Landscaping concentrates on special design, a sound conception of space is necessary. Activities such as construction, agriculture and horticulture involve defining space for human use.  Erecting a fence and construction of bunds are intended to define space.  Likewise, a building or a room therein encloses and defines space (Fig. 1).  Architects design space for human use in a variety of ways by adopting construction techniques.  The materials used by them will consist of steel, bricks and mortar.  In landscape gardening also, the aim is to define space for human use including recreation and relaxation.  The basic materials used here are plants, water and rocks.  In grouping them in simulated landscapes, beauty will be combined with utility.


            In the discussion on space, the importance of land has been indicated.  Land is the solid crust of the earth. It is surface on which the landscape designs are executed.  Therefore, it requires added consideration to under stand bring out its importance to the designer.

            In a manner of speaking, land may include the soil, rocks, water resources, vegetation, minerals and anything else that may stand upon it.  For purposes of design, it is considered in terms of topography and soil.  The physical characteristics and conspicuous surface features of land make possible its classification into landforms as plains, plateau, hills and mountains.  Plains have very little altitude and slope.  The land here is level.  Most part of peninsular India lies in the plains.

Fig. 1: A house defines space by its roof, walls and floor.  The landscape garden has also its roof, walls and floor.

            A plateau is an elevated land.  The two plateaus in the subcontinent are the Tibetan and Deccan plateaus.  The Tibetan plateau lies at an altitude of 2600 m and the Deccan plateau 1000-1300 m above the sea level.  It has little slope.  Mountains and hills are rugged land with very little level surface.  The difference between mountain and hill is a question of degree.  Mountain is generally rugged, the peaks and cliffs are very high.  In hills, they are on a low scale.  Much of rugged lands in south India are constituted by the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats and to a smaller extent the Eastern Ghats.

Fig. 2: The Mountain – 1. the ridge, 2. the peak, 3. the valley, 4. the floor of the valley, 5. the stream, 6. the shola.  The outline of valley in cross-section.  Man-made valleys should have smooth curves

            The hill or mountain has a ridge at the crest (Fig. 2).  This ridge may be wide enough for land use or it may be very narrow and wind-affected.  Most of the mountain ridges are rocky.  This feature makes it impossible to have large vegetation forms such as trees.  However, the ancient Hindus knew the aesthetic potential of flat ridges.  The hilltop temple at palani is an example of such use.  In some cases, the hill takes a conical shape, the apex of which almost tapers to a point, with no land at the top.  To large extent, the land in the hill lies in its valley.  A valley is a sloping land, hemmed in by rising mountains.  The slope is measured in terms of ascent made for a known distance of slope.  Thus 1 in 10 is one foot (30.48 cm) of climb for every 10 feel; 1 in 25 is 1 foot of climb for every 25 feet.  This can be expressed in percentage also.  A slope of 1 in 10 will make 10 percent, 1 in 25, is 4 percent.

            The floor of the valley will normally carry the stream, perennial or seasonal.  It is the moistest region in the hill country.  The bed bordering the stream is most likely to have deep fertile soils which can support lush vegetation.  Within a major landform, there are possibilities for considerable variation in regard to topography, resulting in micro-landforms.  This should also be taken into consideration while assessing landforms.

Shaping Land

            Land in any situation will require shaping as a prelude to planting.  The shaping operation essentially consists of excavation and filling.  In the hill areas, these are done with view to obtain level surfaces for beds, lawns and buildings.  In level country also shaping land is necessary to form ponds, mounds and drains.  Hill gardens permit planting at various levels which add to their graphic beauty.  Generally speaking, a flat piece of land is featureless, and one with natural slopes is distinctive in character and pleasing to the eye, comparable to the undulating lines made by a danseuse.  In preparing rolling lands, both concave and convex surfaces are created.  In an imaginary cross-section of these surfaces, the curve formed should be smooth. In actual practice, visual alignment is sufficient to form the desired curves in a landscape garden, though to treat large areas the aid of leveling instruments is essential.

            The statement at the beginning indicates that an important concern in organizing space with grouped plants (as well as rock and water) is aesthetics.  This necessitates a close examination of the term and the concept behind it.


           Aesthetics has its origin in the Greek word ‘Aisthetikos’ originally suggesting sense perception.  The perceptive senses are sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.  To the early Greeks, it meant perception of goodness, beauty and character.  In the final stages of evolution of this word, its meaning, however, is restricted to perception of beauty alone.  The Hindu concept of ‘Rasa-asvadana’ or aesthetic theory as applied to art would also mean the same.

           The components of beauty of landscape are colour, shape, texture, pattern, line and point.  These are chiefly concerned with visual perception and appreciation.  The beauty of sound, movement and smell play an important though subsidiary role.  Enchanting movements are appreciated by the eye, sound is a subject of auditory perception and the beauty of the scent enjoyed through the olfactory sense.  Perception of beauty by individuals is highly subjective.  Age, sex, culture aesthetic values among the peoples, both ancient and modern.

           The national characters of landscaping have been influenced by culture and civilization of people.  It is true to say that the style of landscaping reflects the ethos of the people.



            The visual sensation produced by rays of decomposed light is colour.  The light decomposing to a spectrum gives violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red (VIBGYOR – Fig. 3).  White is total effect produced by rays of unrecompensed light and black is the absence of light or the effect produced by a surface reflecting no rays.  Blue, yellow and red are primary colours, all others having been derived from them serving as mixtures.  Thus, blue and yellow combine to form green, yellow and red to form orange and red and blue to form violet.  Green, orange and violet so formed are secondary colours.  The intermediate colours are formed by admixtures of two colours in the spectrum, such as bluish green and reddish yellow.

Fig. 3: The colour wheel: violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.  Blue, yellow and red are primary colours.  Violet, green and orange are secondary colours.

            The quality of every one of these primary, secondary and intermediate colours is referred to as hue.  If to a certain hue white is gradually added, progressive tints of it are formed by dilution.  Instead, addition of black results in shades, indicating its depth. Addition of grey, which is black and white in equal proportion, causes the formation of tones of the particular hue.  When the surface reflecting the colour allows light rays to pass through partially, it is translucent.  It is called opaque when the surface does not show this property.  Red, yellow and orange are referred to as hot or bright while green, blue and white are cool and light colours.  Sometimes, colours are identified by their association with well-known objects and phenomena, as sky blue, marine blue, lemon yellow and emerald green.  Natural sky blue, terracotta, beige and jungle green are referred to as earth colours.  These are important in a deign as background foil to more showy ones used as design elements.

             Colour is an important component in landscape deign.  The predominant colour in nature, of which designed landscape is an imitation, is green.  The green is a cool, soothing colour.  The green is a cool, soothing colour.  The green colour of plants id due to a pigment called chlorophyll.  It plays an important role in photosynthesis, the process of manufacture of carbohydrates in leaf cells from the simple elements, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.  The intensity of green colour is not uniform in all plants.  In some cases it is very dark green and in others a light green.  There is also a difference between young and mature leaves.  In many species like Madhuca longifolia, the tender leaves are shining copper which gradually become chlorophyllous the maturity.  Even though the brilliant autumn colours of temperate trees are not exhibited by tropical trees, there are a few species which show warm colours in older leaves.  Threes belonging to the genus Terminalia show bright red foliage colour during the short deciduous period.  Another phenomenon is variegated leaves in trees and shrubs.  The trees show areas of white, yellow, red and many other colours and combinations in beautiful patterns.  Codiaeum, Achalypha and Aphelandra are some of the genera exhibiting beautiful combinations of leaf pigments.  Plants owe these colours to anthocyanins and xanthophylls.

             The major contribution of colour in landscape design is by flowers.  The floral colours are more appealing than man-made ones.  The range of colours obtained in flowers is very vast.  Black colour is absent in flowers.  The ‘eyes’ in petals of Hibiscus and such others, is a shade of blue rather than black.  Green flowers are common in Annonaceous plants.

             Monochromatic colour schemes using a single colour, though possible, may result in monotony.  There are, however, exceptions.  In “moon gardens” to be enjoyed at night, species with white flowers blooming after sunset are planted with beautiful effect. This is a good example of successful use of a single colour.  In a dichromatic arrangement, two opposing colours of the colour wheel are employed to contrast with each other.  Such contrasts can also be obtained by using a dark and light colour, a hot and cool colour and a bright and dull colour.  In triads or trichromatic colour schemes, alternating colours in the wheel, yellow-red-bleu and orange-violet-green are employed.  In a polychromatic scheme various colours are used.  In this case, rhythmic repetition of colours is necessary for unity of design.  The order and sequence of colours in any such arrangement need not follow a rigid dogmatic pattern.  Further, providing sufficient contrast by juxtaposing opposite colours will avoid a tiresome visual effect.  A bright sun and a clear blue sky a backdrop permit the liberal use of bright colours in South Indian landscape.  For perception of colours, light is essential.  Subdued light of the moon makes white enjoyable.  But perception of colour in the garden is influenced no only by light but also by shade, distance and neighbouring hues.


             Shape refers to the outline or configuration of an object.  Solids fill space and have a mass.  This mass has an outline or configuration.  The total effect given by the mass and its outline is shape.  Liquids like water take the shape of the container in which they are held.  Trees and shrubs take definite shapes, which though subject to time and growth, are constant at any point of time.  These shapes are the total effect of the trunk, branches and foliage. Man changes their shape by pruning and training. Climbing shrubs take the shape of the support on which they grow.  The beauty of any given shape consists in the line, curves and volume.

             Symmetry or the lack of it is another interesting factor.  Particularly the palms and some species of trees show near or total symmetry.  The traveller’s tree (Ravenala Madagascariensis) shows symmetry only in a single plane owing to the fan-shaped arrangement of leaves.  Symmetrical shapes are not uncommon in trees.  This may be seen in slanting or S-shaped boles topped by canopies which are perfectly balanced against the pull of gravity.  These asymmetrically balanced trees are more graphic than symmetrical trees.  Interesting shapes can also be met with in the organs such as leaves, flowers and fruits.


             Texture refers to the surface structure.  Appreciable differences in texture can be noticed in tree species with reference to leaves, flowers, bark and other organs.  The tree form offers various textures which may be described as fine or bold, coarse or soft, velvety or leathery and downy or hairy.  Generally spading, small needle-shaped leaves provide a fine texture; the effect of large broad leaves is coarse.  It is well worth remembering that used in proper context; both the textures are effective in design.  The massed effect of the small leaflets of the tamarind and similar trees having pinnate leaves is fine in textural quality.  Trees in bloom provide a velvet-like, downy or hairy look.  The leathery quality is associated with leaves of certain species of Cordia and a kind of waxiness with Calophyllum.  The texture is referred to as loose when the canopy of leaves is light and sparse (Acacia and Eucalyplus).  The tufted look of the canopy of Ailanthus excelsa with its leaves cluttered at the tips of branches is another textural variation.  The bark also offers interesting variability in texture.  The smooth, rough, split, peeling or spiny bark is interesting and provides visual contrasts.


Pattern is the scheme or model which one finds in the natural arrangement of plant parts.  The feathery leaves of the coconut palm, the fan-arrangement of leaves in traveller’s tree and the tiered branching of the Terminalia offer interesting patterns.  Repetition of pattern is a feature of plants and their organs.


            The aesthetic components by themselves do not convey beauty.  It comes apparent when these components are admixed, virtually correlated and juxtaposed with one another adopting certain principles, namely, balance, rhythm, proportion, scale and harmony.


            The balance in landscape design is a visual equilibrium of different garden elements.  In the formal garden, this is achieved by positioning plants and other landscape objects at equal distance from a real or imaginary plane or axis.  The equal arms of a balance with a central fulcrum will illustrate this point.  In this principle of the fulcrum, if one of the arms is longer than the other, two unequal weights would match each other.  The smaller weight counterpoising the longer arm would balance the heavier weight on the shorter arm.  Visual matching of garden elements to simulate the above mentioned phenomenon can be arranged.  For illustration, a large tree stands counter-balanced with a group of shrubs by adjusting the distance or arm in each case from the imaginary point or arms.  Again, to go back to the fulcrum.  In an instance with two equal arms, a kilogram of iron filings with higher specific gravity will be balanced by an equal weight of cotton, but possessing a higher volume than the iron filings owing to its low specific gravity.  To cite a garden example, a large mass of white, yellow or blue flowers will be balanced by a relatively low volume of red or orange flowers.  The balancing in design is purely visual. In the informal and naturalistic designs, balancing is mainly a neutralizing effect.  For clarity, a few examples from life’s day-to-day experiences will be helpful.  Paired opposites like joy and sorrow, night and day and pleasure and pain neutralize one another.  Garden components are also designed to obtain a similar yet neutralizing effect of balance.  Opposite colours in the colour wheel, contrasting textures, different numbers, shapes, forms line and pattern are cleverly employed to neutralize one another. 

            The above account adequately conveys the contrasting and neutralizing role of balance.  The composition of a picture depicting a mother with child in her arms attains balance by the contrasting effect.  Similarly a wrinkled, toothless old man sharing a joke with a chubby tow-year old child conveys balance in composition.  A tree laden with fruit and a gnarled old tree supporting a climbing shrub in bloom also give the same balanced look.  The visual metaphors in them may also be noted.

Fig. 4: A Balance: 1. The arms of equal length and the weight also  equal-symmetrical balance. 2. The arms are unequal and the weights are also unequal-total asymmetry.  The principles of physical balance can be extended to natural phenomenon.


            Proportion refers to the share of the different parts or components to the whole.  To obtain a composite whole, proportional allocation to different architectural and planting schemes should be aimed.  In other words, the relationship between the buildings, roads and footpaths, arboretum, shrubbery, water garden and other features should have as assigned share in proportion to the design considerations and requirements.  This is not to say that the extent, size and content of the features should be equal, unless otherwise required in the introduction of formalism in the design.  On the other hand, they should occupy a position in proportion to their importance and in definite ratio to each other.  For further clarity, it may be stated here that proportion refers to all ingredients being mixed in right measure, not essentially in equal measure.


            Scale is a relative dimension.  The height and spread of trees and shrubs and the spread of the water garden are determined by adopting a scale, as one might adopt a scale in preparing a map.  To make it clear, it may be noted that a small reflecting pool underneath a large tree will be dominated by the tree and render the pool ineffective, owing to the difference in their dimensions.  To get the right picture of a tree beside a pool we should adopt a ratio between the size of the three and pool as is obtained in nature.  Nature is often very lavish.  The large rivers, high mountains and rushing waterfalls are created on an elaborate scale.  Man, in copying them, in his designed landscapes, reduces them in scale and relates them to a size convenient and acceptable to him.  Appropriate adoption of scales and proportionate measurements are the success of imitative naturalistic garden art.


            Rhythm is measured cyclic repetition.  Nature has its own rhythm.  The unfailing repetition of day and night, the measured beat of the heart, the seasonal occurrence of spring and the annual setting in of the monsoon are rhythmic.  One may also note the similarity of the Sanskrit word ‘rtu’ and rhythm.  The periodic growth, flowering fruiting seasons of trees have a repetitive charm, which does not loss its appeal for being repetitive.  In music rhythm is the result of varying tones.  According to the intensity of the pitch ascending and descending rhythms are achieved.  In dance also ascending and descending rhythms are artistically employed in both music and movement.  The ‘Tillana’ and Kalasam’ of Bharathanatyam pertain to change in rhythm.  When rhythm is not apparent, the dance music become monotonous due to a lack of variety.  In Indo-Saracenic architecture, the symmetrical, repetitive use of the onion-shpaed domes serves the purpose of breaking the monotony of the horizontal roof outline of the structure.  The use of ‘Kalasam’ in temple ‘Gopuram’, the entrance tower, also serves the same purpose.  In landscape designs, rhythm of the performing arts and architecture are effectively copied.  The commonest form is to vary the heights of hedges by providing domes and simulated pillars and reinforcements.  The rhythm of cleverly repeated colours and shape and wavy, repetitive outlines of tree groups viewed against the sky help to break monotony.


            Harmony is the pleasing effect obtained due to an apt arrangement and collation of the various garden features.  Every part of the landscape must unobtrusively merge into a whole.  To borrow an illustration from literature, a novel may consist of a large number of characters and a plot and subplots involving them.  But the narrative will progress to a composite whole story.  In the same way, designed landscape features should culminate in an integrated picture. No individual part should detract the value of the others.  One should strive for harmony not only among the garden parts, but also between the garden and the building which it is to complement.  Ultimately these should harmonize with the natural landscape beyond the boundaries of the treated plot.


            A designer takes recourse to the aesthetic principles of balance, rhythm, proportion and harmony to give unity to the composition.  Without it chaos will prevail.  To sustain changing interest and variety, diverse features are necessary.  The designer, therefore, aims at both unity and diversity, which though apparently antagonistic, are not difficult to accomplish in landscapes.  In garlands, flowers of various kinds are used.  The string used to weave them together unites them into one pleasing whole.  In the same way, effectively laid out paths, a stream, grouped trees, an expanse of lawn, rhythmic repetition of colours and many other features are incorporated in landscape design to attain unity in diversity.  Another means of achieving unity is to have a central theme for the composition.
The phenomena described below are important in creating visual illusions in the landscape.  The also form essentially a part of the garden aesthetics.


            As already discussed, designing is done in three dimensional space.  Objects situated away from the viewer look smaller in size.  In a train, turning a curve, the bogies towards the rear look smaller in size than the proximal ones.  To consider another example, the two parallel lines of the rail tract seem gradually to converge with distance.  These visual phenomena of shrinking size and co verging lines (Fig. 11) are known as perspective.



            Convenient roads (drive) footpaths (walk) are necessities in the garden from the functional standpoint.  The path helps to direct the flow of pedestrian traffic and the road does the same for vehicular moment.  But, too many paths and roads cutting across the landscape actually give the impression of a far diminished area and size of the garden looks smaller than it actually is.  They also give an impression of artificiality in the landscape.  On the other hand, the absence of path and road would lead to avoidable wear by foot beaten tracks.  A compromise is the only solution.  Therefore, a consideration of their layout and formation is pertinent here.


            The road connects important points in a garden or in a small home site, the street and the garage (car shed) and carport.  Long, winding roads can be a feature in extensive landscape designs, but not on small home sites.  An important consideration in layout is to form an easily negotiable way with no sharp turns and bends.  The maximum slope or gradient of 1 in 12 has to be adopted, out of necessity dictated by the terrain.  The width of the road should be 5.0 m or in any case, a minimum of 3.5 m.  There should be gutters on either side of the road for free drainage of rain water.  The earthen surface on which the road is formed is known as the formative surface.  Over this, for metalling, broken granite and quartz of 3.5 cm gauge or ‘kankar’ of 5 cm or broken ferruginous laterite of 5 to 7 cm should result in heavy dust and a short road life on constant use.  Hard metals will not be amenable to good binding resulting in an uneven surface.  We should not mix two different kinds of metals.  The metal is packed firm by hand using hammer and road rollers.  The interspaces are filled in.  Finally a coating of sand to a thickness of 0.5 cm is given.  Sufficient rolling, on being wetted with water, should follow.  The finished road is convex in cross-section.

            The road surface may also be black-topped over broken granite or gravel.  A concrete surface is still better from the standpoint of easy upkeep and maintenance.  Short roads can be paved with flag stones.


            Footpaths are formed to a width of 1 – 1 ½ m.  It is ordinarily made of gravel spread to a thickness of 5 cm.  The gravel requires compacting frequently.  The edges of the path should be made of concrete or cut stone to hold the gravel in position without being splashed or scattered.  Paving the paths with bricks or concrete is more effective and permanent.  In high rainfall areas, the danger of a slippery surface due to slimy, algal growth should be avoided.  This is done by giving a coarse finish to the surface and also by scrubbing it with sand.

            Winding ways, both drive and walk, with shrubbery in the bay conceals the view ahead.  This helps to generate curiosity to know what is further on and brings about an air of mystery.  To prevent being tantalized we should provide a pond, flower bed or at least a bench in the concealed bay.  In informal and picturesque designs, this feature is exploited to the full.  Straight and level walkways will prod the pedestrian to move on, with an easy, steady flow of traffic.  An ascent o n its way will make the traffic flow hesitant of onward movement.  A descent, on the other hand, will speed up pedestrians.  A level stretch after an ascent or descent tends to collect a crowd thereon.  In public gardens, this influence of the gradient on pedestrian movement can be utilized in crowd regulation and smooth flow of traffic.  In sleep ascents and descents, steps should be provided from a practical point of view.

            The central or approach roads and paths in a garden are laid out either in circular or spinal fashion (Fig. 5).  A circular road is very efficient in the dispersal of traffic.  A spinal road with lateral ones in a herring-bone arrangement also serves the same purpose. The manner in which traffic circulation is solved will depend on the terrain and the volume of traffic anticipated.

Fig. 5: The approach road in a garden is eighter circular or spinal:  Suitable combinations and modifications of the two are also possible.


            Bridges across steams and embankments are necessity in a garden.  These bridges should be harmonious with the landscape in both the design and the material used.  In a picturesque design, rustic looking material is more appropriate than formal one. In any case, the colour and texture of the material used can be discretely employed to bring unity with the building and other structural features in the property.  The practical considerations are that the bridges should be functional and structurally sound to withstand the weight it is expected to stand.  In hill districts or in flood-prone areas, suspension bridges of wood, stone or reinforced cement concrete linking pathways across streams will add to the look and naturalness of the garden.


            Steps are required for easy ascent or descent from two different levels in the garden.  They connect paths at two different levels and are intended for pedestrian use.  The total width should conform to the width of the footpath which the flight of steps is joining at either end.  The height will depend upon the difference in level of plots. But for ease of climb, the ‘tread’ or horizontal surface of step should be 40 cm wide and the ‘riser’ or vertical face, 15 cm high.  While constructing a flight of steps, start from the lower end and work upwards.  The materials for construction are stones and bricks properly cemented in place.  Wherever irregular, unchiselled cut stones are used, plastered over with cement mortar.  Use of flagstones to construct steps is a traditional practice adopted in this country. A flight of steps built with flags are sturdy and stand for centuries.  Give a smooth or rough finish to the steps according to the demands made by landscape design and style of architecture.  The steps when recessed have an advantage in that they do not project out into the garden features at the lower end.  A graduated flight of steps is desirable in places where the approach to it is from different angles, through diagonal footpaths.

Greenhouse Conservatory and Glasshouse

            These are special plant growing structures. A greenhouse properly constructed provides a cool, airy humid place to grow plants which would thrive under these special environs.  The roof and the supporting features are of stone, concrete wood or angled iron with the whole structure enclosed in wire-mesh.  Provision of benches inside is a necessity to display plants mostly raised in containers.  Partially cover the greenhouse with spreading climbers for shade. A glasshouse develops high temperature inside, but in the warms plains only and not in the hills.  This is not conducive to plant growth.  Provision of inbuilt, shallow but expansive tanks with a large surface for evaporation of water, will help to increase the humidity inside the greenhouse and glasshouse.

Thatched Huts

            In a relatively large garden, construction of thatched, comfortable huts will serve as retreats from noise, head and dust. These huts should be in a relatively isolated corner and suitably camouflaged with foliage and flowers, to be out of sight in order to ensure privacy from unknown intruders.


            The bandstand is a circular or hexagonal structure open on all sides with a solid roof for shelter from rain and sun.  it may be seen in the typical English gardens of our hill stations.  They served, in formal receptions and other ceremonial functions organized by administrative dignitaries, as locale for the band to play.  They also provided shelter to visitors from the elements at other times.

Gazebo and Gatehouse

            A gazebo is a tower intended to provide an aerial view of the entire garden from an elevated place.  It is very suitable for an English garden.  More characteristically, a gatehouse matches well with the Indian garden scenery.  In ancient days gatehouses were necessity for feudal houses as defence against marauders.  A tasteful adaptation of this will be an added attraction at the entrance to the garden.

            A discerning designer has much to choose from the architectural tradition of the country in regard to garden structures.  The ‘mandapam’ built according to traditional architecture using stone, bricks and wood is both beautiful and functional.  As far as garden structures are concerned, limit the use of cement to functional purposes since it is an unsympathetic material where garden art is involved.  More effective are wood, stone and metals like brass and bronze in naturalistic designs.

            A word about the final finish to the garden structures.  They should be given either a manicured or rustic look as is desired an intermediate, partly finished look is also acceptable.  But mixing the three, that is manicured, rustic and intermediate finish is not compatible.


            For spatial design, the important natural elements used in contrast to the aesthetic components discussed earlier are rocks, water and plant.


            According to legend ‘rock is root of cloud’.  Weathered natural rocks with latent beauty in them, in convenient sizes, can be seen in different locations in beds of rivers rushing down in mountain country and also in dry regions in the exposed knolls.  They are scarce in deltaic districts.  These rocks are valued in garden design for their interesting shapes.  The range and variability of shapes and size give them a sculptural quality.  Those with natural curves and smooth outlines are more valuable than others.  Their surface texture is another attractive feature.  Cobbles and pebbles found in water courses are generally smooth.  A coarse texture in varying degrees is seen in weather-worn boulders which have a statuesque beauty.  It is a good practice to retain natural outcrops of rocks or exposed bedrocks whereer available and to incorporate them in landscape design.  The elephant Rock bordering the estate of the Agricultural College, Madurai is a monumental instance of a natural outcrop of a monolith.  It is about a kilometer in length, with a height often reaching 30 m.  When viewed from the south-east direction, it gives the pleasing picture of a humped elephant sitting on its haunches—an imposing prospect.  Similar monoliths, including the Elephant Rock have attracted the attention of early Hindus, Buddhist mendicants and Jain monks, the cave temples and sculptures being proof for this.  They considered them sacred.  The permanency of rock adds to their value.

            Granite stones are available in nature as little round blocks and boulders.  Smooth granite domes and mono rocks are also interesting features of the countryside.  The natural arrangement of these rocks can be simulated in the garden.  In nature, they are commonly seen in blocks, arranged one over the other vertically or in scattered groups of boulders.  Boulders perched over a mono rock and stream beds strewn over by them are also commonly seen.  A pillar rock is a tall protruding one among the surrounding hills.  Rock overhangs and caves are also appealing and are often successfully incorporated in gardens.  Naming rocks from their appearance or resemblance as ‘Nagamalai’ (snake rock), ‘Pasumalai’ (cow rock) and ‘Annamalai’ (Elephant Rock) is common.  These are suggestive words pictures.  Interestingly, this has been a practice in all countries.

            The colour of granite varies from grey, dark grey or grey tinged red.  Some of them may have clear horizontal lamination, desirable feature for the designer.  Laterite stones from areas of heavy rainfall have a dark red colour being brick red on recently exposed surface.  They are relatively soft.  The surface is coarse and the shape also may not be well defined, as in the case of weathered granite. Sandstone available in some localities is another good choice.  The quartz crystals make a beautiful addition to gardens and the appeal is mainly due to their luster.  Their shape is irregular and may have sharp angular projections.  They are easily stained when they come into contact with the iron oxides of red soil. Chunks of lime stones excavated in dry belts, locally known as ‘odakkal’ have rough surface and grey-brown colour.

            After locating suitable stones, transporting them to the site will require practical consideration.  A cubic metre of granite may weigh 2.5 tonnes.  Handling them by experienced quarry workers will be necessary to ensure the integrity of the stone and safety of men.  In fixing them in a place, the stones should be anchored sufficiently deep.  Bury a stone to half its length on its broader end.  Give variation in height and composition.  In these cases, the height of the rock should not exceed the maximum height of the level of the land.  Any possibility of the rock getting dislodged due to top-weight is to be avoided.  Stones can be displayed in combination with water, sand, grass and Japanese gardens.  The Japanese take immense pains to choose the right kind of stone.  Aptness in the choice of stones cannot be overemphasized.  Arrange and weather-worn rocks in dry association.  Properly chosen, they add to the picturesque quality of the garden.  Rocks have a key place in rockeries and rock gardens.  In a rockery, the rocks dominate over plants while in a rock garden grouped plants are more conspicuous than rocks.  In all situations no set rules can be formulated to group stones, the aesthetic principles enunciated earlier being the sole guide.

            The smooth course always is to use local rocks owing to their easy availability.  They will also blend with the surrounding landscape with ease.  Where special effects are required or in the absence of  a local supply, as in deltaic districts, procuring them from other regions can be resorted to.


            Beauty of water in the garden is primarily due to its property of being a reflective surface.  Still water reflects trees and buildings.  Inverted images play on human imagination.  The mobility of water is another aspect of its attraction.  Running streams and billowing waves have tickled human sensibilities in every civilization.  Besides, man-made fountains and pools have been sources of un-alloyed pleasure from ancient times.

            Water has the property of flowing from a higher to a lower level.  When held in containers or the flow is arrested, it is immobile.  The mobility of water may be near horizontal as in river.  In falls and cascades, water rushes downward. In downward movements, the pull of gravity is the motive force.  But water can be made to move upwards.  Water, because of its fluidity, if forced through a narrow opening such as a nozzle under pressure, can be made to move vertically upward, as in fountain.  In nature, such a phenomenon is rarely found except in artesian wells.  In garden practice, still water as swell as water in motion has their place.

            Water is used in the garden primarily in three ways.  In the first instance, a large body of water envelops a garden or structure.  A natural or excavated lake envelope a garden or a structure which is located in an island n the midst of water.  The ‘Teepakulam’ with a ‘Mandapam’ in the midst of it is an ancient use of water in this way.  The Golden Temple in Amritsar is in the midst of a man-made lake.  Water is used here as reflective surface.  A meandering river bisecting a city or a running stream traversing through a garden is another instance.  Madurai is bisected by the river Vaigai.  The appeal of water here is due to its mobility.  Water in ponds and pools as a central feature forms a way of water use, different from the other two mentioned above.  The movement, if any, is only vertical in the form of a fountain.  Combining running water with a pool either as its source or end is also a pleasing possibility.

            The prominent instances of water having been put to aesthetic use in south Indian landscapes are the placid lakes at Ootacamund, Yercaud and Kodaikanal.  All of them were made in the early 19th century by obstructing the free flow of streams by masonry dams at the narrowest point along their courses.  A smaller but still very attractive lake can be seen at the Sim’s Park, Coonoor.  The lake is situated in a saucer-shaped valley.  The stream feeding the lake and the overflow from it skirts the valley.  The stream feeding the lake and the overflow from it skirts the valley.  All these lakes depend on rainfall for replenishment of water. There is no natural lake in this part of the country.

            Rushing water in scenic spots is highly appreciated.  The waterfalls at Courtallam (Tirunelveli district) are famous.  At Hogenakkal, literally ‘Smoking Rock,’ in Dharmapuri district turbulent river Kaveri comes through gorges in a precipitous terrain.  Silver Cascade and Fairy-falls at Kodaikanal are also part of the delightful scenery in this hill resort.  These cascades, falls and rushing streams are a major feature in the hill country.  In the plains they are slow, taking meandering or sinuous course, for want of incline in the landform.  The palm-fringed lagoons and backwaters in the coastal districts are also beautiful.

            The major river systems form another important source of water.  These rivers along with the lakes and tanks which they feed have contributed much to the landscape. In the dry districts also the innumerable percolation tanks fed by ‘nullahs’, seasonal or perennial, have added to the scenic beauty.  These tanks have immensely contributed to the creation of the cultural landscape in south India and Sri Lanka almost from the 1st century BC.  A large body of water like rivers and lakes permits recreational use, mainly boating and fishing besides providing relief from extremes of temperatures.  Water was used extensively in Moghul gardens and architecture, and inner courtyard gardens in dwelling in the desert regions of Rajasthan.

            The constructed garden pools may serve entirely a reflective function.  They are also useful to grow hydrophytic plants.  There is, however, a warning.  In large water expanses, growing plants will naturally end up in their not being useful for recreational purposes such as boating.  This is due to the obstruction, created by the vegetation.  The extensive irrigation tanks in the southern districts of Madurai and Ramnad served by the river Vaigai is sometimes used for raising lotus.  Though this does not limit their irrigation and fishing potential, it does not permit any water sports, owing to the matted spiny growth.

            In the hills, where ponds are made by tapping underground water or damming perennial streams, waterproofing the pool is not necessary.  In the coastal regions also, where water can be found at near surface levels, there is no need for it.  Construction of masonry walls to prevent a collapse is sufficient.  In lowland dry regions where water supply is seasonal and precious, the tanks, ponds and pools should be properly lined with waterproofing material, to prevent water seepage.  A concrete floor with masonry walls will often be enough.  Concrete pools re-inforced with wire mesh laid over 800 gauge polyethylene sheets will be durable.  The large tanks, as is the practice, should be excavated to the level of the bedrock. The embankments formed to hold water require lining with slabs.  The ancient practice of lining them with cut and chiseled stones will add more visual appeal than cement slabs.  The stone interspaces are then painted with a mortar of cement and sand.  The shape and size of these tanks will be dictated by the gradient of the land and the volume of water it is expected to hold.

Fig. 6: Shapes of Pools: 1. A formal pool.  In formal pools various well-defined geometrical designs are adopted. 2 & 3.  Natural pools with inlets and bays. 4. A natural pool with islands.

            The formal shapes of pools bear resemblance to star, cross or other geometrical shapes like square, rectangle and hexagon to suit the layout and architecture (Fig. 6).  The different shapes in which framed mirrors come are worth copying here.  In natural designs, the beauty of the curve is exploited by designing curvilinear and other natural shapes, often with the inclusion of tortoise-backed islets.  Here, the surrounding landform is shaped into a rolling one sloping away from the water feature.  To add to the natural look, the pool is constructed in the normal way, but by providing sufficient width to accommodate natural rocks to line the walls.  The irregular inter-space between the wall and the rocks is then filled with silt and sol to grow marsh and swamp plants.  As has been stated earlier, tanks are filled with water from well, river or stream.  In the hills filling pools with gravitational flow of water is sometimes feasible.  In the dry regions, a pumping arrangement is necessary for this purpose.

            Another aspect to consider is the depth of water.  The large tank is around 3-5 m deep at the deepest point. A reflecting garden pool is preferably shallow with a depth of 25-30 cm.  If hydrophytic plants are to be grown, varying depths have to be provided in the same pond, which may range from 15 to 90 cm, the deepest portion allotted to lotus and water lilies.  In shallow pockets and galleries, swamp plants such as Typha and Cyperus are accommodated.  Salvinia, Pistia and other floating plants may be conveniently added to this grouping.  Provision is necessary to prevent rain water and through it silt entering into the pool.  A slightly raised rim to a height of 10 cm will be helpful in this regard.  Provision to drain the pool by providing an outlet at its floor level will help to clean it, as often as is necessary.


            As will be seen in the ensuing pages, plants constitute the most important natural element in designing landscapes.

Plant Association

            The present-day approach to landscaping is deeply influenced by ecology and environmental science.  Ecology is the study of organisms (plants and animals), in relation to their environment.  It is necessary here to have a concept of the environment or external conditions and influences moulding the life of organisms.

            The environment consists of physical and biotic factors.  Non-living materials like soil, water and air and the forces of solar isolation and gravity constitute the physical environment.  The biotic environment is characterized by the inter-relationship of living organisms. The organisms encounter these physical and biotic factors through life.  The developmental cycle of life is co-coordinated to fit their organic needs in relation to the sum of all external conditions and influences referred to earlier, above.

            In a landscape, plants are important tools in the hands of the designer.  In the successful use of plants for this purpose, he creates an appropriate habitat or natural home for the plants to live in.  In designed landscape, the aim is to group plants, rather than display individual specimens.   The grouping of plants should be natural, of mutually tolerant species.  It should be remembered that plants live in established communities.  The nature of the community is determined by the habitat.  Thus there are hydrophytic communities in or    near water, xerophytic communities in desert situations and mesophytic communities which prefer a situation different from the two extremes mention above.  There are specialized communities of epiphytes which live high up on other woody vegetation but do not draw nourishment from their support.  The halophytes live in salt marshes.  There are also xeromorphic halophytes which are salt-tolerant plant species living in arid situations.  The association of plants in these communities is determined by ecological considerations of climatic, edaphic and biotic factors.  A brief discussion of these factors is necessary to understand their role in making plant communities.


            The climate of peninsular India is generally warm.  The maximum temperature may reach 35-400C and minimum 15-200C.  This is, however, considerably modified by the influence of large bodies of water, the Arabian sea is the west coast and the Bay of Bengal on the east coast.  In these coastal regions the diurnal variations of temperature are reduced, the difference between the day and night temperature being around 30 to 40 only.  For the same reason, the difference in summer and winter temperatures is small, resulting in no distinct winter season.  In mountainous regions such as the Nilgiris, Shevroys and Pulneys, the climate is cool with relatively low mean temperature.  This is due to the influence of altitude.


            Soils play an important role in the formation of vegetation found in particular area.  Soil is the uppermost layer of the earth.  It is formed by continuous weathering of parent rocks for millennia.  Under the soil lies the sub-soil.  The soil and sub-soil support plant growth not only as a stratum for anchorage but also as a store-house of nutrients and water for the plants to draw upon.  Besides weathered rock, the soil is also composed of living organisms such as bacteria and fungi, the soil micro flora.  The soil of fine particles like clay and silt and coarse particles of sand and gravel.  A grading of soil by mechanical analysis of these particles is given below: Sandy—less than 10 percent of fine particles (clay + silt), loam – 20 to 30 percent, clay loam – 30 to 50 percent, clay – more than 50 percent.  Calcareous soil contains more than 5 percent of calcium carbonate.  When more than 5 percent of organic matter is present, it is known as humus soil. A gravelly soil will contain considerable amounts of gravel.

            Soils are generally classified for common purposes as black, red, sandy laterite and alluvial.  Black soils are highly clayey, dark grey, with good moisture retention capacity.  Red sol contains considerable iron oxides from which the colour is derived.  Red soil is rich in available plant nutrients.  It does not rack or split when dry, as does the black soil.  Sandy soils are found in beaches and courses of rivers and streams.  The sandy soil has a very low water retaining capacity, loosely structured and poor in plant nutrients.  Beach sands contain sodium chloride (common salt) to a level injurious to many plant species.  An alluvial soil found in the deltaic regions is a transported soil, rivers being the vehicle of transportation.  These soils are loamy with equal proportions of clay and coarse particles.  They are well enriched with plant nutrients.

            The acidity of the sol is an important aspect in plant adaptation.  Acidity is measured in a scale known as pH (hydrogen ion concentration).  In this scale a reading above pH 7.0 indicates alkalinity due to the presence of carbonates and bicarbonates of calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium.  A reading elbow 7.0 indicates an acidic reaction.  Soil classification based on pH reading is as follows:


Range of pH



Range of pH


4.0 – 5.0



7.0 – 7.5


5.0 – 6.0



7.5 – 8.0


6.0 – 6.5



8.0 – 9.0


6.5 – 7.0




Plants for their optimum growth have specific adaptations to pH ranges.


            The form of trees is an important design feature.  The form here refers to shape and size (Figs. 7 to 9).  There are two basic shapes recognizable in trees, of vertical growth or upright habit and the horizontal or spreading.  In the first instance, the height dominates over spread and in the second, the spread is more than height.  A few recognizable shapes coming under these broad categories are, however, identifiable.

            Look at the distinct but characteristic shape of the mast tree (Polyalthia longifolia ‘pendula’).  The tree is tall with little spread.  The shape here is referred to as ‘columnar’.  In ‘fastigate’ trees, the shape is the same except for the fact that the tip is rounded.  Full grown Millingtonia hortensis assumes this shape. The tall ‘umbrella’ shape is characteristic of the palm.  Its large leaves radiate from a crown or growing point which is at the apex of a monopodial trunk.  The spreading umbrella shape of Acacia planifrons is also distinct in nature.

            In horizontal growth habit, the laterals are sufficiently long to indicate spread.  The ‘oval’ and the ‘round’ are the most common among them.  Peltophorum pterocarpum and Samanea saman are the common trees assuming these shapes.  In the two genera Terminalia and Ceiba, the branches arise in horizontal tiers and are distributed rather uniformly along the trunk.  The tiered, whorled branching goes with a ‘conical’ shape.  In the ‘open’ shape, the trees have alternate branches which have individual but discontinuous canopies.  In this instance, there will be open sub-spaces in the tree outline.  Old trees of Syszygium jambolanum and Terminalia paniculata take to this shape.  In the ‘weeping’ trees, the branches droop.  In some conifers and willows, this shape can be seen.  In the warmer parts of south India, Polyalthia longifolia ‘pendula’ cited earlier shows weeping growth.  It is both columnar and weeping.  Callistemon citrinus is another tree which has long drooping branches.

            ‘Picturesque” shape is one which is asymmetrically balanced against the pull of gravity and odds of nature.  It is shaped by natural forces like rocky soil and incessant wind. They are suitable for specimen planting and in the design of natural gardens.  These interesting shapes have inspired “bonasai’ enthusiasts the world over.  Tree is living sculpture.  The sculptural value of a tree is determined by its form that is its shape and size.  The form of trees when cleverly exploited give contrast and a softening effect to the harsh architectural lines of buildings.  Shape and size of trees can also be modified by training and pruning to sit the architectural needs.

            Tree shape is not static.  With time and age, the shape changes.  The woody species may often take 20 years or more to assume a distinct shape often one may come across intermediate shapes also, defying categorization.  The environmental factors such as wind, competition for light and interference by man and animals have determinate influence on shape.  In course of time, trees have a time-worn look.  These old trees are a synthesis of anguish and primeval strength, that is to say, they become venerable and assume an antique value.

Fig. 7: Shapes of trees: 1. The spreading tree.  Here the line a b is longer than c d.   2. The upright tree.  The line a b is shorter than c d.  A columnar tree.  4. The umbrella shape of the palm.  5. The conical tree.  6. The round-headed tree. 7. The picturesque tree.

            Trees, is closely planted groups, do not express their sape in full.  The outline of individual trees may be lost by two or more crowns merging to give common canopy.  In horizontal groups, even colunar and fastigate shapes merge into a continuous, horizontal, wavy line.  This is often cleverly exploited to soften the harsh jagged lines of mountains and their cliffs.

Fig. 8: Some more picturesque shapes: 1. The S-shaped tree.  2. The twisted trunk. 3. A buttressed tree.  4. Slanting tree.  5. Twin-branched.     6. Three-trunk tree.

            The size of trees is expressed in terms of height and spread.  Some trees are ‘very tall’ with a height of 30 m or more.  Antiaris toxicaria and salmalia malabarica are examples.  Trees like albizia moluccana and Terminalia arjuna reaching height of 20 m are ‘tall’.  Trees that reach 10 to 20 m are ‘medium tall’.  Most of the common trees planted come under this category.  Peltophorum pterocarpum and Holoptelia integrifolia are medium-tall in stature.  Short trees have a height of 5 to 10 m.  The stature of Guaiacum officinale and Citharexylum spinosum qualifies them for inclusion in this group.  Any woody perennial below the height of 5 m is a shrub.  Shrubs may also be grouped, in turn, tall (4-5 m), medium tall (2-4 m) and short (below 2 m).

Fig. 9: Picturesque shapes: 1. Cascade,  2. Exposed root,  3. Coppiced tree,                                  4. Lopped tree.  Similarly, wide variations are also noticeable in the spread of trees and shrubs.

            Availability of space for planting is an important consideration in the notice of tree form.  Columnar and fastigate trees will fit in narrow spaces.  It is difficult to accommodate large spreading trees like the Banyan in the limited space of home landscape, but in vast public parks, large trees are most suitable.


            One good consideration in the choice of trees is the beauty of their flowers.  The visual effect of these flowers is a result of colour, texture and contrast and also the display they make of them.  Some critics hold a different view.  They allege that flowering trees have a shortcoming in that the colour ”spread” is not adequate as compared to, say, annuals.  But then trees are not esteemed for their flower alone.  There are definite seasons when flower emerge, giving an impressive dramatic effect.  The study of the response of trees to climate and seasonal changes with regard to flowering and fruiting is known as phonology.


            Trees define space, as arranged furniture would define a hall or roof and walls, a building.  As a result, spaces appear vast and open or shrunken and enclosed, bodily exciting, or mentally peaceful, stimulatingly warm or restfully cool.  The grouping of trees for this purpose is done in different ways.  A short account of this is given below.


            Trees define roads and paths, when planted along their margin. This is known as avenue planting and helps to direct traffic.  This can also be done by raising hedges on either side of the road.  When the distance of a road or path is very short, shrubbery borders are more appropriate than avenue trees or hedges.  To avoid traffic hazards, trees should not be planted close to the inside of curves or near road junctions where they could obscure vision.


            Grouped trees serve the purpose of screening objectionable sights, glares and even sound.  Tree screens also provide privacy and protection from strong winds.  The density and position of the screen will determine its effectiveness.  The angle of the afternoon sun and the direction of wind are taken cognizance of in placing trees.


            Location of a sign-board, statue (Fig. 10) or an entrance can be emphasized by appropriate grouping of trees.  The grouping will be very effective when it contrasts well with the object it is to emphasize and also the way it stands out in the surroundings.

Fence, Barrier and Boundary Line

            Hedges are traditionally used as physical barriers to prevent men and animals encroaching into a property.  Low hedges under 60 cm demaracate a boundary but will not act as a barrier.  A hedge of 1.5 to 2 m is a good barrier.  To give a screening effect, a h eight of 3 m and above is required at times.  Trellis-trained bougainvillea above low compound walls, commonly seen in our residential areas serve the purpose of screening, while also serving as an effective barrier.  The purpose of planting a screen, trellis and fence is to enclose space.

Fig. 10: The tree emphasizes the statue.  The sign-board is emphasized by the group planting.

            The garden and the building thereon belong to each other.  The house is built first.  The landscape designer comes into the picture after the construction is completed or when it is about to be completed.  The designer then must see that the tree grouping and the house are inseparable and blend with  each other.  Under no circumstances should the plant groups look like an after-thought, though in truth it is so.  The house and garden should then imperceptibly merge with the surrounding scenery, of which they form a part.


             In grouping trees in the vicinity of structures, certain important considerations need emphasis.  Trees are planted for formal effects in large formal gardens, in tree borders and also informal approaches to houses.  Trees planted to form groves and clumps are effective in natural designs.  Further, trees with appropriate forms and right spacing, accentuate the lines of building by strong contrast in form or by enlarging the effect by repeating a form.  Conical trees repeat turrets and gables of Indo-European style mansions and places of worship.  Round-headed and spreading trees, on the other hand, contrast with turrets and minarets.  As a general rule, where historicity of a building is not in consideration, contrasting form is desirable, conical and columnar form to contrast with horizontal forms of architecture and round-headed trees to contrast with strong vertical accent in buildings.  However, it should be borne in mind that resort to over contrast in composition will disturb the feeling of tranquility and peace.

             In structures and constructions which are a significant part of history such as forts and antique buildings, apt association should be worked out.  Here propriety demands that endemic and indigenous trees which have formed a part of our culture alone should find a place.

             Scale or the right ratio between the size of tree group and house is also important.  Large trees make the house look smaller and more snug.  Small trees framing a house make it look large and stately.  A few suggested methods for planting in relation to building are given below.

Planting Climbers

             Climbers trained on or against walls unite or “tie-down” the building and the land.  The climbing shrub so planted need not be in contact with the wall.  By providing a suitable framework of wrought iron or bamboo to train it, the contact with the wall and the inconvenience caused to annual white-washing and colour-washing can be avoided.  A climber should be planted in corner or against a pillar, at least a metre away from the foundation.  The choice of a particular climber will depend upon the decorative value of its flowers and foliage.  The shelter and protection given by it from hot sun and prevailing wind are additional considerations.  Fruit trees and flowering trees trained as espaliers and fans against walls also serve the same purpose.

Foundation Planting

             Grouping of shrubs and small trees to conceal the raised foundation is known as foundation planting or basement planting.  The best effect is obtained with unsheared plants, when their foliage, flowers and berries merge into the outline of one another.  They can also serve the purpose of providing a screen that does not obstruct ventilation.  Shrubs below windows can be deliberately kept low by pruning or by choice of a species with the correct form.  By repeating a few plants (rhythm) for visual continuity, a design can emphasize the unity.
Shrubbery Borders or Mixed Shrubberies

             Like annual or herbaceous borders, shrubs can also be grouped to define margins and boundaries or to define space in a garden.  In addition to ornamentation, they form a good screen or barrier.  We often call this mixed shrubbery in the current terminology, but the term shrubbery border will be more appropriate in the present context.

Building as Central Point

             When the architecture of a building is an object of admiration as in an ancient monument or in an ultra modern structure, the aim of planting should be to display their value in full.  No screening should be done here.  The formal planting in Moghul gardens serves this purpose.  By keeping an open centre and a straight long approach, a view is created with the building as the centre of attraction.
View from the Building

             In a majority of cases, the buildings around us have no architectural value to boast of.  Screening the building for privacy and shelter is needed here.  While so doing, sufficient opining should be left in the border groups to have a pleasing view of the near or distant scenery.  The rising and setting sun, a pastoral countryside, a mountain, the surging and billowing sea or a waterfall will give a pleasing view from the verandah of the house or any other point in the garden.  In an urban surrounding where nothing other than steel and concrete or unsightly slums are in sight, it is better to shut out these objectionable views and to concentrate on the internal beauty of the garden.

             Any tree planting very close to a building is considered unsafe.  When the roots are strong and aggressive, damage to the foundation and superstructure is bound to occur.  Precaution to avoid this, by planting a little away from the structure is necessary.

When the area around the house is too small to accommodate a tree, raising trees in planters should be taken advantage of.
Trees as a Backdrop

             A group of trees as a backdrop to the house will help to highlight or emphasize its architectural features.  The outline of the canopy of trees should rise far above that of the building (Fig. 11).  The colour, texture and pattern of the trees will serve as a foil and will give interesting contrast to it.  The extent of planting should be sufficient enough to give depth to the designed landscape.  In very formal treatments in this country, trees are planted at the corner of buildings.  Vertical forms of trees so planted are likely to accentuate its height whereas horizontal forms would give an expansive look.  A house nestling in woodland, with groups of trees alround, will be enjoyable for many reasons, one among them being the cooling effect of trees on ambient temperature. Concealment of the house partly or in full, by low-headed trees is a possibility here.  In such case, keeping trunks of trees free of low limbs and foliage to a height of 2 to 2.5 m will improve visibility either way.  Trees carefully placed in relation to the house also give a partly concealed, framed view of the house.  The scenic effect of many of the rural houses, in wooded districts, arises from this fact.

Fig. 11: Trees frame building
Free-standing Trees

             A tree-standing tree is one placed in comparative isolation, usually near a house to shield it from the piercing rays of the sun and such other considerations.  Properly trained, it also gives a framed view of the house.

             Being near the equator, the radiation of sun’s heat is beyond the tolerance level in our country.  Therefore shade, where only reflected light is cast without direct exposure to sun, is welcome throughout the year.


A Small Natural Garden in a House Site

             The land available is a small flat strip by the side of the house.  Slope the land into an undulating one, if necessary with transported soil.  To prevent future silting of the pool, the top 5 cm thick layer is made up of sharp sand.  Plant with a good soil-binding grass, “Hariali’, (Cynadon dactylon) for instance.  In this particular location, there is an existing large tree at the corner.  A row of Polyalthia longifolia along the boundary wall is also an existing feature.  These are retained.  The pool is of cement-concrete, wire mesh being used for reinforcement.  Provision has been made for an island.  Water is pumped into the pool.  Arranging for this pumping and also to drain it immediately after periodical cleaning are essential.  Water worn stones and weathered rocks will add a touch of realism to the landscape.

A Small Natural Garden in a House Site

A Large House

             Note the space available in relation to the house.  A garden at the frontage adorns the house.  The entrance is on the left.  A large free standing tree offers shade and defines parking space for any additional cars that may come.  The lawn is bordered by shrubs on the north and west and an annual or herbaceous border on the east.  The kitchen garden is in the backyard where the cowshed also is located.  The space between the kitchen garden and house is the children’s play area.  Of course they encroach upon the lawn also at play time.  The indulgent parents tolerate it.

A Large House

A Medium Sized House

             This house has approaches from north and west. Large existing street trees cast welcome shade, screening a western sun.  A private area, on the east of the house is created by constructing the wall at a tangent to the house.  The wall is covered with Ficus pumila.  Being on the eastern side and enclosed by walls and trees it is cool even in the hottest afternoons.  The enclosure with regular watering helps to grow humidity-loving house plants, for decoration in the verandah.  An oval lawn diagonally placed in front is noteworthy.

A Medium Sized House

A Large Guest House

             Many government and private organizations maintain guest houses for the casual stay of their administrators, technical advisers and V.I.P. guests.  The plan given here is for a large guest house with two blocks.  The trees planted behind, frame the main block.  The two blocks are united by the forked road.  The third fork is a narrower footpath.  In the middle of the central lawn, a screen (a climber on a 2 m high wire trellis) is placed for privacy though it may partially obstruct the view.  The palms lining the road and trees and shrubs are carefully selected to suit an arid region, even though they are maintained under irrigation. The maintenance of a lawn in this zone is labour-intensive and expensive, but rewarding.  One hired gardener can maintain the garden.

A Large Guest House

Landscaping a Hotel

             It has twin approach road, to regulate incoming and outgoing traffic.  These are separated by a small raised bed of roses.  The traffic island found in front of the building is treated in a formal way.  An expensive lawn, screened on one side with pergolas, serves as a place for entertainment in the cool evenings.  The hotel is set in woodland.

Landscaping a Hotel