Basics of Landscaping

Landscaping is the design, creation, and maintenance of outdoor spaces. Landscaping Harrisburg PA involves many skills and disciplines, from horticulture to engineering to architecture.

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A well-maintained garden and yard can improve your home’s resale value. It can also help improve your mental health by lowering stress levels and boosting feelings of happiness.

Color is one of the most important tools up a gardener’s sleeve and the easiest way to attract attention to a focal point in the landscape. Savvy use of color can make a small garden appear bigger or a large one feel cozy. It can also create a sense of depth by using warm colors to draw the eye closer and cool colors to give the perception of distance.

Incorporating color into the landscape requires careful thought. It is best to start with the primary colors of yellow, red, and blue, and work from there. Primary colors are bright and have a high visual impact, especially when used as contrast against greens or other colors.

Once you have an idea of your landscape’s color scheme, take a drive around the neighborhood or local community and note the colors that attract your eye. You may be drawn to a particular landscape because of its use of bold or saturated colors, but try not to be overwhelmed by the number of different shades. A lot of color variation can look chaotic or unorganized, and it is better to stick with large groups of similar hues.

Complementary colors are found on opposite sides of the color wheel and pair well together. For example, yellow and purple are complementary, as are red and orange. Then there are analogous colors, which are found next to each other on the wheel and make for a harmonious color scheme. For example, yellow and green, red and blue, and purple and pink are all analogous colors.

Finally, there are tints and shades, which are lighter or darker versions of a color. For example, pink is a tint of red and navy blue is a shade of blue. Understanding the difference between these three different types of color is crucial to making your landscape design pop.


Form is a very important element of landscape design that helps create three-dimensional qualities. Whether it’s the shapes of plants, the arc of a water feature or the angles in a hardscaped structure, the form of each landscape element should compliment or contrast the other elements and add visual interest to the overall design.

Like line, form can impact focus by creating a rhythm in the landscape. Grouping plants and structures together can change their forms, resulting in a more structured or formal appearance. Form can also impact ambiance and emotion. Rectilinear shapes feel structured and formal while rounded or irregular forms feel casual and relaxed.

When it comes to form, scale is important. The size of the landscape elements should be proportional to the surrounding architecture and home. Too large and the landscape can overpower the house, while too small and the landscape may not be functional or inviting.

The color of a landscape can also affect the form. Bright colors appear to advance toward the viewer, while cool colors recede. The color of the sunlight also impacts how a landscape looks. Direct sunlight can cause a landscape to look warmer and more saturated, while filtered light will make the colors appear subdued and less intense. Color should be used to complement rather than overwhelm other design elements.


Landscapers use a combination of horticultural science, artful composition and spatial organization to solve problems that can affect the aesthetics or practical functioning of your property. Anything that is fixed in place on your property and influences how it looks or how you use it is considered landscaping (except underground drainage systems). The addition of plants, changes to terrain shape and the construction of structures are all examples of landscaping.

One of the most important aspects of movement is rhythm. Much like a beat is to music and choreography is to a dance, rhythm creates a flow that draws the eye through a landscape. Using repetition of like forms, varying size and even spacing of points of emphasis are some ways to achieve visual rhythm in your garden.

Rhythm is also influenced by line. Whether it’s actual physical paths or the perceived lines created by planting beds, sidewalks and where grass meets pavement, line is an essential design principle in any landscape. Creating a sense of direction through the use of line is what gives your garden purpose and helps to guide people through it.

When you are ready to work with a professional landscaper, be sure to talk about your personal style and what features you would like to highlight in your yard. Some people want to create a space that reflects the style of their home; others prefer a more modern or tropical feel. Having these discussions with your landscaper will help you find the right balance of hardscapes and softscapes for your space. It will also ensure that your goals and theirs are in sync, so you’re happy with the results.


A well-designed landscape includes a focal point that directs the viewer’s eye around the space. This can be as simple as a planter filled with brightly colored flowers or as extravagant as a fountain or piece of garden art. Focalization can also be created through the use of curved paths and walkways or by the placement of different types of plants.

Proportion is the size relationship of all parts of a design. This includes the size of the structure relative to its surroundings and the size of the plant relative to its height and width. Symmetry is the most common form of proportion and can be achieved with straight or curved lines, repetition and scale. Scale refers to the size of objects in relation to one another – for example, a three-foot pool would be lost in a large open lawn but would fit perfectly into a small private area.

Transition, or gradation, is the gradual change in size, shape, color and texture of various landscape components. For instance, a transition of longer to shorter plants with changes in texture from coarse to fine could be used to enframe and highlight the beauty of a lake scene.

Unity, or blending, is the ability of all separate components of a design to work together to create a unified whole. This is accomplished by incorporating the other design principles of color, form, movement, proportion, rhythm and line into the overall landscape design. The design elements that help achieve this are the varying colors, shapes and textures of trees, shrubs, flowers and other plantings as well as the various features of hardscapes such as walking paths and patios.


Lines create shapes and forms, carry the eye through a landscape and elicit emotional responses. They also help establish dominance and a theme in the composition. Lines may be real (tangible) or perceived (implied). They can be vertical, horizontal, diagonal or curved.

In the landscape, lines may be created by the edges of plant materials meeting another surface material such as turf and groundcover or hardscape; the silhouette of a structure against the sky; or the length of a linear feature. Lines are used to delineate plants, connect spaces, define boundaries and create movement within a landscape.

Straight lines have a structural and forceful character and are often associated with symmetrical design. Diagonal lines add a dynamic element to the landscape and are effective in drawing attention to focal points. Curved lines have a more informal, natural character and are used to move the eye at a slower pace and reveal hidden views. Meandering lines mimic the course of a natural stream and are effective in pathways, plant bedlines and dry creek beds.

The scale of the different elements in a landscape is important to ensure a balanced look once the design has been completed. Keeping the size of the home in mind and selecting plant and hardscape materials to match that size will produce a harmonious effect.

Color is a very important aspect in the landscape design process. It affects how the space is viewed, whether it is in the bright light of summer or the soft light of winter. Understanding how warm and cool colors impact a garden will allow you to choose the best colors for your specific site. It is also important to understand how the sun and weather affects color, as this will alter the intensity and saturation of a particular color.