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Often times I walk by houses and notice that although they have tons of different kinds of trees, shrubs, and plants, the landscape still feels like it’s missing something. The landscape is probably missing one or more of the key elements I’m about to go over. These elements will help you achieve that layered look and bring interest to your landscape for all four seasons!


This soothing backdrop uses layering, repetition, scale and flow to achieve a beautiful backdrop. (from BHG)

How to create an amazing landscape using “layers” of plants

Repetition of plant type / color

Consistency in your perennial garden plan is really important. Repetition can be created with your plantings using

  1. A specific plant
    Using a specific plant throughout the entire landscape can create rhythm, so that your eye will flow across the landscape.
  2. A specific color
    You can also achieve repetition by choosing multiple plants in the same color family, such as light green, yellow, or even pink! Repeating the same color (even if the textures and sizes vary) will give a similar effect and allow your eye to bounce across the landscape.

Repetition of both color and types of plants (Alternanthera Chardonnay at The Greenbrier Resort).

Repetition in Landscape Layering

This garden uses repetition of the green circular shrubs to unite the space (Lost Horizons Nursery, Acton Ontario).

Repetition in Landscape Layering

This garden uses pops of hot pink to make your eye flow down the path (anneclarkdesign).

Scale determines how many plants & what sizes

Scale is very important in landscape layering . Scale comes into play in several different ways:

  • Using the correct size plants so that they will fit into the area when they are full grown.  It’s important to use large enough (or small enough) plantings for the space you are putting them in.
  • Using varying sizes of plants to create visual interest. Using a small wide plant next to a tall narrow tree will accentuate the features of each plant.
  • Using enough plants for the size of your house and yard. If you don’t use enough plants, your landscape will look a bit scarce and disconnected.

Create a flow in your landscape — not separate zones

Many of us create tiny “zones” that are spotted throughout our lawns. For example:

  • this is my rose garden
  • this circle is where I put my tulips
  • over here is where I’ll put this tree

Foundation-hugging landscape = no thank you.

Instead of creating smaller areas, try to combine some of these areas together or extending the plantings outward from the foundation. If there is a tree near your plantings, why not encompass that tree into the planting area? Nestle your house into the plantings around it.

Here’s an example of a typical landscape with plantings scattered throughout.

Here’s an example of the same house with better scale. Instead of little plantings, this landscape has flow and is substantial enough for the home. There is still plenty of lawn for the kids to play, too.

Landscape Layering

Finally, I think the most important part of a landscape design is what I will call “layers”. There are many different types of plants you can use. Layering these forward and behind one another is what will make your landscape feel cohesive and lush. Landscape layering is the key to a successful perennial garden plan.

Notice the curves, layering of colors and laddering to give depth. [from Gilded Mint]

Quick Tips for Landscape Layering

Dont hug the foundation

This landscape uses different sized plantings. It also uses enough plantings for the size of the home. Notice how the landscape doesn’t just hug the foundation?  (From Plantique)

Mix shape, size, and color

A mix of shapes, sizes, and colors enlivens these conifers planted as a screen.

Play with scale and texture

Soothing backdrop. Pay attention to plant shapes. Tall, upright evergreens create wonderful contrasts with mounded perennials and grasses. (from BHG)

Wrapping Up

When creating an effective landscape, we have to think about how the plants in our landscape will look together. Using repetition of a particular plant or a particular color is the first way to achieve a cohesive look. Next, think about scale… such as using the correct size plants, varying the size of plants, and (this is a big one) using ENOUGH plants for the scale of your yard and home. Creating flow by nestling your house into the plants surrounding it rather than creating different “zones” for gardening is also a great way to achieve a cohesive landscape. Try not to hug the foundation and let the plants flow out into naturally shaped beds. Finally, you need to layer plants in front of each other in order to create that rich, deep landscape of your dreams. With this layering, one plant will spring to life as another fades, creating interest in your garden all year round.

I’d love to hear (and see!) how you use repetition, scale, flow, and layering in your own landscapes! Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts or photos.

Keep Reading...

In my perennial garden plan, I'll go over landscape layering and give you some suggestions for each of the 5 layers:

  1. Layer 1: Ornamental Trees
  2. Layer 2: Evergreen Shrubs
  3. Layer 3: Perennial Shrubs
  4. Layer 4: Other plants & flowers
  5. Layer 5: Vines and Groundcovers

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How to create an amazing landscape using layers | PrettyPurpleDoor.com
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