Horticulture Design And Its 9 Principles You Need To Know

Whether you’re a landscape designer or a gardening enthusiast, Horticulture design applies to both. Essentially, Horticulture Design is a blend of Environmental Horticulture and Landscape design. But what makes it stand out from the crowd? Let’s find out. Horticulture Design aims to create the most sustainable and practical landscapes. It is a broad field that deals with the aesthetic, functional and environmental aspects of gardens.

Horticulture Design is a blend of Environmental Horticulture and Landscape design

Moreover, Horticulture design practices vary from urban to rural areas. A rural landscape may have a wider range of plants scattered over a large area. However, space restrictions in urban areas truly bring out the creative ideas.

Speaking of creativity, it is vital to combine sustainability and environmental design principles. What’s more, a well-designed landscape can boost your home’s value by at least 10%.

a well-designed landscape can boost your home’s value

The green industry also offers a wide range of opportunities for landscapers and horticulturists. Many universities all over the world offer Horticulture Design programs. On the other hand, some even have certification courses in horticulture design.

However, landscaping professionals can consider short courses spanning a few weeks or a month. In addition, these courses can also be very useful for homeowners.

Whether you are looking for a new career or a hobbyist gardener, Horticulture Design has something for everyone.

Read how gardening can be good for your health in my Horticulture Therapy article.

How to make a stunning Horticulture Design

Horticulture design enhances outdoor spaces by organizing plants and other landscape elements. The goal is to create an appealing environment by making the best use of available space. And this needs planning. Lots of planning.

Design elements can be either hardscape or softscape. Softscape elements are the living elements like plantsgrass and shrubs. Whereas, hardscape elements make up the non-living elements like patios, ornamentswater fountains, ponds, stonework and bridges.

Each element has a unique purpose for creating the desired ambience and aesthetics. And it is the planning and organizing these elements that’s important. All the elements should have useful relations with the natural environment.

Horticulture design is an art which can be mastered with practice. It’s not merely planting to cover up the space. But making the most out of a site’s natural features. Leveraging these aspects is very important in horticulture design.

How to make a stunning Horticulture Design

Moreover, selecting the right plants is just as important. Regional and native plants are more practical and cost-effective. Sustainability is the foundation of horticulture design.

Speaking of sustainability, a design should be eco-friendly. By this I mean a water saving design that produces minimal waste. And it does not need frequent maintenance.

Smaller houses demand intensive planning. This is because every inch of space should be used for maximum results. A tight budget adds to the cost-effective nature of a horticulture design. Furthermore, it ensures you get the maximum bang for your buck.

Horticulture design is a slow process involving time. Planning for the complete garden is crucial. Although, it may not be necessary to develop the entire space at once.

A detailed plan ensures that any work done is a part of the scheme. Besides, it’s a good way to track progress. And avoid any deviations from the plan.

What to expect from your Horticulture Design?

It may be tempting to get started with your design right away. But its very important to consider your needs and analyse the site. In fact, it is the basic principle of horticulture design.

Any addition, however small should be done based on these aspects. This can vary based on your family’s needs and budget.

Further, natural factors like climate, surroundings, topography and ecology. In addition, existing elements on the site should be considered.

A good horticulture design achieves these goals with a variety of elements

A good horticulture design achieves these goals with a variety of elements.

First and foremost, the design should divide the space into use areas. This can range from public or private areas to work and service areas.

While public areas are visible by a passer-by, a private area is not. The front of a house should display an attractive view. Whereas, a private area may be a patio, porch or a deck with outdoor seating. On the other hand, a service and storage area is crucial.

Secondly, there must be enough space for gardening tools, equipment, supplies and garbage. Make sure that this area is concealed from other areas. At the same time, it should be easy to access.

Thirdly, while planning your horticulture design it’s advisable to preserve natural resources. For instance, large trees, terrain variations, existing turf, soil, ponds, brooks and rock outcroppings.

Indeed, these natural elements ease landscape development. Detailed planning can help in deciding which elements should be part of the horticulture design.

More importantly, ensure that attractive views are visible and undesired views are hidden. Shrubs are an excellent choice for screening. Besides, plants also act as noise barriers.

Lastly, take advantage of your regional climate. From sunlight, winds, rain to temperature and humidity. These aspects will help in planning your horticulture design.

How cost-effective is your Horticulture Design?

Horticulture design is challenging for a cost-effective year-round interest. Thus, it is important to select the most practical and low-maintenance elements. The cheapest ones are not always the most practical. They might end up being costly in the long run.

Speaking of practicality, its crucial to decide on maintenance standards. If you enjoy spending more time in the yard, your design should be elaborate.

How cost-effective is your Horticulture Design?

Generally, a simpler site is easier to maintain. And this is the goal of horticulture design. With this in mind, careful planning with existing elements is favourable.

Here are a few ways you can create a low maintenance horticulture design:

Principles of Horticulture Design

Every horticulture design is a unique work of art. Hence, there are no set rules for designing. Let your creativity take over while working on your own horticulture design.

However, most landscapes are based on specific design principles. Read on to know more about them.


Scale is the proportion between two sets of dimensions. In other words, it’s a relative measurement unit that provides the relation between elements in and around a garden.

When planting near a building, its critical to know the final size of plants. The mature height as well as the spread of a plant should be considered.

Scale is a principle of Horticulture Design

Eventually, a plant that grows too large will overwhelm a building. On the other hand, small plants around a large building are not suitable.

That’s exactly why it’s important to consider the available space and size. It’s one of the foundations for choosing the perfect scale. After all, your choice of plant sizes should be suitable for the entire setting.


Form is the shape and structure of a plant and its branches. Plants come in a wide variety of forms like round, upright, columnar and globular. Elements such as branches or leaves need to be considered. These elements may have different forms based on the plants selected.

Form is another Principle of Horticulture Design

Round plants can be combined with curved lines for a natural flow. On the other hand, upright plants are used for straight lines like a walkway or edge. Moreover, these plants may also be combined to change forms as a group. In fact, some forms may blend in when these plants are grouped together.

The landscape design theme influences the choice of forms. For instance, neatly pruned hedges are an integral part of formal gardens. Whereas, informal gardens can have plants growing naturally without much restrictions on form.


When expressing too many ideas in a limited space, a design loses its unity. Cramming in too many plants and ornaments drag attention away from the house.

Similarly, plants with contrasting accents, colours, forms or textures defy the idea of unity. Thus, its vital to group design elements to look like a single unit.

Unity is the next Principle of Horticulture Design

Moreover, the horticulture design should display a satisfying view from every angle.


Rhythm refers to the repetition of elements that guide the eye along the design. As a result, the elements are placed in a definite direction at regular intervals.

Additionally, rhythm can be expressed with colour and form. After all, colour is what brings a garden to life. Whereas, a pleasant grouping of parts creates harmony.


An aesthetic and pleasant combination of elements creates balance in a horticulture design. Balance is the relative sense of elements having similar visual weight.

For the perfect balance, its best to group smaller plants with a large one. Moreover, it can also be achieved using textures and colours.

Notably, the balance can be symmetrical or asymmetrical.

Symmetrical balance focuses on mirroring everything based on an axis. As a result, we get a formal balance. With one side of the axis being a mirror image of the other. To illustrate, a large object on one side of the house balances another object of equal size.

Balance is the next Principle of Horticulture Design

In contrast, Asymmetrical balance is achieved using a variety of elements. To demonstrate, a large object balances many smaller objects on another side of the axis. Hence, balance is achieved in both cases.


With the entire landscape in mind, accent refers to the climax or dominance. The absence of accent makes a horticulture design dull and boring.

Focal points play a big role in creating accents. The arrangement of elements should direct the eye towards focal points. This can be a combination of interesting plants, garden ornaments or water features.

Accent is the next Principle of Horticulture Design

Alternatively, accents are created with contrasting forms, colours or textures. Even better, lighting can influence accents during twilight hours.

Accents create interest with its contrasting features with space dividers like a fence or hedge. They can be displayed by standing free in the area between dividers.

Alternatively, they can be hidden in niches within the space dividers. Its important to use either one of the methods. Otherwise, it may result in visual confusion.


Keeping the design simple is key in horticulture design. Simplicity is what makes a landscape most attractive. Always remember, creating spaces instead of filling them.

Every inch of space does not need to be filled with something. So, avoid cluttering the yard with unnecessary objects. Always remember, too many elements make the yard messy.

Bird baths, statues and other ornaments are often overused. Make sure you use specimen plants, statuary and other objects with discretion.


There’s an age-old dilemma between repetition and monotony. However, these aspects should not be confused with each other.

Repetition is more subtle than monotony. For instance, rows of hedges along the sides of a home is monotony.


On the other hand, repetition can be achieved with curves. Starting from bed lines up front all the way to the sides and the backyard. Indeed, curves help a lot to attain repetition.

Furthermore, right angles are also used for repetition. In a similar way, right angles can begin from the front yard and go all the way around to the backyard.

Additionally, including sidewalks and bed lines for repetition is always a good idea. Subtle repetition of design elements helps achieve continuity in the landscape. Moreover, it adds flow to the horticulture design.

Space Dividers and Transitions

Space dividers and transitions are an easy way to combine plants and architectural features. Almost every horticulture design includes these elements.

Above all, space dividers create a dominant background for outdoor living. They provide privacy to spaces in the horticulture design. Borders, hedges, fences and walls are popular space dividers.

Space dividers and transitions

Speaking of dividers, they must be arranged in groups that border spaces. More importantly, they must have a certain height. And their layout should be visually uniform.

Transitions on the other hand, create a link between the house and the surrounding area. In other words, it’s a connection between space dividers and accents.

To achieve harmony among the elements, transitions should feature qualities of both the space dividers and accents.

Dominance and Contrast

When talking about horticulture design, one thing is common. Most of the dominant and repeated features are accented by some contrasting features.

Dominant gardens

In a garden where longer time is spent, the ratio of dominance to contrast should be around 70 to 30. Especially, an established public garden or a private one near a home or a lawn.

Ensure that this ratio is not less that 55 to 45. Because, a garden loses its dominance. And this results in visual confusion.

Contrasting elements should be spread all over instead of concentrated in an area. Such gardens are very relaxing in nature. And this essence is good for grasping the intricate details of a garden.

To illustrate, let’s take an example. A space divider can be created by grouping spruce, pine trees and hemlock. In this case, evergreen shrubs like firethorn create transition. Whereas, deciduous trees such as crape myrtle form accents.

In this way, space dividers and accents create a strong contrast. Speaking of contrast, the varying tree types are very useful. The evergreen pine trees feature pyramid like shapes. Whereas, the deciduous myrtle is a rounded shape.

Besides, their heights can differ by more than 20 feet. For instance, evergreen trees can be more than 40 feet tall. On the other hand, deciduous trees grow around 15 feet tall.

Contrasting gardens

In a garden where little time is spent, the extent of contrast between dominant features and accents is enhanced. For example, building entrances, plantings on streets or courtyards. These are all spaces where people usually spend less time.

Contrasting garden

The degree of change between visual features influences contrast. Particularly, plant types, form, height, colour, texture and shapes.

Notably, the ratio of dominance to contrast in these gardens should be around 80 to 20. In addition, the accents should be intensive in one area.

As a matter of fact, such gardens give a bold effect. And one look is enough to grasp the effect.

Check out my Landscape Horticulture article for more on this topic.

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