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Photographs As A Design Tool

Photographs, preferably black & white, are a good way to figure out what is and isn't working in your garden.

Have you ever driven up to your house and thought something doesn’t look right in your landscape? You know something isn’t working but not quite sure what the problem is. You can hire a designer and if they are any good they’ll spot the issues within the first few minutes of arrival. But I think most people can figure it out themselves with the help of a photograph or two.

When I go to a new client’s house I always take a series of photographs.  It’s nice to have the photographs for reference; it reminds me of the conversation with the client, the areas they want to upgrade, their likes and dislikes etc.  But really the photographs are a great tool for figuring out what is and isn’t working in the garden space.

A photograph, preferably black and white, helps to reveal the proportionality of plants and other landscape elements to the façade of the house.  I find that usually the plants are not large enough in contrast to a home’s wall height, paths are not wide enough or the lawn area is too large.

Besides proportion, a photograph also shows how the space is improperly delineated.  For instance, let’s say a pathway to the front porch is placed dead-center in the lawn area.  While symmetry is striking in civic locations like city halls, it can look displeasing on the residential scale. 

A photograph also reveals the lack of rhythm and organization of plants.  I know a landscape is good when it’s easy to take a nice photo of it.  Some landscapes have too many different types of plants placed willy-nilly or too many of the same type and size making for a boring view.

Do It Yourself Design Lab:

-         Take a few black & white photograph of your house and garden including as much of the area as possible. Or just focus on the entry area.

-         Print a single picture to fill a 8 ½ x 11”sheet of paper.

-         Pin it up on a wall and step back.

-         Note the proportion of landscape elements to the house. 

-         How is the space organized – are there paths leading to an awkward landing or even nowhere?!

-         Is there enough repetition or not enough in your plant choices?

-         Consider drawing on top of the photograph to try out different heights and shapes or additional plants.  Perhaps adding one more shrub will make all the difference.

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This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Marguerite Mazzitti February 01, 2012 at 02:20 AM
what great ideas! thanks for the 'how to'!!
Angele Sweet February 01, 2012 at 04:43 AM
You are very welcome!

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