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The Landscape Design Element that Makes the Biggest Difference

landscape design contrast, contrast of blue sage with yellow arborvitaeWhat’s the difference between a ho-hum landscape and one with “Wow!”? Contrast. Use different textures and colors to excite the eye.

Texture is the design element that provides visual excitement, especially since woody plant material has only fleeting moments of color. The strong contrast of coarse foliage against fine-textured leaves is a great look!

The form and natural habit of plant material can vary quite a bit. Try to provide interest by using spiked shapes with mounded shapes and weeping shapes with low, flat ground covers. Juxtapose fine-textured foliage next to coarse, dramatic leaves to provide emphasis to the different silhouettes. Use a delicate hand with contrasting forms in your landscape design, just as you would in adding spices while cooking a soup. Think through each variation carefully.

Contrasting colors spice up a design, too. There are lots of color combinations and harmonies you can try in your landscape designs. Color can pull together your design into a cohesive whole or provide neutral breaks in disparate and clashing set of schemes. The fun thing about landscape color is the added dimension of time. You need to time your designs with the changing seasons to make your color creations work. Timing your plant schemes to bloom in concert shows off your creative expertise. It is the final detail that makes color in the garden a delightful design challenge.

You can mix colors opposing each other on a color wheel for a pleasant contrasting display. A design of only one color can create a sophisticated, monochromatic color scheme, but opposing colors add pop! Mix different types of color harmonies.  Analogous schemes use colors near each other on the color wheel, and contrasting/complimentary schemes mix opposites on the color wheel. When combining different colors, try to let one color dominate the scheme and the other act as an accent.  That way, the colors don't fight for attention.

Contrast is not the same as conflict when it comes to landscape design. Distinct differences add excitement and draw your visitor’s attention to interesting plant material. If your garden feels a bit boring, you know what to do—add contrast!

Contrast