Curves. When I write that word, some of you may think that I am referring to the popular women’s fitness business that has taken up shop in many towns. Others might think that I am a lecherous old man referring to the female form. What I am really going to write about, however, is how we can use curving lines to make our landscapes more beautiful. Line is one of the main elements of design and garden designers use line to create perspective, interest and beauty in the garden.
If you look carefully at your landscape, including all of the buildings and roadways and hardscaped areas such as driveways and sidewalks, you will realize quickly enough that there are a lot of straight lines. While necessary in most cases – like the walls of a house or the railing of a deck, straight lines are uninteresting and rather severe. As your eye passes along a straight line, there is nothing to slow it down, so the eye travels down a straight line very quickly, often missing important details along the way.
Curving lines, on the other hand, are less severe and the eye moves down a curving line more slowly because it has to pause to allow the curving line to come into view as you move along the curve. Even if the entire curve is visible from one vantage point, the eye stops and starts as it progresses along a curve. This allows the viewer unconsciously to view the garden in more detail. Curves, therefore, reduce the severity created by innumerable straight lines, or as designers say, curves “soften” the view. They also can add interest and a sense of mystery as the viewer anticipates what is just around the bend.
Curves can be incorporated into landscapes with some planning. One obvious way is to have the edges of gardens and flower borders edged with a curving line rather than a straight one. Even the edge of the lawn that meets the vegetable garden need not be a straight line; an undulating line will add interest and soften the transition. Sidewalks and patios need not be built with straight lines and driveways made of interlocking brick can have circular or curving patterns incorporated into them.
Rows of shrubs and trees planted in curving lines will soften the landscape and lead the eye on an interesting journey around the property. Even containers that are round rather than square or rectangular will contribute to the overall effect of the garden being less severe and more relaxed and inviting. Walls and fences, particularly those not used to demarcate the property boundaries – which are almost always straight lines – can have gentle curves.
The next time you build a sidewalk, plant a hedge or row of trees, build a fence or edge a flower border, think about the line you will create and the effect it will have on the overall landscape. Incorporate curves as much as you can as a counterpoint to all the necessary and permanent straight lines that already exist in the landscape.
– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba