Sculpting Your Garden

Creating a beautiful garden is truly an art, and some find it similar to sculpting. The dictionary defines sculpting in the following way: “to carve, model or otherwise create a three-dimensional work of art.” In sculpting your garden, you should decide what the key elements are that will define your garden and help turn it into a magical setting.

Set the Stage

One such key is the sculpting of your existing terrain. Adding and contouring the soil to create grade changes will add interest and help define the space. The terrain sets the stage for the rest of the project. Let the terrain be part of the screening that defines and separates the “rooms” you want to create in your garden. It can make your garden more intimate and visually interesting, and help define where pathways, sitting areas, and planting areas will be placed.

Hardscape Elements

The creation and placement of hardscape elements are key in the sculpting process. Examples of hardscape elements include rock walls, patios, pergolas, firepits, pathways, waterscapes, and character boulders. In the sculpting process, give special attention to these elements along with the other main visual components that you would like to incorporate into your garden such as a specimen tree, garden art, or fountain.

A key landscape element often overlooked is the use of large specimen boulders. These large boulders, often covered with lichen and moss, make magnificent focal points. They add a wonderful strength and age to a garden, and contribute a color, texture and visual weight which is hard to duplicate by using any other material.

Keep in mind that hardscape elements are options you have available for sculpting a magical landscape. You don’t need to over-complicate the design. Some prefer a more complex landscape, and others a more simple design. Find what’s most pleasing to you.

Plant Selection

The next aspect of sculpting the garden is plant selection and placement. Consider how you want to layer the plants and if you want large swaths of a particular type of plant or a more complex pallet. Keep in mind the many different textures, the size and shapes of leaves and flowers, what flourishes when, and when some will go dormant.

Choose trees, shrubs, and plants with an eye for what they will look like today, but also keep in mind how they will look ten years from now. You don’t want to plant a tree that will completely dominate your garden in the future.


Take time to really think about the maintenance aspect of your garden. The truth is that few of us want to spend time maintaining our gardens, but the fact is that they need to be maintained. Some garden designs need less weekly care than others. Be honest with yourself (and kind to those who live with you) when you are in the planning stages, and you will find that you will enjoy your garden more.

If you approach your garden as an art form, and give yourself the time and focus you might give to any other art you are trying to master, you will create a thing of beauty that will give you and others joy for years to come.