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Category: Ecology

Visual harmony in landscape design: edge effects

There is more than planting a bunch of native plants to creating a landscape design that has ecological and aesthetic value. This article introduces edge effects in biodiversity briefly while focusing on how these processes can shape our aesthetic vision for our gardens.

Human beings can detect the difference between natural and designed landscapes easily. Where many designers slip when attempting to design a natural garden is by missing the visual cues that speak to us subconsciously. Paying attention to the concept of edge effects in biodiversity helps in designing landscapes that seem more aesthetically natural, if that is one’s goal.

Edge effects in biodiversity refer to the changes in population at the boundaries of plant communities. In natural boundaries, these changes are due to factors such as a change in growing conditions, microclimates, or disturbance (fire, human intervention).

There is rarely an abrupt transition from one plant community to another…there is a transition with overlap of plant species in these boundary areas. Often these edge communities are the most species diverse and valuable places in an ecosystem.

A transition of many plant communities from water to mountains. What can landscape designers learn from edge effects in the truly natural landscape?
A transition of many plant communities from water to mountains. What can landscape designers learn from edge effects in the truly natural landscape? It is ironic that many gardeners who plant so-called natural gardens then rigidly control these very same gardens out of fear of losing control.

Thinking in terms of tapestry vs. groupings is a useful way of considering edge effects in landscape design. In the natural landscape and our gardens allowing overlap and intermingling of plant groupings is healthy and visually beautiful.

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