Straight or curved lines?

Line is one of the most important and useful of all design elements. Line is everywhere – so when we talk about line in garden design, a frequent question we get asked is “when should the lines be straight or curved?”

There are so many factors to take into consideration when choosing between the two. There are no rules, and if there are any – they are always going to be broken by some. It comes down to personal choice and taste – and it even says a lot about your personality.

Curved lines follow the shape of informal garden beds and add interest to pathways. Perfect for the person that wants to ponder. There’s something quite magical about seeing a curved pathway lead around a corner not knowing where it will lead (most probably to a garbage bin) – but the mystique is what makes it appealing. The planting in curved garden beds can be less formal, and requires less need for neatly clipped plants and hedges. Different plants can pop their heads up at different times of the year to create interest.

Straight lines pull everything into order and direct you to a specific point. This is usually most suited to people that don’t want to spend the time meandering down a path, or want to direct the eye to a certain location. Straight from A to B, only stopping to remove a fallen leaf from their freshly cut lawn. The plantings usually consist of rows of layered hedges that are neatly manicured. These tightly clipped hedges enhance more straight lines, both vertically and horizontally.

Other than personal choice, there are elements in the surroundings that will often determine the choice of line.

The style of the house
The style of house is usually the first port of call. A French provincial house will be crying out for straight lines and formal plantings to enhance the mirror frontage of the house. Whilst an Edwardian style is suited to straight lines, curves or a combination of both.

Established trees on site
If you are lucky enough to have an established tree/s on your block of land, then this may determine the line. It’s hard to create a straight line and strict formal garden if you have large tree in a position that doesn’t fit within the symmetry needed. A curve around the base of a large tree to mirror the trunk and canopy often does wonders to draw attention to it. A straight line, often makes it look too harsh or less inviting.

Style of planting
The desire for a style of planting will often determine which lines to integrate. If the garden owner loves the look of layered hedges – it is possible to create this look with straight or curved beds, but generally formal plantings revert to straight lines. The garden owner that prefers random plantings will usually be steered towards curves throughout the garden.

Clients often ask us what we prefer in regards to line in their garden design. It really depends first and foremost on the house and surroundings. I will know when I first arrive at a clients property as to whether the garden needs to have the relaxed nature of curves or the strict layout of straight lines – or a combination of both. I have to admit that even when a strict straight line formal garden is planned, I will always try and find a place for a circular bed somewhere – or perhaps a curve in a corner. Maybe that says something about my personality?

If you’re unsure, confused, or even a little scared about jumping head first into making this life changing decision, then hopefully the above has helped. If not, feel free to give us a call!