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Perennial Garden Theory & Design

 

Perennial gardens have a long tradition in landscape designs going back to some of the earliest gardens of Asia. However, they are most associated as beginning with the renaissance gardens of Europe. During that period, international travel expanded as did interest in horticultural specimens from across the world. The English perennial garden of the late renaissance and modern era are held as the prime example of design and excellence. These gardens were often extensive displays of color and variety requiring a staff of gardeners to maintain. Today’s homeowner can learn from those gardens and incorporate the concepts at a scale appropriate to their property and the amount of time they can invest in upkeep.

Perennial Flowers
Perennial Garden

A classical perennial garden can vary in dimensions and is designed in at least three layers. That requires at least 10’ of depth minimum, though 15’ or more is needed to really pull off that classical landscape design of the perennial garden. The length of such garden designs is at least 10’ and can be as long as 100’ or more. The design depends of the scale of the space and the outdoor living environmental that will contain the perennial garden.  The three layer minimum layers are a tall backdrop, a medium care and a lower growing foreground. Four, five or six layer gardens follow the same principles.

The key to a beautiful perennial garden is understanding color theory, plant texture combinations and plant bloom periods. I will address color theory in landscape design during a future blog as it is a topic of its own. The relationship between the varied plant textures creates an important aesthetic result in the landscape design. Use perennials with distinctly unique textures adjacent to one another in order to help delineate the garden and the design. Textures can be as important as colors in a successful perennial garden. The goal with bloom periods is to create a garden that has color and interest throughout the season. Don’t forget to consider the fall leave change color of a perennial in this part of the design.

Annual flowers might be considered cheating by some landscape designers, but they are a great way to ensure a beautiful garden throughout the season. Annual flowers have long, dependable bloom cycles and are great for tucking into bare spots. Some annual flowers have displays that are simply unachievable with a perennial.  Delphinium for example create a powerful color display early in the season while other perennials are just getting started (Delphinium are technically a bi-annual but are best used as an annual in the gardens of the north east).

When laying out the perennial design, create a repeating pattern throughout the garden. This creates a pleasant and somewhat logical aesthetic. It is a more relaxing experience for the viewer. Avoid perennials that are self-seeding or you will fight their spread throughout the garden and that will ruin the intent of the design. Double dig your planting beds incorporating as much rich compost as possible. Mulch with a very light, highly ground and composted peat based dressing. Do not use a standard mulch in a perennial garden since you will be working, turning, and maintaining it often. A regular triple ground hardwood mulch will just get in the way if your are a true perennial garden creator. A perennial garden is dynamic and ever evolving as the designer or gardener learn and adapt.

Reasons to Hire a Landscape Architect to Design your Swimming Pool

Landscape master Plan
Landscape Master Plan with Swimming Pool, Pool House, Patios and Landscape Plantings

If you are considering a swimming pool, start by calling a qualified landscape architect or designer who has experience with custom swimming pool designs. If you call a pool construction company first, they will encourage you to install one of the standard pool shapes that are easiest and cheapest to build. The pool company will also encourage you to put the pool in the easiest place to build it. Sometimes those are the right answers, but most of the time some more thorough and professional landscape design attention could be applied to the project. If you are looking for a custom swimming pool that is fully incorporated into your total outdoor living design, then a landscape architect is the right person to work with. However, it is important that you review the designer’s previous work and make sure they have experience with outdoor living projects and custom swimming pools. Not all landscape designers are created equal and many landscape architects have little if any skill with residential outdoor living projects. The most skilled landscape and custom swimming pool designers tend to be associated with landscape design companies who also manage landscape construction projects. The designers and project managers have learned from firsthand experience the elements of design that are most successful in a built project and result in the greatest quality outdoor living spaces.

Once you have hired a qualified landscape designer for your swimming pool project, then it is time to review the elements, character and locations of the swimming pool in relation to the other elements of a landscape master plan. Will an outdoor kitchen be integrated into the project? If so, will the outdoor kitchen be in the swimming pool area of associated with another outdoor living space at the back patio of the house?  Will there be a pool house or pool side cabana either now or in the future? Is the pool meant for lots of family activity and play? If so, then there needs to be plenty of pool decking in various areas around the pool to accommodate outdoor dining areas, outdoor furniture arrangements, chaise lounges, umbrellas and kids toys. Or maybe the pool is a classic design surrounded by lawn and meant as an architectural feature in the garden. Such a swimming pool may be ideal for a swimming pool that is more often viewed than actually used. Will there be fire features around the pool? How does the overall landscape lighting plan fit into the swimming pool lighting plan?

The above questions and concerns are part of the approach a professional landscape designer or landscape architect will take when designing a swimming pool with a client. This approach tends to dig far deeper into the entire range of design considerations required to design the most successful swimming pool project. Then once the pool is designed, the client is open to interview multiple swimming pool companies in order to get the best product at the best price.  Garden Design Inc. has the professional design experience to guide you in this process. Call Frederick and ask to review his portfolio of swimming pool designs and installations.

Custom Swimming Pool Design

Custom Swimming Pool, Allentown Pa
A natural swimming pool in the Lehigh valley

There is nothing more refreshing than a cool swim on a hot summer day. If you are thinking about building a custom pool, the first step is to pick a landscape architect or a professional landscape designer. Do not start with a pool contractor. Very few pool contractors employ landscape design professionals who are trained to look at the big picture of the entire project in the context of the existing landscape, the house and the overall site. A professional landscape designer will work with you to answer a series of questions about the location, size, style and elements of the pool you desire and then incorporate that into a master plan for the project. Once the plans are complete, then it is time to get estimates from pool contractors, hardscape contractors for the decking around the pool, fencing contractors and landscape contractors. You may want to work with a designer from a professional landscape design & construction company since they will pull together all of the pricing into one contract then manage the entire project saving you time and money while ensuring the best result.
One of the first major decisions is where to locate the pool. Consider the opportunities and constraints of the property and how you see the pool being used. When will you be using the pool and where will the sun and shade will be during those times. Will the pool be an extension of the house where friends and family gather to play? Or is the pool its own outdoor room and a private destination? Often people are inclined to place the pool right out the back of the house. This can work well for families with children since the pool remains visible from inside. It may also fit your families entertaining style being closer to the house. Keep in mind thought that in colder climates the pool will be covered for many months and is not particularly attractive from the inside views. For this reason, you may choose to site your pool in a less central location and make the pool area a destination.
The form and the style of a pool should be based on your own personal preferences. Some people love the natural character of free form pools with boulder waterfalls, while others prefer the elegant sophistication of a rectilinear or formal pool. If the pool is going to be located in a direct relationship to the house, consider carrying the style of the homes architecture into the style of the pool design. If you have a home with a strong architectural character, a formal pool will generally be the most aesthetically appropriate. How the pool will be used may also influence the form. Free form pools work well when the pool is actively used by children because they tend to be more playful in character and provide dynamic interests when inside.
What elements do you want to incorporate into your pool? A spa is a popular element to include, but in colder climates the spa won’t be usable in the off season and for many people that is when a spa is most appealing. One option is to place the pool and spa in close proximity, but to separate the water and mechanical systems in order to use the spa year round. Sun ledges have grown in popularity. These are area of the pool that is 12” underwater, and big enough to place a lounge chair and umbrella. A beach entry eliminates the steps and creates a smooth transition into the pool that is especially nice for younger children. Waterfalls, spillways and water spouts can create visual and auditory interest. Playful options include slides, diving boards and dive rocks. Maybe you want to include a pool house or cabana providing some luxuries and amenities at the pool area.
If you are considering a swimming pool and want to enjoy it this year, then hire a design professional in the winter or early spring and get started. It can take two or three months to get the plans done, get the estimates together, hire contractors, and get the required permits to begin the actual construction.