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Extension > Garden > SULIS > Design > The Landscape Design Sequence > Concept Plans and Lines

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Concept Plans and Lines

At a point when individual bubbles begin to take on specific characteristics, the process enters the concept planning stage. As with many segments of the landscape design process, part of the process is a visualization exercise and part of it takes place on paper.

As individual spaces within a concept plan evolve, the relationship between spaces also materializes. Concept plans are more detailed than bubble diagrams. The shapes of spaces begin to look like what the spaces in the completed landscape will look like.

In a concept plan, the shapes merge to form borders with one another. These borders will also become the separation points between spaces in the completed landscape. In a concept plan, we call these borders concept lines.

Some concept lines can become real lines in the landscape and some are imaginary. Landscape edging that divides a mulched bed from a lawn is an example of a concept line that becomes a "real line" in the landscape.

Imaginary concept lines will not become hard lines like edging or visible transitions between spaces; e.g., cement to lawn, mulch to ground cover. They do divide spaces that are different from one another; e.g., a shaded lawn from full sun lawn, a high maintenance area to a low maintenance area, bermed areas from flat areas. There are an infinite number of spaces that concept lines can divide in a landscape.

For additional information on concept lines:
Landscape Design Principles: How Line Forms Dictate Space and Style

Concept Plans, Lines, and Sustainbility

Concept plans and concept lines provide good clues to the future sustainability of a landscape design. An analysis of spaces created by them should trigger considerations of function, maintenance, environment, and cost effectiveness. In other words, the greater the definition between spaces, the easier it is to build sustainability into the landscape. Example concept plan

Examples of how concept plans affect the sustainability of a landscape:

  • Trees and shrubs located outside an open, irrigated turf area


  • Front sidewalks should be located away from foundations to providing adequate room for an entry garden with proper plant spacing, and allow direct access from the driveway.

A helpful hint for developing effective spaces in a concept plan is to consider the larger spaces first in the concept plan. This assures that these spaces will be properly designed and makes the design of corresponding smaller spaces easier.

For example, a common large space in residential and commercial landscapes is the lawn area. A pleasing lawn shape on the concept plan will usually indicate lawn areas that are more functional and maintainable. Because the shapes created by the lawn concept line correspond to that of the bedlines, the two lines become one and provide a visually pleasing appearance.

Large spaces that should be considered first in a concept plan:

  • Lakes
  • Woods
  • Prairies
  • Lawn and large ground cover areas
  • Parking lots
  • Courtyards

Spaces and shapes that are impacted by the large spaces in a concept plan:

  • Decks
  • Patios
  • Walks
  • Pools
  • Plant material beds and borders

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