Landscaping Designs: The Elements of Form, Line, and Texture

Landscaping Harrisburg PA designs often rely on the elements of color, form, line, and texture to guide the eye through the landscape. This does not mean that landscapes should be simple or bland, but rather balanced and logically organized.Landscaping

Design themes can be inspired by formal architectural styles or by a specific planting style such as a moss garden, native plant garden, or low-water garden.

Color is an important part of landscape design and can set the tone for the whole space. Bright, bold colors like reds and yellows are known to stimulate people and can create a sense of excitement, while cool shades of blue and green often suggest peace and relaxation.

In addition to creating a mood, colors can also help to define spaces in the landscape and provide contrast. Using monochromatic colors (tints and shades of the same color) can create a more cohesive palette while still providing room for creativity. For example, you could use soft lavender and royal purple flowers in a design that is meant to feel elegant and refined.

When choosing colors for a landscape, it is important to consider the color wheel, which shows what colors complement each other and which ones contrast. Landscapers typically stay within either the warm or cool color groups, combining hues to achieve desired effects.

For example, mixing complementary colors such as yellow and red or blue and orange can generate energy, while using analogous colors (colors that are next to each other on the color wheel) like yellow-greens and purples can offer a more subtle effect.

When designing a landscaping project, it is also important to consider the color of existing hardscape materials like driveways and walkways. While some clients may want to completely change the color of these structures, others may simply wish to coordinate their new plantings with the existing colors. Regardless of the scope of the project, knowing the basics of landscape design color will allow you to better serve your customers and help them envision their finished landscaping.


The shape and structure of a plant or landscape element are important. Trees, for example, range structurally from the stiff majesty of the Lombardy poplar to the drooping quality of a weeping willow. Similarly, the shape of a water feature can draw attention or create a focal point in a garden.

Form also includes the lines that a garden or hardscape design uses to organize its features. Lines can be created in many different ways, including the lines of planting beds, sidewalks, where turf meets pavement, and other hardscape elements. A good use of line in a landscape design adds a sense of rhythm to the overall garden and helps guide viewers through its components.

Landscape designers often develop their ideas by experimenting with and combining plants and other materials in a virtual space using specialized software. Some of these explorations aren’t linked to a specific site and serve more as a means to push theoretical boundaries, but they can help inform a design project once it is brought to fruition.

A successful landscape design should be cohesive, with a clear and logical arrangement of plants and other components. It should be based on the needs and desires of the client, the conditions of the site, and the time-tested principles of composition—proportion, order, repetition, and unity. Using a guiding design theme or style can help, but it’s equally important to take inspiration from gardens or landscapes you admire. Borrowing a few of the most interesting plant combinations, pathway surface materials, or other aspects of a design and adapting them to your own site can make a big difference in the overall impact of your landscape.


Texture is an important element in landscape design that adds depth and interest to a garden. It refers to the feeling of a plant or its surface, whether it’s coarse, rough, fine, heavy, or light. A landscape without texture can look flat and dull.

The textures of plants, soils, and hardscape features such as walls and pavers can all impact how a landscape looks. It’s important to consider how a planting will be perceived close up, from a distance, and as viewed in different seasons. For example, in winter, the delicate tracery of branches against a snowy sky and the dark furrows of exfoliating bark on trees and shrubs can offer enjoyment that’s a welcome break from a bare and stark landscape.

When choosing plants, the texture of their leaves and flowers also plays a role. Fine-textured favorites like sedums and succulents offer a soft and delicate feel, while coarse-textured plants such as cannas and elephant ears create a dramatic presence. The branching pattern of a plant also affects its texture. Tightly branched plants such as boxwood and Japanese yew create dense appearances, while open-branched plants such as honey locust and royal fern appear more light and airy.

The use of different textures is especially effective when the pairings are juxtaposed rather than overlapping. This helps keep the eye drawn to different parts of a plant and allows the viewer’s attention to rest. The same can be said for the use of contrasting scales in plants, rocks, and other hardscape elements. For example, the couple in this photo paired plants with extreme textures to draw the eye and provide visual excitement. The smooth surfaces of the paving and decorative pieces, including a set of Moroccan doors, work to balance these textures.


Lines shape the landscape and determine how people move through and experience it. They can be curved, straight, horizontal, or vertical and help frame the views we see and want to be seen. They also convey a sense of order and formal crispness to the design. For example, straight lines can be used to draw the eye along a pathway or create focus for a planting bed. They can also be curved to add interest and soften the lines of a walkway or a fence.

Curved lines are found in natural areas and are associated with a relaxing, peaceful character. They are commonly used around water features to reinforce the lines of natural features or to draw attention to fountains and ponds. They can also be incorporated into circular garden paths or the design of a curving gazebo.

Vertical lines can evoke a sense of strength and power. They can be created by tall trees, structural elements like arbors or trellises, or even the height of walls or fences. They are also often used to highlight a focal point, like the top of a building.

Horizontal lines communicate a sense of stability and grounding. They can be created by a lawn, the edging of planting beds or sidewalks, or the clean line between turf and pavement. They can also be created by a simple path, the lines of a patio or deck, or by adding plants that spill over the edges of the pathway.

Repetition of form, color, and texture can establish a rhythm in a design and help create focus and harmony. However, repetition should be done with care so that it does not become overbearing or tiresome.

Focal Points

Just as with the art of painting, in landscape design, focal points draw attention and help guide the eye through a landscape. Focal points can be simple or complex, and they can add a unique element to take your landscaping design to the next level.

Whether you choose a single dramatic plant with an interesting color or texture that stands out from the rest of your garden, an artistic statue, or a beautiful fountain, a well-placed focal point draws the eye and helps the viewer experience the full beauty of your yard and home. These elements can also serve other useful purposes, such as drawing the eye away from a less attractive area of the landscape that you would prefer to keep out of view.

When designing a focal point, it is important to consider the size and style of your yard and the other elements that will be nearby. You want a focal point that will be a good size and not overwhelm your other garden features. You will also want to be sure that the focal point reflects your own personal taste. If you love Greek architecture, a Grecian urn is a good choice; if you prefer to have garden gnomes in your yard, that is perfectly fine!

You can even use a water feature as a focal point to draw the eyes, soothe the mind, and relax the body. It is important not to overdo the focal point concept, however, as too many features can make a landscape look too busy and overwhelm the viewer. It is also important to remember that focal points should be visually appealing throughout the year. A brightly colored plant or group of plants may work as a focal point in the summer but will not hold the interest of visitors during the winter.