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The Inspiration of the Living Landscape

For a garden designer, the landscape around us is full of influence and beauty. The simplest of shadows, the way light plays on different materials and the changes the seasons bring are all art in the most powerful form, the art of nature. Artists of every century have been inspired by the way nature has the strongest brush and the widest canvas.

The following photos are all examples of everyday scenes, images many of us probably take for granted but which are the very essence of the influences professional designers are inspired by.

Designing a landscape isn't just about which plants to use or which stone paver to choose, it's also about the 'spirit of the place', that certain something which gives a place its individual character.

Intelligent design has the aim of taking these influences around us and infusing them into the new design, much the same way as a vintage wine will have the faintest hint of the soil in which the vine was growing.

It's difficult to define, it's almost a personal thing, a reaction to looking up into a tree and seeing the way the network of branches reach outwards in every direction, walking across a bridge in strong morning sunlight and noticing the criss-cross of shadows playing across a path.

The Changing Landscape

The seasons change at such a slow pace, the subtlety of the changes often goes unnoticed. However, these changes are like way markers for designers who have to time planting schemes according to the effect they will have have not only on the eye, but also to the wildlife that often depends on those plants. Berries, seed heads and shelter from the elements all combine to provide food and homes for insects and birds. As days shorten, shadows and light levels change and persuade us to use out outdoor spaces in different ways.

The Power of Rhythm

Once you start looking, it's amazing to see how pattern and rhythm are woven into our landscape. Repetition helps to calm the mind, bringing a sense of familiarity and security. Some of the most complex of structures can have the simplest of patterns. These principles can be integrated into a design to great effect, be it in the layout of a stone terrace or the vertical spires of plants used repeatedly throughout a planting scheme.

The Detail of Life

It isn't only large structures that have a form of organic architecture to them. Look down at your feet and you'll see intricate forms that are just as complex as a cathedral. These details are the joy of designers, allowing spaces to become personal environments, drawing on our memories and our emotional responses to the things around us.

The Age of Materials

There isn't a square metre of ground that you can walk on that doesn't have a history trailing back through time itself. This appreciation of the age of the environment leads to a 'sense of place' which in turn gives birth to ideas for linking the past to the future. Contemporary design, although modern still has its influences in the past. It's how we treat this knowledge of age and influence that allows designers to develop new ideas.

All these photos have been taken by professional photographer, Simon Earwicker. Simon's expert eye has captured the spirit of the surrounding landscape. All photos copyright Simon Earwicker, reproduced by kind permission.