Maintain Your Garden in Lines

A line is the strongest visual element of design. But that does not mean it needs to be a direct line. Diagonal, arcing and even S-shape lines are effective approaches to move the eye through a picture.

Lines signal into the viewer,”Look here. Proceed. Follow me.”

As I mentioned in my last article, the notion of using classic principles and elements of design for a landscaping tool has appealed to me since I first learned them in a college program. I studied textile design, but the amazing thing is that design is layout, irrespective of the medium. When you know these universal guidelines, they will inspire and inform the way you produce plant, supply — and arrange your own landscape.

On to line as an element of garden layout. I feel the human eye is trained to see lines in nature — in trees, in the horizon, in the outline of a mountain range. When we deliberately layout with linear types (curved or straight), they can be a useful device for energizing a space and giving it order.

Flea Market Sunday

This driveway-courtyard has two things going for it: rhythm and line. Bands of poured-in-place concrete alternate with similar-size bands of turf. You have to admitthis is far more exciting than an ordinary concrete driveway. The plan transforms what could otherwise be a pragmatic driveway into a delightful, picture automobile court. The horizontal lines of the architecture play nicely with this therapy. And using rings of grass is a great way to earn your driveway permeable.

Andrea Swan – Swan Architecture

Lines can certainly be conveyed by our planting options. I love this contemporary use of two rows of white-bark trees (probably river birch or Aspen). This modern day allĂ©e is formed by two parallel rows of trees. Notice how the two rows are planted in a linear strip of gravel inside the yard — a reinforcement of the line theme. This front yard will look great even in winter, when the tree branches are bare.

The lines between exterior and interior spaces are obscured in this wonderful house, thanks to the sliding glass doors which open a bedroom suite to the backyard. I like the strong line which defines the house’s perimeter, reinforced by a wraparound route that stitches architecture to vegetation.

Huettl Landscape Architecture

Here is a closeup of the same type of path therapy, where a powerful line is formed by equally spaced stepping stones installed in a bunk bed. The daring path frames the home and moves the eye through the landscape into the deck beyond.

Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

Why use a straight line when you are able to make it zigzag? I love these stair-step raised planters that create a dynamic edge to this gravel garden. Even the zigs and zags of the retaining wall are more than practical — they are an essential layout ingredient. Furthermore, this strategy creates bonus planting space a directly retaining wall wouldn’t offer.


There is a lot going on in this gorgeous rock garden, but the eye knows exactly where to look, thanks to its strong diagonal field of soil and gravel covers which goes through the otherwise rectangular and square spaces. It’s arresting instead of interrupting — and its presence makes the remaining planting areas look nicely balanced and complete.

This narrow side backyard has a lot of linear elements. First there’s a direct set of steps with vertical side railings which descend into a straight pathway at the bottom. Then there are the outside lines of the architecture into the left along with the fence to the right. Nice, right? But thank goodness there’s one milder lineup here. The elongated curve of the planting bed gives this design the softness it needs in the presence of the other hard-to-ignore lines and angles.

Colors Of Green Landscape Architecture

Arcs create a huge statement in this beautiful backyard. Notice how dominant they are and how much interest they include as a counterpoint to the rectangular swimming pool and chaises. This therapy works because several arcs are carried through the plan. From the railings and the stairs into the form of the deck, the deck’s edging, the yard along with the retaining wall at the far edge, there’s a hierarchy into the arc.

Blasen Landscape Architecture

Lines convey an organic message in this serene, nearly Asian-style backyard. The stone wall decals in and about the specimen tree in this beautiful, graceful way. Rather than being a purely practical retaining wall, it adds an artful note into the backyard. There is no denying that the eye wishes to stick to that line and see where it goes beyond the frame of the photograph.

WA Design Architects

Easy, easy, simple. Adding a few squiggles within this wide entry walk was a stroke of brilliance. They resemble ripples moving across the water’s surface. These silent, curved accents are very successful as compared to the largely noncurved lines of the house, wall and walkway.

Wagner Hodgson

A few stone steps proceed across a huge yard and connect with a low, curved boardwalk. The walk is clearly practical, leading people into the northwest from the space. Yet it offers the landscape a stunning focal point. Simply sublime.

Educate Your Landscape Rhythm

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