Landscape Design Strategy: How to Create a Focal Point

March 2012

Directing the eye, giving the eye a place to restthese are phrases one might hear in an artist’s company, but did you know that a focal point is also important in landscape design? Every Portland or Beaverton landscaper will agree that a focal point is a must-have in any design; landscape without a focal point, and your yard will be far less appealing overall.

What’s the first thing newcomers generally notice when walking into your living room? Is it your flat-screen TV, or a fireplace? That’s your focal point for the room. The same principle applies to gardens. The focal point is the place where the eye is naturally drawn. Of course, you can design landscape areas with no focal point – after all, it’s your garden. However, if you do include a focal point, as any Beaverton landscaper will tell you, your garden will really stand out in the viewer’s memory.

Statues, unusual plants, fountains – all of these items make great focal points. To find the best focal point for your landscape, design experts recommend keeping these tips in mind:

Keep it personal. Choose items that appeal to your personal sense of taste. Don’t choose a Grecian urn just because you saw it in a glossy magazine; if garden gnomes are more your style, make one of them your focal point.

Place your focal point off center. Just as a painter would generally avoid placing the focus of a composition in the dead center of a canvas, when creating a design, landscape experts typically avoid putting focal points in the center of a space.

Choose strong, multi-season specimens. If you are selecting a plant as your focal point, make sure it’s healthy. You’ll also want to ensure that your showcased plants are interesting throughout the year.

Play with color. A single white blossom can make a fantastic focal point when surrounded with dark green foliage. Likewise, a pair of bright pink lawn chairs will automatically stick out as a focal point. Use the power of color when highlighting a focal point.

Ponder your yard’s proportions. A six-foot statue would make a great focal point in a large, formal garden; however, the same statue would look foolishly pompous in a small cottage garden. Let the size of your focal point match the size of your gardening space.

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