Plant materials can be used to provide several aesthetic functions on the residential site, including providing visual accents and complementing the architectural style of the house.
Providing Accents The residential site designer should have established the location of focal points or accents of the design composition while preparing the functional diagrams. During preliminary design, many of these focal points can be established with plant materials that stand out in contrast to their surroundings due to size and form.
1. Size. Plant materials that are larger and especially taller in size than surrounding plants act as visual accents. Trees can act as dominant plants when they are the largest element among other plants (left side of Figure 11—41), or when they are placed by themselves in an open lawn area (right side of Figure 11—41). Tall shrubs or ornamental trees can also serve as accents when they are larger than surrounding plants in a group (Figure 11—42). In all these situations, care must be exercised not to use plants that are too large
for their context. Plants that overpower their setting can make all the other elements of a design seem too small.
2. Form. Plant forms that differ from a neutral rounded form are commonly seen as accents in a design. Focal points are most easily created by plants that are columnar/fastigiate, pyramidal, or picturesque in form (Figure 11—43).
Ornamental trees work especially well as accents based on their size and form. Ornamental trees are small – to medium-sized trees (10- to 15-feet height and spread) that have appealing form, color, and texture throughout the year, such as crab apples (Malus sp.), dogwoods (Cornus sp.), hawthorns (Crateagus sp.), or olives (Olea sp.). Ornamental trees can be located at strategic points such as near the entrance walk, near the outdoor living and entertaining space, or at a distant point in the yard (Figure 11-44).
Often, accent plants are best placed at prominent points of planting beds, corners, areas that will be seen from many different vantage points, or the end of an axis (Figure 11-45). The shape of these areas (form composition) and the placement of accent plants within them (spatial composition) need to be carefully coordinated during preliminary design. The organization and shape of outdoor spaces must allow the accent plant to be fully expressed.
Complementing the House Another aesthetic use of plant materials is to complement the architectural style of the house. Forms, lines, and colors of the house can be
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echoed or repeated in the site with plants. For example, the horizontal mass and lines of a one-story house can be carried into the adjoining site with a mass of plants that continues the horizontal line (top of Figure 11—46). Or a house with numerous peaks and gables can be complemented with a grouping of fastigiate and pyramidal plant forms (middle of Figure 11—46). Sometimes, it is desirable to contrast the architecture with plants of opposite forms (bottom of Figure 11—46).