Aug 2010:Importance of Theme 3

Welcome Back to Landscape 101

This is the third and final section on the importance of determining a landscape theme. In Part 1, we introduced the concept of a theme, using interior decoration as an example. We want our rooms to have a certain look and feel, which could be described as a style or theme. Then we choose our furnishings to create the look we want. Landscaping is no different. We have to narrow the playing field. Nature gives us themes via different climate zones and/or environments, which determine what grows within that region. An easy example is that cactus does not grow with ferns; they are climatically incompatible.

In last month’s Part 2, we discussed types of themes such as Tropical, Nor. Cal, and Asian. We said that what GPS is to navigation so theme is to landscape. It helps us—the client and landscaper—to be on the same page with mutually agreed expectations. We also discussed how to select a theme. Our choice may be according to personal preference, to coordinate with the style of our home, or we might take cues from our surroundings.

With that brief review, we will now take a look at blended themes. Let me give you an example. Around my pool I have a Mediterranean setting with palm trees, sagos and plants that give a Mediterranean feel. Then, as you step away from the pool and move toward the garden, there is a large Redwood. The Redwood acts as a transition to the Nor. Cal. theme that defi nes the rest of the garden. Examples of other combinations are Tropical/Asian, or Mediterranean/ Tuscan, or English/Country.


While any of the themes listed above can be used to define the whole landscape, they create another “feel” when they are combined. Let’s look at some examples. English alone is formal and very green. There is a lot of topiary with manicured hedges. Adding Country to English brings in a variety of flowers and leaf colors, softening the otherwise formal appearance. The same is true with Mediterranean and Tuscan. Tuscan will have the gray and green foliage. The plants within this theme are more drought tolerant by nature. Rosemary and lavender are good examples, and for accents it will in particular have red, as in red roses. When we add Mediterranean to it, we incorporate palms, sagos, grasses, and more color. Mediterranean softens a Tuscan landscape, much like Country does to English.

One of my favorite combinations is Tropical/Asian. Asian, like English, has lines; it’s vertical. Yet within Asian are the soft and graceful Japanese Maples, sculptural bonsai and raked gravel. The vertical lines are softened further by adding more Tropical plants with broad leaves, such as the burgundy-colored Canna Dark Knight. Palms and ferns also soften because they drape. Incorporating rich color and softening plants to the Asian theme creates the most restful, Zen-like landscape you can imagine.

Of course, the best theme choice is the one you make because it makes a statement about you. I was just asked to do a “Classic Drama” theme, and recently completed a Contemporary Asian/ Mediterranean landscape, which is pictured here.

Now that we understand the importance of theme, we will move forward next month. The Landscape 101 series is an outline of the thought process and design principles that are used to create an attractive landscape. Until next month, good gardening, and remember to call me back if I do not respond in a couple of days. I cannot always understand the voice messages. Blessings- Arthur

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Executive Care Inc.

Executive Care Inc.