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Professional Planting Design: An Architectural and Horticultural Approach for Creating Mixed Bed Plantings

ISBN: 978-0-471-76139-6
304 pages
March 2007
Professional Planting Design: An Architectural and Horticultural Approach for Creating Mixed Bed Plantings (0471761397) cover image


"This is a great reference book for planting design, which is an arena where so many of us are hugely challenged. Information in it is well written, engaging, useful, accessible, and original."
-- Holly H. Shimizu, Executive Director, United States Botanic Garden

"A unique blend of classic planting-design principles and ecological plant-selection criteria."
-- Scot Medbury, President, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

"After reading the book, you will be able to experiment with nature and use its myriad of facets to make your own original statement. You will be ready to take risks and design exciting and original gardens."
-- From the Foreword by James A. van Sweden, Oehme, van Sweden & Associates

A comprehensive guide to the "high art" of designing mixed bed plantings

When done successfully, mixed beds represent the pinnacle of planting design -- a living work of art in which small trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, bulbs, tropicals, and groundcovers combine to create a true feeling of place. Professional Planting Design initiates you into the principles of planting design and helps you develop the ability to think about the planting design process, so that you can develop your own effective compositions that sustain multi-seasonal interest.

Richly illustrated with photographs and drawings, Professional Planting Design covers the basics as well as the advanced concepts of planting design including: selecting plant characteristics, types of mixed bed plantings, structuring and composing mixed beds, creating mixed palettes for seasonal variation, designing in elevation and plan view, and choosing plants. You'll find coverage of design, landscape architecture, and horticulture interwoven throughout the guide, along with detailed steps for developing mixed bed planting compositions at a variety of scales for projects on both residential and commercial sites.

Clear and concise yet thorough, this book will supplement your talent with the knowledge you need to create harmonious mixed plantings in the landscape that will provide continual interest throughout the seasons.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by James A. van Sweden vii

Foreword by Fergus Garrett viii

Introduction ix

Planting Design: A Unique Design Profession xii

Practicing the Art of Mixed Planting Design xiv

1 Mixed Planting Basics 1

Mixing and Matching 2

Evolution of a Planting Style 3

The Theory Behind Mixed Plantings:

The Role of Dynamism and Diversity 7

Making the Most of the Mix 9

The Role of Plant Functionality in Design 10

Mixed Planting Bed Functions 10

Mixed Planting Bed Types 12

Cultural and Maintenance Considerations as Part of the Design Process 15

Moving on with the Planting Design Process 16

2 The Power of Succession 19

Planning for Succession 20

Components of the Mixed Planting 21

Permanent vs. Temporary Plantings 35

3 Applying Design Fundamentals to Planting Design 37

Elements of Composition 38

Using Color in the Landscape 50

The Language of Design 54

4 Structuring and Adorning the Mixed Planting Composition 69

Imposing a Planting Structure 70

Punctuating with Decorative Plants 73

Working with Plant Forms 75

Incorporating Leaf Characteristics 81

Using Foliage Color 89

Maintaining Seasonal Interest 94

5 Form–Based Approach to Mixed Planting Design 101

Understanding Form Relationships 102

Blocking a Design Pattern 107

Creating Mass: Grouping and Arranging 108

Assembling the Abstract Composition 116

Evaluating the Composition 123

6 Designing in Plan View: Creating the Beds 125

Going Horizontal 126

Grouping Plants: Developing Masses 131

Calculating Bed Depth 138

Establishing the Bed Line 140

Developing a Design Theme 145

Using a Grid 161

Conclusion 173

7 Composing and Structuring a Mixed Bed 175

Layering as Part of the Planning Process 176

Locating the Plants 177

Identify Locations of Structure Plants 177

Add Theme Plants 184

Insert Accents or Focal Points 190

Infill or Filler Plantings 196

Understanding the Importance of

Massing to the Planting Composition 197

Factoring in Maintenance 203

Conclusion 206

8 Specifying Plants by Their Characteristics 207

Specifying Characteristics 208

Planning for Succession 218

Creating a Memorable Impression 226

Keeping It Simple 234

9 Understanding the Planting Environment 237

Understanding Soils 238

Exposure to the Elements 241

Accounting for Growth Behavior 243

Giving Plants Room to Grow 246

Exploiting Plant Genetics 249

Conclusion 249

10 Completing the Process: Selecting the Plants 251

Bibliography 259

Index 261

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Author Information

Scott C. Scarfone, ASLA, is a principal at Oasis Design Group, a landscape architecture, planning, and design firm he founded in historic Fells Point in Baltimore, Maryland. He is an instructor in the continuing education programs at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, The School of the Chicago Botanic Garden in Chicago, and Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. He frequently lectures around the country on various topics including garden design, planting design, and garden travel. Scott is a registered landscape architect and a certified professional horticulturist with a specialization in herbaceous perennials.
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"The great mysteries of successful planting design are unraveled by landscape architect Scott Scarfone in Professional Planting Design. Scarfone sets out the guidelines to allow anyone from an avid amateur gardener to a professional landscape designer or architect to create a living work of art with plants." (The American Gardner, May/June 2008)

"Using mainly black and white drawings and photographs to illustrate principles, he prods the reader to think first of architectural concepts, forms and textures before considering color compositions. High marks go to the author for his presentation on the application of theory." (Chicago Botanic Garden Current Books and Book Reviews Web page; summer 2007)

"It is a ‘go-to’ reference for a variety of design topics from useful definitions of design fundamentals to more complex considerations of massing plants, structuring space, and deconstructing design compositions to understand how they function." (Landscape Architecture: The Magazine of the American Society of Landscape Architects, February 2008, Vol. 98, No. 2)

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