It can be difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes up “good design” and a lot of times it’s a situation where you know good design when you see it. Or maybe more accurately, good design is when you don’t even notice when it’s happening. Either way, it’s pretty obvious to us when we see a bad design.

So, what exactly are some of the hallmarks of good design? For insight I turned to Landscape Architect and salesman, Chuck Hyams. Chuck has been with the company since 1989 and has become an authority on Scott Byron & Co. design sensibility.

The Five Hallmarks of Good Design

1. Stay true to design principles that include spatial arrangements, unity, balance, and emphasis. Spatial arrangement is the layout of your garden and how the elements relate to each other and to your house. Your garden should invite movement, both visually and physically, and with proper spatial arrangement that will happen. Unity ties the elements of your garden together through repetition and rhythm. Having plants and hardscape elements repeat through your garden with periodic interruptions will create a cohesive space that visually makes sense. Balance refers to the symmetry, or asymmetry, of your garden. Typically formal gardens are symmetrical and informal gardens are asymmetrical; in either instance, balance makes your garden dynamic and prevents it from looking chaotic. Emphasis is created through contrasting colors, textures, and sizes of plants through your garden.

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2. Have a good understanding and knowledge of hardscape materials and details. Some of the most common, and costliest, mistakes are attributed to hardscape materials and details. From using interior tiles on your stoop to using thin stone for your steps, hardscape materials and details will make a huge difference to the overall aesthetic of your property. Trademarks of a high end hardscape installation are oversized pieces (meaning no 1×1 pieces in a random dimensioned design) and using true treadstock thickness for your steps (2” – 2 ¼”). Other details include the thickness of banding around your driveway or terrace and how hardscape elements meet together. Using hardscapes to emphasize your garden and the architecture of your house truly brings indoor living outside.

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3. Compose your gardens with layers. From top down, your garden should typically include shade trees, ornamental trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcover. Having all these elements gives your garden interest and structure. Layering is also useful in disguising the base of plants. Oftentimes, the base of plants, like evergreens and large shrubs, can become leggy and unsightly. If you plant smaller shrubs and perennials in front of them you can cover up the less attractive components of the plants while adding another component that beautifies your garden.

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4. Have a clear understanding of a client’s budget and expectations. It’s always easier to design when you know the end goal. We’re happy to show you the dream, a master plan that thoroughly designs your entire property, but that’s not always in the budget. At least not at the beginning. We work with clients to develop a budget and the phasing of the project so that the clients get what they want and need without breaking the bank. Knowing the budget and the direction of the design means that we can focus on what design elements and materials can work within the scope of the project.

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5. Provide stewardship of the land that preserves and enhances the natural setting of the property. It’s important to acknowledge that your property is not an entity unto itself with no relation to the world around it. Whether it’s protecting or enhancing heritage trees, native grasslands, and wetlands or developing views and access to the lake and ravines, we design and install our projects with the understanding of how it relates to its surroundings.

Now that we know what a good design entails, let’s also remember that it’s equally important that your garden is maintained to uphold the design intent. Proper pruning and making sure that your groundcover and perennial beds are full and lush will go a long way in keeping your garden looking neat and beautiful.