"Floors" can be created using softscape elements such as grass or low groundcovers; hardscape elements such as mulches, concrete, or paving stones; or a combination of the two. Similarly, "walls" that define and enclose a room can be created using softscape elements such as hedge of narrow trees or shrubs; hardscape elements fashioned into fences and walls; or a combination of softscape and hardscape elements. A "ceiling" could consist of a tree canopy, a shade cloth, or a pergola (with or without a softscape cover of vines).
We use this in garden making by directing one's path through a pergola or small arbor, or even under the arching branches of a low tree and then into a larger garden room.
In addition to incorporating architectural features to create rooms and direct flow within a garden, it is critically important to ensure that the architectural features relate to each other and to their surroundings in terms of proportion and scale. Altering proportion and scale changes the way we feel in a space.
When proportion and scale are well balanced, the result is an engaging, satisfying garden. But when proportion and scale are off, we are left with a somehow unsatisfying landscape although it is often difficult for us articulate why it doesn't work.
When considering proportion and scale, the human body is our unit of comparison. Think of grand cathedrals where the building and space within is so imposing that the effect is of awe, humility, and feeling small. Conversely, in a small and cozy room with a fireplace flanked by comfortable chairs, we feel safe and at ease.
Another aspect of successful garden structure involves repetition. Repetition of structural units (such as certain plants, paving materials, or carpentry details) serves to unify a garden and give it cadence.
Softscape or hardscape elements might be useful to block a view that is undesirable, or conversely to create an interesting view or a captivating point of interest.
Finally, the choice of softscape materials is often influenced by seasonal changes in the use and viewing of garden areas. For example, front and back gardens often have different purposes. In general, a home's front garden, especially the entry, is its public face. As such, the front garden should look as good in January as it does in July. This general rule also applies areas of the garden that are traversed throughout the year, or are viewed most often from the inside of the house. Softscape elements that help carry the show in these areas of the garden include broadleaf evergreens, evergreen conifers, and deciduous plants with interesting winter features in terms of form, bark, or berries.
Author: Leanne Goulding
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