What are the 3 most important points of analysis to help you design your garden?
“Despite the gardener’s best intentions, Nature will improvise.”
Michael P. Garofalo
…And yet, with a conscious design approach backed by analysis, you will be able to develop absolutely radishing gardens that will not fail to impress all year round!
The first step in any design process is to analyse existing conditions both on-site and off-site. A base plan is created to help understand the basic features of the site. This is usually followed by site analysis and planning, an integral part of landscape design.
Site analysis is done to understand unique problems and constraints associated with the site. A designer’s true creativity lies in making their best use to create functional and enjoyable outdoor spaces. Often a thorough site analysis may yield unexpected results that could prove to be assets in the long run, if harnessed appropriately. These could include environmental factors, which play an important role in the design of any landscape or garden.
Climatic factors such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, and wind movements significantly influence the design of gardens and landscapes. As the relations between temperature and moisture, light and shade change throughout the year, every region and locality has its own ‘micro-climate.’ Hence, landscape design for every site is unique.
The combination of all these factors affects how people see the landscape and what they expect from design. For instance, winter temperatures and cold drafts determine the need for wind-barriers and shelter from rain and snow. Likewise, the harsh summer sun may necessitate adequate shading from trees on the southern side. A water feature may be a good idea too, to cool the summer breeze. Spring and autumn dates determine the length of the growing season. The annual average precipitation may not be enough for some plants, and the design would have to call for additional water sources to be harnessed.
Some lots are flat or level, while others have a variety of ground forms. These may be steeply sloped, terraced or undulating. Topography refers to the shape of the land’s surface. It is important to decide whether the existing topography can be preserved or whether it must be modified to meet your family’s outdoor needs. Often clever harnessing of the topographical features of the land parcel can result in dramatic landscaping. Perhaps a non-assuming mound could be apt for gardening your very own herb-spiral! Or, that natural slope could be used to create a wonderful water feature.
The drainage patterns on-site may greatly influence home landscape design as well. Note the direction of runoff and low spots where water may collect. Drainage should be monitored carefully to make sure that areas of outdoor use are suitably located. It is essential that water move away from the buildings to the areas that require water. A study of the drainage can help determine if plants will grow well where you place them.
Soil is another important topographical consideration. Your lot’s soil is important because it must support both plants and man-made structures. Soil tests can determine whether the physical properties of your soil are suitable for landscape structures. If the soil is loose, growing groundcover plants will stabilise the soil and create a stronghold to keep the soil structure intact. It is also important to frequently note the soil’s moisture levels and check for erosion during the growing season.
This is undoubtedly the primary element of gardens and landscapes. Your site may already have trees, shrubs or other plants. However, before deciding whether to include them in your landscape design, one must understand what kind of plants they are. Some may be considered ‘weeds,’ while others may be more valuable. Also, consider the general appearance or quality of the plants, whether they interfere with the rest of your landscape design, and the shade and sun patterns they create. Plants and trees may be chosen for their size, form, colour, texture and rate of growth amongst other defining properties. These properties affect the selection, arrangement, and maintenance of plants in designed landscapes. Plants may even be used to create focal points, accentuate views or hide undesirable views. But, more on that later. We will discuss plants in detail in the upcoming articles.
You could just go out, buy a bunch of plants, and then decide where to plant them when you get home. But adopting systematic planning practices will definitely help in developing beautiful and functional landscapes. The best garden designs require a physical and visual analysis of your lot that take both natural and man-made features into consideration. Next time, we will discuss why it is important to analyse the physical context of your garden.
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About the Writer
Reva Saksena is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal. She has experience working at SiteLens Cultural Research Division of India Lost and Found (ILF) by Amit Pasricha. She is the winner of the "2021 Berkeley Prize Essay Competition.”
About the Editor
Srishti Mehta is the author of "From the Land of Mist and Snow: Haikus from Antarctica". She is a creative writer, editor and publisher. She is the Editor-in-Chief at Zeyka. She is a graduate of the St. Xavier College, Ahmedabad, and the H.R. College of Commerce and Economics, University of Mumbai (MU). She has been the India Ambassador of the International Antarctica Expedition (2018) with 2041 Foundation. She has diverse volunteer experience in natural field studies, explorations, and journalism with numerous organisations including the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai.
About the Illustrator
Ipsita Choudhury is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal. She is a writer, artist, illustrator and graphic designer. She is an Observation and Action Network (OAN) Fellow 2020 for The Centre for The Living City, UDC and NASA. She was a semi-finalist in the “2019 Berkeley Prize Essay Competition.”