Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Making Distance In The Small Landscape

By Marshall Clewis

The sense of distance in the landscape used to be created by walking from place to place in the garden. In small gardens we get the whole effect sitting on the patio.

Here a sense of distance is achieved by using low, angular designs of green ground-covers or masses of color from spring bulbs or annual bedding plants. Using plants with coarse foliage close at hand and others with progressively finer foliage beyond them also gives an illusion of distance.

The old practices of clipping' hedges in rectangular forms and planting mop-headed trees are returning. The flat surfaces and smooth texture of closely clipped foliage match the rectangular wall areas, and the pleached trees provide shade where we sit.

Many of the modern ideas came from California and do not fit our climate and living conditions. We cannot use our gardens in winter if you live up north, so do not need a separate set of shade trees to take care of the different angle of shadows during winter. We can grow good turf, so do not need to substitute such broad areas of mosaic paving or redwood plank. What we need is not to copy but to develop a style that fits our buildings, our climate and our customs.

We need evergreen hedges because they clip well and relieve the monotony of winter white. We need to use a variety of small, flowering trees and shrubs like the North Carolina's flowering trees. We should learn to use ground covers on banks and in other areas where grass is difficult to cut; these also match our low houses. We need enough color for cheer, but not the garish' confusion of color that causes strain. We need the grace and relaxation of nature ordered to fit our small properties, just as the Persians did.

The qualities that make for good design do not change so long as we stick to the sound principle of meeting our needs. The change in our social structure has made it possible for more people to live in greater comfort; this, in turn, has changed the function to which we can put the land at our disposal.

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