Monday, June 30, 2014

Ecological Design - the Macro and Micro Views

Mason Bee House

Astrid Muschalla, Etobicoke


  1. main goals - to have the garden invite: shelter (for both humans and wildlife – including insects – think biodiversity); view(s); and rest (think sanctuary/ entertainment).
  2. Many ways to achieve goals – with: plants (think multi-story); hardscaping (think water conservation/collection); structures (growing food vertically, creative composts); berms (windbreak/privacy); lighting; artwork; furniture.
  3. Follow general design principles and elements: focal point, balance, scale, harmony, flow/ rhythm, surprise; form, shape, texture, line, colour, space.
  4. What style depends on existing elements like: house; trees; location; views; natural resources, how the yard gets used – or would like to be used; how much time to spend on maintenance; resources; personality (what kind of statement do you want to make?). No matter, which style, the goal here is to work with nature – think ecological/sustainable.
  5. Start with one area first, and build on from there.


  1. Follow design principles throughout all the seasons. 
  2. Designing a garden bed is easier if you break it down into scenes or  ‘garden vignettes’ using the design elements: that is, a series of well-chosen plant groupings (think ecologically compatible and multi-storey); think like a photographer, composing pleasing scenes with a small group of plants.
  3. How to start with a vignette - the art of combining plants effectively - choose a grouping of  5 – 7 plants that are ecologically compatible (not only same growing conditions but exist in nature together). Think of the large and small views, starting with a focal point, which can be a plant/shrub/tree or art, etc.
  4. If a plant can fulfill several design roles in a vignette it strengthens the overall design.
  5. When adding flowers as colour accents, limit the colours you use and put the emphasis on harmonious combinations while adding a contrasting colour for excitement. i.e. echo a colour in a foliage plant with a colour of the flowering plant. If it’s yellow, you could energize with a contrasting (complimentary) colour like blue.
  6. Always leave room for the element of surprise – could be a hidden view as you stroll through the garden or a random gift from nature - a garden vagabond. Garden vagabonds create serendipity – what you lose in control you gain in adventure – you may be surprised by a perfect combo that you never thought of before.

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