All you need to know about landscaping terms

Outdoor living area with chairs on a deck in Auckland
ARTICLE Nichola Vague & Amber Wijnstok

Base plan – a plan showing site boundaries and significant site features, used as a basis for subsequent plan development.

Building codes - Regulations specifying the type of construction methods and materials that are allowable on a project.

Building (construction) permit - An authorization issued by a government agency allowing construction of a project according to approved plans and specifications.

Contour - The form of the land. Contour lines are map lines connecting points of the same ground elevation and are used to depict and measure slope and drainage. Spot elevations are points of a specific elevation.

Design - the creative illustration, planning and specification of space for the greatest possible amount of harmony, utility, value and beauty.

Drainage - The running off of water from a land surface or subsurface, such as through stormwater drains or natural means.

Developed design - the stage where the initial concept plans are developed into documentation that enables the construction of the landscape. This is the stage where materials, finishes and construction techniques are confirmed. In smaller projects this phase may be part of an overall landscape plan.

Ecology - A branch of biology dealing with the relationship between living things and their environment.

Environmental impact - The change to an area's natural resources, including animal and plant life, resulting from use by man. Some projects may require conducting of an "environmental impact study" before development can proceed.

Grade - The slope of a plot of land. Grading is the mechanical process of moving earth changing the degree of rise or descent of the land in order to establish good drainage and otherwise suit the intent of a landscape design.

Hardscape - Elements added to a natural landscape, such as paving stones, gravel, walkways, irrigation systems, roads, retaining walls, sculpture, water features, lighting etc.

Landscape - Narrowly defined, the amount of countryside and/or city that can be taken in at a glance. Also, an area of land or water taken in the aggregate.

Landscape architect - A professional who designs, plans, and manages outdoor spaces ranging from entire ecosystems to residential sites and whose media include natural and built elements; also referred to as a designer, planner, consultant. Not to be confused with landscapers, landscape contractors or nurserymen.

Landscape architecture - The science and art of design, planning, management and stewardship of the land. Landscape architecture involves natural and built elements, cultural and scientific knowledge, and concern for resource conservation to the end that the resulting environment serves a useful and enjoyable purpose. Successful landscape architecture maximizes use of the land, adds value to a project and minimizes costs, all with minimum disruption to nature.

A garden with plants and flower pots
Read full case study Making the most of small outdoor living spaces - a backyard transformation in Panmure

Landscape contractor - A trained builder or installer of landscapes, retained to implement the plans of landscape architects.

Master plan - A preliminary plan showing proposed ultimate site development. Master plans often comprise site work that must be executed in phases over a long time and are thus subject to drastic modification.

Natural resources - The elements of supply inherent to an area that can be used to satisfy human needs, including air, soil, water, native vegetation, minerals and wildlife.

Preliminary design – sketch design carried out as an initial phase of the design process. This phase helps to cement the requirements and opportunities outlined in the design brief. Sets out initial spatial arrangement and concepts. Sometimes referred to as concept design.

Planning - The illustration and description of problem-statements and large-scale design solutions that affect extensive areas of land; the anticipation of problems that will be encountered as human use and development of land continues.

Site analysis – A plan showing the environmental considerations and issues associated with a site. May include things like sun analysis, wind direction, drainage, privacy issues, site use, land contour etc.

Site plan - A dimensioned drawing indicating the form of an existing area and the physical objects existing in it and those to be built or installed upon it.

Softscape - The natural elements with which landscape architects and designers work, such as plant materials and the soil itself.

Topography - The lay of the land, particularly its slope and drainage patterns; the science of drawing maps and charts or otherwise representing the surface features of a region or site, including its natural and man-made features.

View - Narrowly defined, an extended view or prospect from a site which, many times, is as important as or more important than the site itself.

Zoning - A legal form of land-use control and building regulations usually exercised by a local authority; usually involves setting aside of distinct land areas for specific purposes, such as commercial, educational or residential development

With help from the Dictionary of Landscape Architecture by Baker H. Morrow, ASLA; Published by University of New Mexico Press, 1957.  

You might be interested in reading How much does it cost to build a retaining wall?

This article by Nichola Vague and Amber Wijnstok featured on page 36 in Issue 026 of Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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