At what point do you stop being a gardener and start becoming a landscape designer? We at Sloane and Sons Garden Benches are passionate about garden design and are always looking to learn more. How can you make that step up in landscape design? What is it all about?

The overall idea of landscape design

When you define landscape design, it doesn’t sound that much different to gardening. It is the art of arranging and modifying the features of an area for aesthetic effect and practical application. See what we mean – this sounds a lot like how you would define gardening too.

However, landscape design elevates the choices made to a conceptual level – dividing itself into hardscape and softscape – and considering such major concepts as harmony, balance, proportion, transition, plant form, plant texture, line, colour theory and focal point. You’ll definitely want to search for a landscape designer, for example, searching for Minnesota Landscape Designer online to find someone who is a professional if you don’t want to do it yourself.

The major concepts you will want to know

Hardscape and softscape

Hardscape is the construction – or non-living – elements of the garden. It is the patio or the wall, the arbour or the pergola. Hardscaping is about the decorative and practical use of the landscape – it might include driveways and benches – or it might include water features and decorative fencing panels. ( )

Softscape, as you would have guessed by now, is the living element of the garden. This does not mean that the planting you do is always soft – it is just the organic material that makes up the planting in your landscape. The essential feature of your softscape landscaping is that it is alive!


This is also sometimes known as unity ( ). This means you achieve a consistency of design across the garden through the planting and the design of your hardscape. The desired outcome is a sense of a wholeness about the area, but with some spaces that demand closer attention from the viewer.


Balance is about making sure the hardscape and softscape complement each other and offer a coherency to the garden space as a whole.


Proportion is about the sense of size and space in the landscape. This works with unity and harmony – it is the sense that groups of planting work together to create a sense of the whole. You need there to be height and depth to the softscape of the area.


Proportion is often achieved through the proper use of transition. This is the gradual change from one set of planting to another – and other concepts such as line, form, texture and colour should be considered within this idea of transition. (

Plant form

This takes an easy idea and makes it sound hard. Plant form is essentially its shape. What will be the branching or spreading pattern of the flower or shrub or tree? The form of the plant will add much to the overall unity of the garden – so it is important to consider when beginning your planting design.

Plant texture

To add depth and moments of distinct interest in a landscape, you need plants with different textures. Much of this texture will come from the leaves of the plant – some will need to be coarse, others smooth, some with spikes, others shiny. 


Like all good art, landscape design is about controlling the eye of the viewer and guiding them around your garden space. The arrangement of the plants and borders will purposely impact on the way the visitor views the garden. You will need to consider both the horizontal and the vertical planes in the garden.

Colour theory

Colour theory in landscaping is the same as colour theory in all forms of aesthetic. It is the consideration of what colours compliment each other and what forms points of stark contrast.

Focal point

A focal point is an area of the landscape that you want to draw your visitor’s attention to. It is common to create a sense of symmetry in a garden to avoid too much focus being drawn to one area. However, this means if you want the visitor to stare at a point then you purposely destroy this sense of symmetry. You can also use the lines of the borders and the hardscaping of paths and fencing to guide your visitor to the point in your garden where you want them to dwell.

Alternatively, you might purposely want to avoid focalisation – in which cast you will work with line and colour to make sure the whole of the landscape is there to be dwelt upon.

A starting point for beginners

Sloane and Sons Garden Benches know that we all aspire to be the designers of our own landscape. Here we have provided a brief starting point to help you get started in the design of your garden.

* This is a collaborative post with Sloane & Sons


  1. Thank you for these tips! I’m currently working on my family’s garden and will keep these tips in mind!

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