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Create a Landscape That Really Squares Up

Create a Landscape That Really Squares Up

See all the ways squares can be the building blocks of eye-catching garden design

I have been involved all my working life with design, garden design, horticulture... More »
Of all the geometric shapes, the square is the most useful in the garden — especially in formal and contemporary settings, where it gives a design classic simplicity. It may be that the square is such a satisfying shape in outdoor spaces because we identify it with our living spaces, from the structure of the buildings we inhabit to the rooms we live and sleep in.

The most obvious use of the square in gardens may be in the hardscaping: pavers and raised beds. But if we look more closely, we can see how squares are used for other garden features, in a wide variety of materials and even as design solutions.
Create Design Cohesion

In contemporary gardens it can be important to reflect the style of adjacent buildings. It is here where geometric shapes, such as squares, can come into play.

This highly geometric building is complemented by its checkerboard garden. The angular lines in the windows and metalwork are echoed in the long, paved walkway and alternating squares of baby's tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) and pebbles.
A closer look at the design shows how the effect has been achieved. The paving, planting and pebbles in a seemingly random pattern are much like the abstract style of 20th-century artist Piet Mondrian.

To keep the squares crisp, metal or wood edging prevents the greenery from encroaching on the paving and keeps pebbles in place.
Create Space Through Order

Squares, above all, are satisfying in their basic simplicity and symmetry. Carefully spaced, clean, light-colored square pavers create a serviceable pathway and also make this area seem larger. The path also works by leading the eye along to features in the garden that are farther away.
This contemporary seating area, composed of tightly jointed cast concrete slabs, once again employs the trick that large, uniform pavers can make a space feel larger.
In contrast, wide squares of grass can be demarcated through the use of narrow strips of natural-colored paving. This makes the space seem larger and also provides an interesting contrast of textures between the rough grass and smooth paving.
Create Movement With Diagonals

Though these square pavers have been laid in regular lines, the eyes are tricked at certain viewpoints by the tilting of the squares. This tilting also creates sight lines leading to the house in the distance.

Tip: The paving is set just below the level of the grass to make the grass easier to mow straight over.
A modern take on a knot garden? The low plantings surrounding the squares of paving create a wonderful pattern in the way low boxwood hedging does with a traditional parterre or knot garden.

The paving has been angled on the diagonal to create further interest and a sense of movement.
Once again we see the squares turned to the diagonal, which helps lead the eye through the garden.

Wide dividing strips between the gravel serve not only to separate the squares and control the gravel, but to accentuate the geometry of the squares.
The squares we work into our designs don't always have to be in two dimensions. Floating deck squares up to a larger deck create a feeling of movement here. Alternating the direction of the timber planks enhances this sense.
Create Visual Delight With Patterns

Sometimes squares can be used just for the delight of the patterns they can make. Here buff-colored pavers separated by strips of turf make a practical yet stunning statement in this front garden.
The repetition created by using squares within squares can be very pleasing to the eye. The wide edging of these beds accentuates the square and frames the formal, almost architectural, plantings within.

The strength and simplicity of the square appears perfect when it is used as a planter or raised bed, where it balances the loose plantings beyond.