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  • Writer's pictureJay Friesen

Basics IV: Scale

Series: Basics of Good Design

  1. Foundations II: Pre-Design Work

  2. Basics I: Line

  3. Basics III: Color

  4. Basics V: Unity

  5. Basics VI: Balance

When most people hear scale their mind drifts to the thing on the floor of their bathroom. Most of us have a love-hate relationship with this device so I will just say now the bathroom scale has nothing to do with the scale I am talking about today.

Scale in design is the relationship of landscape elements to their surroundings. The main two things to consider for scale is your home and other objects in the vicinity (neighbors’ trees, existing trees and even surrounding buildings/houses). The picture below shows 2 things, the house is dwarfed by the neighbor’s trees and the large tree in the front yard. Most likely nothing can be done about the neighbor’s large peripheral trees however, the Birch in the front needs to be removed or pruned up to allow some scale for the house. Adding foundation plants that rise no higher than the bottom of window (under window plants) and taller plants on the corner will help to anchor the house to the landscape.

Proper scale for shrubs against the house should not be more then ¾ its height and trees further away should not be more then 2x it’s height. This allows for a nice balance of scale.

Lastly, remember plants overtime grow. So, you must either prune extensivly or plant the right plant in the right spot, sized correctly. Check the actual size estimate of the plant which is generally a 10 year estimate for shurbs and 20 year estimate for trees. Remember, they will contine to grow after that time frame some more slowly, others at the same speed. The 2 most common plants that are NOT planted in the right sprot around here are Junipers against homes and those cute little spruce trees that are only 4 feet tall and end up becoming 25 feet wide and 60 feet tall. Below is one such instance.

We were able to give a little better scale to this house by adding trees to the open area on the left and foundation plants aroudn the porch.

Another example below is a large Arborvitea that was trimmed quite a bit in its life to keep it “small” but it nevertheless blocked the veiw of the front door and was hanging over the driveway and sidewalk.

With it removed we were able to create a nice welcoming area that will never over-grow the space.

Questions? Comments?

Email or swing by our store and chat with any of our helpful & knowledgeable staff!

Andrew J Marble

Landscape Design Artist

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