Things to Consider in Landscape Planning, Part 2

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Use of Water

Water is one of the most satisfying elements of design the landscape architect has to work with. It varies endlessly in character and emotional appeal. It can be used to provide ever-changing vistas; it contrast against and reflects foliage and sky. It offers opportunities for the preservation or creation of streams, lakes, ponds, fountains, small dams, and pools. It offers a medium for growing plants.


Either natural or man-made lakes can serve as landscape features. Man-made lakes depend upon the available water, the adaptability of the terrain, the possible holding qualities of the lake bed, the depths sufficient to restrain objectionable vegetative growth in the water, and the construction of water-holding dam. Possible loss of lake capacity through silting should not be overlooked, since it may become a serious threat. Adequate controls of erosion must be established for the feeding streams.


Dams up to 30 feet in height may be built of earth, rock fill, arched masonry, or buttress and timber forms. A dam constructed of earth is sensitive to the erosive action of water and is subject to speedy deterioration. This type of dam can be advantageously modified by the addition of rock fill. The cost of maintaining timber dams exceeds that of maintaining other more durable ones.

A dam should be fitted into the lines of its lake. This can be done by making it irregular in plan and action, and, upon occasion, by laying the lower courses in natural ledges of rock.

Shore Lines and Islands

In man-made lakes the original configuration of the ground itself may produce satisfactory shore lines. In any event, the shore lines should follow long, sweeping curves, with alternating bays and projections. In cross section they may either lead away from the water gently, or break suddenly into cliffs or rocky crags. Large stretches of water require sizeable trees grouped boldly on or near the banks. Shore lines can be planted with water-loving plants backed by masses of shrubby growth.

To protect against erosion, and to maintain slopes at steep angles, stones may be thrown together loosely over the sloping surfaces. Concrete walls or stone masonry may be utilized in some instances where flood and ice conditions are severe. Planting of native and deep-rooted trees and shrubs—such as black locust, honey locust, willow, sumac, matrimony vine, and aspen—may be used to give special protection to slopes of lakes.

If islands are to be created, they should be placed so as to simulate the results of natural forces. They should appear to be emerging hilltops or extensions of promontories that jut out over the water, or to match irregularities that occur on the adjacent shore.


Garden pools should be located and shaped to suit the style, size, and shape of the garden. They may be geometric or natural in shape. The depth of a pool will depend on the purpose for which it is intended. As a general rule, the pool should be shallow where there are children. For growing lilies, a depth of 18 to 24 inches is required. Moving water is desirable for fish. Pools are commonly constructed of concrete, brick, or tile. A pool should always be constructed so that it can be drained and cleaned when desired.


Many garden pools include a fountain of some kind. Fountains may be free standing and serve as central ornaments in themselves, or they may be part of a terminal vista, say at a wall or on a terrace.

Fountains may be quite simple, with but a single jet, or with additional jets operating from different points so that their streams interlace. Or they may be complex, including elaborate sculptured creations. Fountains should always be in proportion to their basins.

Swimming pools

Private swimming pools have become quite popular. Although swimming specifications ordinarily call for rectangular proportions and for specific relations of deep to shallow portions, private pools need to adhere too closely to these requirements. Whatever the type of pool, it should respect the use, form, and space relations of the garden.


The landscape consists of such familiar elements as ground, water, sky, and structures. Landscapes are subject to change brought about by man and by nature. The landscape architect is interested primarily in landscapes altered by man. The process of grading a landscape, a man-made change, involves the consideration of plane, concave, and convex surfaces.

Water is one of the most satisfying elements the landscape architect has to deal with. It provides a contrasting and reflecting surface for sky and foliage, and may be used in either formal or informal landscape designs. It becomes an element of landscape design in the form of lakes, pool, dams, and fountains. It offers a medium for growing plants.


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