Setting the Scene


By Katie Costain and Ben Freeman

Ben Freeman and Katie Costain give a couple of quick landscape design tips.

Colour and tone

If you are looking for “wow” appeal, then use colour; lots of colour. But make sure you use it correctly. Start with a colour theme that suits your personal style, the architecture of your house and one that showcases your garden with a rich, saturation of colour.

There are plenty of websites and online resources that explain colour theory and colour wheels. But even using the tones of a colour can induce a dramatic effect. Using lighter colours in dense spaces and darker colours behind rich coloured plants enhances the colour of feature planting.

Colour is important in other elements of your landscape, from the colour of the deck stain to the colour of stone pavers. These are all elements that one must consider when designing and how these colours relate to one another.

Repetition, proportion and balance

Repetition can be a great way to create texture, movement and hierarchy in your garden.
If you are a keen gardener, you may have heard the rule of planting in odd numbers, more specifically to plant in threes.

Odd as it may sound; there is a reason why odd numbers look good. A single plant is a feature. One either side of this makes a frame. This is not just a gardener’s moniker, but a rule used in design – the rule of thirds.

“Repetition can be a great way to create texture, movement and hierarchy in your garden.”

This rule also helps in finding proportion. Consider a potted plant; it looks best when the plant is a third of the overall size of the pot. While this rule is generally appropriated to visual design, it is a golden rule to follow when considering repetition of elements in your design or planning on creating a feature in your garden. Most designers believe there is a balance in three’s that is more harmonious than pairs.

Katie Costain and Ben Freeman are the directors of Billygoat Landscape Architecture (BGLA), based in Canterbury and Wellington. For more information, visit

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