Drawing the eye to a colorful garden – Part II | VailDaily.com
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Drawing the eye to a colorful garden – Part II

Stacey Kay Helm

In my last column I discussed the physical characteristics of plants regarding landscape design. This week, my article will focus on the visual elements of plants. Designing with attention to both physical and visual elements creates maximum functionality and aesthetic beauty in gardens.

The visual characteristics of planting are accent, scale and sequence. The definition of accent with regards to landscaping is the visual break in a sequence or pattern of plants. The purpose of an accent is to capture the attention of the viewer. Accents require planning and proper placement because they control movement through the space of the landscape. Overuse of accents can cause confusion so they should be used sparingly. Accents are created by sudden changes in form, texture, spacing, size or color. In addition, accents may be created by intersecting lines (of plants or hardscapes) or by mass planting of a single species.

The second element is scale. The term scale is used relatively in landscaping with regards to either a human subject or the entire planted space. Often the boundaries of the sight determine the appropriate scale. Boundaries can include buildings, roads, existing trees or mountains. Scale can be easily manipulated by plant choice. For instance, when placed in a landscape, fine texture plants will appear far away. In the same way, darker colors will recede and lighter colors will advance, appearing closer.



Sequence is the third element of visual planting characteristics. Continuity and connection of elements establishes the sequence. When placed in the proper sequence, plants allow the viewer’s eye to move continuously through the space while heightening the viewing experience. Sequence involves blending textures and colors to create harmony. Fine textured plants should lead to medium textured plants which should lead to coarse textured plants. A gradient of textures is more appropriate than placing a coarse textured plant next to a fine textured plant. Harmony can also be created by grading colors from light to medium to dark or visa versa.

Although an extremely important subject, balance falls under the element of sequence. In order to have a visually pleasing landscape, your composition must be balanced. Distribute different types of plants evenly over the space. Tall plants should be interspersed among the garden or used as a frame. Plants of different leaf color or variegation should also be used intermittently among green leaf varieties to avoid unevenness.

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For successful planning of gardens and landscapes, use both the physical and visual characteristics of plants to your advantage. The physical elements of plants include color, form and texture while the visual elements are accent, scale and sequence. If used in the appropriate setting, plants create stunning visual effects in your home or business’s landscape that will impress any passers-by and initiate the viewer’s curiosity while dazzling the eye.

” Stacey Kay Helm is nursery manager at SHC Nursery and Landscaping in Edwards, and has a B.S. in landscape horticulture from Colorado State University.


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