December 7, 2023
How Landscape Designers Create Attractive Outdoor Spaces

Landscape designers can create attractive, inviting outdoor spaces. Understanding the basic concepts they use can help you design your own landscape.

Lines are important in a landscape because they organize and define forms that extend from the house to patios and focal features. Straight lines create a formal character and are associated with symmetrical balance. Curved lines create a more natural, relaxed character and are often associated with asymmetrical balance.


Unity is a landscape design principle that allows the eye to move throughout the property with purpose. It’s about designing for flow and making sure that every aspect of the landscape has a place in the overall design.

This includes places to start, points to slow down and features that invite you to engage with the space. It also includes the overall feel of the design. For example, using a specific hardscape material or plant color in a way that is consistent and unified across the entire property can help to create a sense of flow and unity.

Another form of unity is interconnection, which is the physical linking of different elements or spaces in the landscape. This is often achieved through paths, walkways and garden rooms. Unity can also be created through repetition, which is a great technique to use but it can also become overused.

Other forms of unity include transition, line and proportion. The size of each component in the landscape should be balanced in relation to its surroundings. Straight lines impose structure, have a formal character and are associated with symmetrical balance while curved lines have a natural, relaxed and informal feeling and can lead the eye to focal points.

The properties of lines affect how we respond to the landscape and can influence its mood. For instance, upward lines emphasize a focal point and can create a sense of movement or activity while downward lines can emphasize the size and scale of a structure or feature. Lines can also be used to create perspective, creating the illusion of depth and distance. Finally, transition can be created through the use of plants with different foliage colors and textures or through the gradual changing of soil types.

Focal Points

Focal points draw attention and create an invitation to explore the landscape, guiding the eye through the space. They are also a way to set the space apart and make it distinct from what surrounds it.

They can be anything from a stand-out plant or grouping to a statue, garden ornament, trellis, or pond. In the case of a fountain or pond, they can also serve as the starting point to a waterfall. Focal points can be simple, such as a sweet sculpture that stands out among a planting of flowers, or elaborate, like a stone statue that becomes the centerpiece of a courtyard.

It is important to think of the style of your home and landscape when choosing a focal point, as well as its size. A large statue may overwhelm a small yard, while a tiny garden gnome might be lost in a big space.

Oftentimes, a focal point will become more of an attraction as the seasons change. A firepit, for example, might not be the most attractive during dreary winter weather, but will quickly become the center of attention when the nights get warmer.

One must exercise restraint when creating a focal point, as too many features can distract from the intended purpose. It is also helpful to consider the use of lines as a part of the design, as straight lines can direct the eye where it wants to go, while curved lines present more of a flowing effect. Keeping these tips in mind, our professional Portland or Beaverton landscape designers can help you create a stunning focal point that will be the envy of your neighbors. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.


A landscape design is a living work of art, changing with the seasons and environmental conditions. As such, the landscape designer must rely on the principles of good design to provide a harmonious, functional, ecologically sound design that meets the client’s needs.

One of these key principles is simplicity. This doesn’t mean a design should be boring, but that it should avoid over-stimulating the eye with contrasting elements and materials. Instead, simplicity can be achieved by adhering to a time tested design theme or style and keeping an eye on using repetition, balance, line, form, contrast and color to unify the design.

For example, in a landscape composition, the use of different shapes, lines and forms can highlight features and create movement in the space. The use of colors can also help to direct the viewer’s attention. Warm colors (reds and oranges) advance towards the viewer, while cool colors such as blues and greens tend to move away from the viewer.

The principle of mass describes the size, shape and overall appearance of plants, structures, and other landscape elements. The concept of mass is important because it determines the scale of objects in a landscape, helps to achieve balance, and provides visual consistency. Empty or “void” space is also important in a landscape design, and the design of a lawn or other open spaces is critical to the success of many landscape designs.

Landscape designers often use the design principle of rhythm to bring harmony and movement to a landscape. Rhythm is created by the predictable repetition of plant groupings, structures and other landscape elements such as lines and textures. This can be seen in the way grass is placed in a yard, where sidewalks meet pavement and in the repetition of shapes and forms in the landscape such as sheared golden false cypress paired with columnar holly or rounded evergreen shrubs with hedging.


Landscape design helps to soften spaces, provides links between areas and can offer an opportunity for relaxation or gatherings. It can also enhance property values, provide a habitat for wildlife and improve the environment.

Many people dream of having an attractive, inviting landscape that is the envy of friends and neighbors. While this may seem like an impossible task, learning the basic concepts that professionals use can help you to create your own unique space that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Unity is the main concept that ties the different parts of the landscape together. This can be accomplished through the use of color, texture, patterns and other features that are repeated throughout the space. The design of the plantings can have a huge impact on unity as well; a bed filled with plants that are similar in size, shape and color will often have a stronger sense of unity than a plant bed filled with contrasting colors and forms.

The overall sense of unity can be further enhanced through the use of regulating lines that connect the various elements of the landscape. Walkways, water features and even the simplest bed shapes can all serve as these regulating lines and contribute to the overall feel of a landscape. Similarly, the use of groups in odd numbers such as threes or fives adds visual balance while promoting landscape unity.

Increasingly, landscape architects are being called upon to address questions about the inclusion of diverse people in their work and how they can better reflect communities and their cultures in their designs. Jones Allen says that while the green industry has made progress in this regard, there is still much work to be done. She points to the Landscape Institute Diversity & Inclusion Group and the Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network as examples of landscape professionals working towards greater equity.


Repetition of shapes, lines, forms, colors or textures adds interest and harmony to a landscape. It also creates a sense of order and unity. This can be done by using repetition in a series or through alternation. Alternation can be subtle, such as using different sizes of the same plant or varying the heights of plants in a grass garden. A more noticeable form of repetition can be created by gradation, where there is a gradual change in the size or texture of an element. For example, you might use small tufts of grass at the front and then larger ones behind them or you could choose to use plants with different shapes but similar colors (e.g., round plants versus pyramidal plants).

Another important principle is hierarchy, which means establishing a sequence that moves the eye through a landscape. This can be achieved by proximity, spacing, alignment and the use of negative space. It can be obvious or subtle, and it can help the viewer navigate through a landscape more easily.

Proportion is the size of an object in relation to other objects and it’s critical to balance proportions in your landscape design. If an object is too big or too small, it can throw off the entire composition. It’s also important to remember that different people perceive proportion differently. That’s why it’s important to have your design reviewed by friends and family who can provide feedback on how a particular landscape looks to them. This will help you make any necessary adjustments to your design. For example, if an area of your garden is too flat, you might need to consider adding a raised bed or adding some tall trees to increase the depth of the landscape.