Now that your structural elements are in place and lit up, it is time to turn your attention to the softscape, and especially to garden designs. Typically, your softscape will include at least some lawn. But the percentage of your softscape to be taken up by lawn will depend partly on practical considerations, as discussed on Page 1, as well as on aesthetic attitudes. If a flat expanse of grass just isn't inherently interesting enough for your tastes, you'll probably want flowering trees (see photo at right) in your softscape, and you'll probably derive a great deal of satisfaction from choosing between the different garden designs to be considered.
A Cornucopia of Garden Designs for Your Softscape
- There are, of course, vegetable gardens, which are eminently practical. But do not underestimate the aesthetic potential of vegetable gardens. Evenly planted rows of leafy vegetables, for instance, can be very attractive. Cucumber plants can be trained up a trellis or over an arbor just as any other vine can.
- Another garden type that can yield aesthetic as well as culinary delights is the herb garden. The knot garden, pleasing to the eye for those who enjoy geometric patterns, is often composed of herbs.
- Cottage gardens typically rely heavily on perennial flowers. Evocative of the traditional English countryside of the peasants, cottage gardens represent the informal design style.
- The formal landscape design style has traditionally relied heavily on shrubs tightly organized into hedges, forming geometric patterns.
- Water gardens have already been mentioned. Other garden styles that rely heavily on a natural element other than plants are the rock garden and alpine garden, the latter being a rock garden planted with alpine plants.
- Westerners have become increasingly interested in Japanese gardens. Exotic Japanese gardens rely heavily on both rocks and water, as well as wooden elements.
The Principles That Underlie Garden Designs
Regardless of garden style, let yourself be guided by the principles that underlie all garden designs. It is easy to overlook one or more of these principles, then look at other people's garden designs and wonder, "Why do these garden styles look so much better than mine, even though similar plants have been used?" Very likely, the answer to this question lies in adherence to the principles of design. For a full treatment of landscape or garden design principles, please consult my article on landscape design theory for beginners. The elements that underlie the principles of garden designs, which are defined in that article, are as follows:
Supplied with an understanding of these elements, one is then able to utilize the principles used in garden designs (also explained in my article on landscape design theory for beginners), which include: