How to Bake a Great Landscape: Contrast (Recipe)
Form, color and texture are elements of any visible object. In previous blogs, we referred to these as the “ingredients” of good landscape design. Our landscape designers follow various “recipes” for design, using principles like focal point, scale and rhythm, to guide how we select and combine these ingredients.
Contrast: Another Landscape Design Principle (Recipe)
Contrast is fairly easy to understand. It involves combining plants and other materials with distinct differences to make the landscape interesting and beautiful.
How to Achieve Contrast in the Landscape
Landscape designers look to our elements: form, color and texture to create the differences needed for contrast. Some examples:
- Contrast of Color: Adding a charcoal colored paver around the edge of a burgundy colored brick patio.
- Contrast of Color and Form: Adding the spiked, blue foliage of iris in front of a solid green background of yews.
- Contrast of Form, Color and Texture: Surrounding a weeping form of Colorado Blue Spruce with several giant Allium (large purple balls on tall stalks) and placing them inside a neatly sheared hedge of boxwood.
Contrast is Natural
To replicate beautiful natural settings, the best landscape designs include multiple interplays of hardscape materials (things like stone and mulch) with softscape materials (plants). Dark, jagged boulders from northern Minnesota set amongst the bronze-green foliage of dwarf bush honeysuckle and framed by the white trunks of several quaking aspen, replicate a northern Minnesota natural landscape.
Contrast is Seasonal
Landscaper designers also consider the changes that occur in plants through the season as we develop contrast in a landscape design. This includes the cycle of flowering, fall leaf color change, and also more subtle aspects like seed pods (example: coneflowers) and twigs (like cardinal dogwood).
Use Contrast in Small Doses
When visiting the garden center, it’s easy to become excited about all the different plant shapes, leaf colors and fun features like flowers. However, like the other design principles, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing! The idea is to use the contrasting aspects of plants and materials to create interest, but not so much that the view is busy and uncomfortable.
In the article about rhythm we talked about the comfort of repetition. Rhythm is the opposite of contrast, in that you want to avoid heavy repetition. The most pleasing landscapes have plants and materials with enough contrast to make the view interesting, but not so much that the viewer has to work hard to take it all in!
Questions? Talk to a Landscape Designer
Contact one of our talented landscape designers to find the perfect way to work contrast into your garden.