What are your design skills

¿cjABEft Sustainable landscape design differs from ordinary landscape design in that you have to carefully plan for functionality, and you have to have a deep sensitivity to the site to make that functionality happen. In other words, you have to be more aware and think differently to achieve sustainability. You don't have to be a genius, though; you just have to consider a lot of things that you may never have thought of. I get to that in Part II. For now, think in terms of doing what I like to call deep design — applying your best thinking to planning your new landscape on many levels.

You won't just be decorating your yard; you'll be developing a complex ecosystem that's finely tuned to operate smoothly with minimal effort or resources, an ecosystem that's productive as well as beautiful and is also good for the larger environment. Deep design is trickier than simply figuring out which plants look pretty together and whether to buy the blue or the mauve cushions for the patio furniture. This concept may seem overwhelming at first, but you can get the hang of it quickly.

In the following list, I introduce some of the talents and resources you may bring to the design phase of your landscaping project. You need these design chops if you're going to figure out the whole project on your own, but they're handy even if you plan to hire a professional landscape architect or designer. It never hurts to be well informed. You can read all about these skills in Part II of the book.

  • An eye for detail: The small things seem to make the difference between an average job and a great one. Details are also what make a project sustainable. Choosing a shrub that's the right size, for instance, eliminates the need to prune constantly.
  • The willingness to spend time really understanding your property:

To achieve sustainability in your landscape, you need to know what you're working with. Moving around your land, observing with a high level of awareness, and researching the environmental conditions present on your property all inform your design work and help you create a landscape that's tuned to your actual circumstances.

  • A feeling for the laws of natural systems: By understanding how a natural ecosystem works — the interactions among soil, climate, plants, microorganisms, insects, and animals — you're better prepared to create your own ecosystem.
  • A basic knowledge of the universal principles of design: Certain rules are fundamental to all kinds of design, not just landscaping. Following these rules helps you create a landscape that looks as if it were professionally done.
  • Good taste: Taste is subjective, of course. And I suppose most people think they have good taste (even the ones with the paisley golf slacks or the plastic flowers tied to their shrubbery). But an artist's eye helps you take the design principles to a higher level.
  • A love of plants and living things: Passion may not be a design skill, strictly speaking, but without it your work suffers from mediocrity. It's safe to say you bought this book because you love gardens, so use your enthusiasm to push your design to its highest and best level.
  • Some basic drafting skills (optional): You don't need to be an artist — you're going to be making a beautiful garden, not pictures of a beautiful garden — but it helps to be able to draw a plot plan of your project and lay out your ideas on paper before committing to them in the real world.

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