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Landscape Design

Landscape design is the analysis, planning and design of exterior living spaces for aesthetic or practical reason. This is done using plants, structures, and the natural environment. Its purpose is to combine art and science to extend the indoor living to a functional, aesthetically pleasing outdoor space. This requires at least a working knowledge of art elements and design principles.

Elements of Art

Some common elements of art include but are not limited to color, line, form, scale, and textures. These elements are used together to implement various design principles discussed later.


Color is an important element of landscape design. It is best explained using a color wheel. There are three primary colors which include red, yellow, and blue. Secondary colors are created by combining two primary colors. Secondary colors include orange (combination of red and yellow), green (combination of blue and yellow), and violet/purple (combination of red and blue). Tertiary colors are a combination of one primary and one secondary color and are located between the primary and secondary color on the color wheel.

Color wheel showing primary, secondary and tertiary colors

Tint is a lighter form of a color and is accomplished by adding white to a pure color on the color wheel. Shade is a darker form of a color and is accomplished by adding black to a pure color on the color wheel. Black, gray, and white are considered neutral. Light colors, tints, and vivid, bright colors attraction the attention of the human eye.

Color wheel showing tints, hues and shades

Colors can be combined to create color schemes. There are three basic types of color schemes: monochromatic, analogous, and complementary. A monochromatic color scheme consists of different tints and shades of the same color, and is rarely achieved in landscape design. Analogous color schemes utilize colors that are side-by-side on the color wheel (for example, yellow, orange-yellow, yellow-orange, orange, and red-orange). Complementary color schemes use colors directly across from one another on the color wheel (for example, green and red).

Color wheel showing monochromatic, analogous and complimentary color schemes


Line in landscape design controls eye movement or flow. Landscaping beds and the way they fit or flow together create line. It can also be created by changes in plant height, branching habits of plants, arrangement of leaves, and more. Straight lines direct the eye to a point faster than curved lines. Curved lines create a relaxed, slower movement of the eye.


Form is related to line, but it is more encompassing. For plants, it is basically the shape and structure of a plant or group of plants such as upright, columnar, weeping, dwarf, etc. Structures like a house also have form and should be considered when you design for their surrounding area.


Texture in landscape design is related to the qualities of the surface of objects like plants, groundcover, patios, sidewalks, and building walls. Textures might include fine, medium, or coarse. They may also include smooth, rough, glossy, dull, etc.


While size refers to an absolute measurement, scale refers to the relationship between the sizes of adjacent objects. The human scale is an important scale. The size of plants and structures in relation to the human scale should be considered when coming up with a landscape design.