourself into learning landscape architecture for beginners in no time at all.

Assess your needs 

Before you allow your creative landscape design ideas to run wild, honestly survey the area you're working with. If your city town house only comes with a cosy yard, your primary concerns will lie in utilising every nook and corner to create the illusion of space and to optimise certain key elements like light and height. 

For those with larger gardens to work with, begin dividing the space up to accommodate the different ideas you want to implement. Maybe you're looking to create a secluded rose garden with a swing seat, or a play area for your family, or even a kitchen garden full of colourful vegetables and winding vines.

Follow clean lines 

When learning about landscape architecture for beginners, using 'regulating lines' is a good place to start. These are the prominent features that define the structure of your property, such as the corners, glass walls, protruding balconies or conservatories. Use these main angular markers to help guide the shapes you create in your garden, and to direct where your main focal points will lie. These centrepieces could then be fountains, a natural pool, a pagoda or a summer house filled with cushioned seats where you can lounge and read on sunlit evenings.

Alternatively, use the projected lines to map out hedging and delineate different areas, like your vegetable plot, and create a sense of privacy. These also work to forge a sense of order and calm in the inherent wildness of a garden.

Be generous with size

Even as a beginner, be bold and daring with your ideas and implement your plans on a grand scale. Turn the steps leading up to your back door into a sweeping staircase, or extend your porch into a decked terrace complete with low sofas and Moroccan cushions. When building upwards using trellises or pergolas, opt for designs that allow scented plants to climb up but without restricting the sunlight, especially around areas where you plan on lounging and soaking up the sun's warm rays for yourself.

Work from big to small

Landscape architecture for beginners is as much about plants as it is structures, and there's plenty of creativity to be found in the selection and creation of these living ornaments. A clever rule is to work from the largest plant down, beginning with any dominating trees you have and arranging the plants around these based on their needs. 

Deep green tropical plants prefer shaded areas underneath foliage, while certain roses and wisteria plants prefer to climb up walls or fences. Finally fill the lowest level with bedding plants, from tulips to pansies or sun-loving succulents, as they can fit neatly into the leftover gaps.

To see properties with blank slate gardens waiting for a budding landscape architect, visit the Engel & Völkers website.

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