Landscape Design Blog

Articles by John D. Longhill

The Art of Landscape Design

A landscape architect approaches residential design, in much the same way as an artist approaches the commission of a portrait. He, like the artist, must get to know the subject intimately before the design process can begin. Much of the information he needs will come from the client, and the rest from studying the site itself with all its nuances, and unique opportunities. A guiding premise I use to help maintain the proper perspective and gauge how successful I am in any design endeavor is the following statement:

"The true test of art lies in its ability to inspire"...
...creativity in the person experiencing the art

Landscape design is an art form but much more complex than a two-dimensional painting because it is not static. It is three-dimensional and alive, constantly changing as plants grow and adapt to environmental conditions. The experiences are unlimited, moment-to-moment, hour-to-hour, year after year, as we walk through a landscape with its myriad of textures, colors and spaces created by its living components.

A painting requires paint arranged on a canvas, whereas a landscape requires plants, stone, soil and wood arranged on a site. Ideally the end result will be a functional and beautiful landscape design that captures the inner and outer essence of the site and the client.

An artist sometimes limits the colors and type of brush strokes used in a painting, in an effort to maintain a specific theme or character. A recommended plant list actually makes it easier to design a landscape, because you have a specific, limited palette to choose from.

The design theme of the Western slopes is that of a mountain alpine environment. It calls for a unique approach, very different to what we might do on the “front range”. Many of the things we hope to accomplish with landscape in the city and outlying suburbs are already in place on the western slopes. We have an existing landscape of forested hillsides with incredible views and a variety of opportunities with slopes and vegetation not usually found elsewhere. Landscape design here involves intimacy and openness - carving out a personal space with minimal disturbance that responds to your own personal needs and whims. It involves the use of screening for privacy; foundation plantings to blend your home into the site; and transitions, such as walks and pathways, all of which form the basic functional framework of the design. You can then build on this to create your own unique landscape experience.

Once you have determined your needs, how you intend to use the space, and what kind of feeling you would like to have, the next step is to do a detailed site analysis and as-built of the site. This establishes the landscape “canvas” which you will be working upon and filling in with your desired “palette” whether it is plant material, walkways, ponds, stones, terraces or whatever else strikes your creative fancy.


Company Info

By Design
P.O. Box 25689
Silverhorne, Colorado 80497
Office: 970-389-8496

About Us

By Design, Landscape Architecture, founded in 1999 by John Longhill.....