The lone voice of horticultural reason

Don’t design straight lines into the landscape.

Nothing creates a boring landscape more surely than use of the straight line. Be it in the shape of our flowerbeds, the planting of flowers within them, or the planting of shrubs, thinking straight guarantees there will be no hope for magic.

Look at the shrub planting in the first picture. Lilacs, I think (though I can’t be sure, I didn’t even get out of the pickup to snap the shot). There’s the start to an alluring landscape. OK, I understand that you are interested in creating a barrier between your spanky new home and the boulevard, but why let a straight road dictate what to do?

This hedgerow should curve, swoop, curl, and curtsy. It should let the road know, in no uncertain terms, that nature is taking over. I’m also well past the point of seeing why any proposed shrub barrier should be comprised of all the same plant. What are they using here, fourteen plants of the same variety? Why not five or six varieties of shrubs, a third to half of them evergreen shrubs? How in the world are we going to get any sparkling contrasts in textures, any flow, any mystery, with this farm windbreak? Just as important, what’s going to provide winter interest?

Look at the second picture. There is way too much of this taking place across America. What is it about $400,000 homes that we can’t build them without making it appear as if nature was scared away by all the hammering? Big brick castles that slam down to lawn once you get four feet away from the exterior walls represent the essence of poor landscape design.

Always, start at the start. What is it we love about nature? The third photo says it all: in nature, there are no straight lines. That’s nature’s big hook. Straight lines are a human invention, and when we head into the wilderness, the first thing we respond to is the utter lack of straight lines, right angles, and perfect circles.

Let your landscapes curve and rise and flow. The fourth picture shows what you can do to the side of your garage when one lets the laws of nature guide. The last picture is to prove that even when allowing for ample lawn, straight lines in the landscape need never enter the picture.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener