Thursday, June 11, 2009

Good Bones

As women we’ve all probably heard about the benefit of having good bones. We admire other women with good bone structure, even though we aren’t exactly sure what makes one cheekbone better than another.... We watch home design shows where they rave about the good bones of a house, compelling buyers to look beyond the psychedelic wall paper and chartreuse shag carpet. We even talk about having good bones in our wardrobe, referring to the classic staples like a white button-up shirt and those jeans that fit perfectly.

Landscape Bones
It makes sense, then, that bones make an appearance in landscaping, too. Though you may not be able to identify specifically what makes for a well-structured yard, I guarantee that it is the “cheekbones” and “arches” of a design that sets the stage for everything else.

Tips to Follow
So how can you make sure your space has good bones? Consider starting with the following rules:

Rule 1: don’t let your fondness for flowers govern your choices. Believe me--I know the temptation. You walk into a garden center, or down your street, and of course you are immediately attracted to the blooming plants. And so those are what you end up purchasing and planting year after year. The problem is that the common flowering plants are more like accessories--like shimmer to highlight an eyelid, or a scarf to accent a sweater. They certainly make a statement, but it’s the foundation behind them that really completes the look. Which leads me to...

Rule 2: focus on structure first. Though not nearly as flashing as the pl
ants mentioned above, it is actually the trees and shrubs in a landscape that make for good bones. Because of their size (height and width), they effectively anchor a yard just like cheekbones and chins anchor a face. They are the frames. So...

Rule 3: place them carefully. Since trees and shrubs frame a yard, it usually makes the most sense to layer them around the perimeter of the property/space that you’re designing. And just like walls and counters in homes, they can also be used to divide up separate “rooms” in your yard. Take the time to get the placement right, because bad bone structure is difficult to fix. In other words, please don’t plant a huge tree dead center in the lawn, no matter how tempting! Would you put the tallest lamp in your home in the center of your living room? No, of course not! You’d put it in a corner or along the side of the room. The same applies for trees/shrubs.

A Start
There is, of course, a lot more to say about good bone structure for landscapes, but starting here is...well...a good place to start. So next time you visit the garden center and are tempted to grab those gorgeous purple salvias, make sure you also have plans for a good foundation.

Don’t have a yard? Join me tomorrow as I apply these same principles to patio design!

Previous Related Links & Posts:
Furnishing Your Outsides
Light Up the Night
**visit Retro Summer's Webpage for June events, photos, and more!**


  1. I agree with what you said about tree placement. I've seen so many homes with currently small trees in front of forward a few years and that tree covers the whole window! It looks cute when it's young, but then takes over the front of the house.

  2. That is so true! And they're nearly impossible to move when they get big!


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