Never thought of garden design as a numbers game. But the Ryerson landscape design course I’m taking this summer is all about the math: Landscape Construction, Materials and Methods. For the past five weeks, my head has been swimming with formulae and calculations. Yi, yiyi, yi, yiyi, yi!
The fascinating learning for me is about grading. Used to think that changes in grade in the landscape mostly dealt with aesthetics. More fool, me! Repeat after me: It’s the drainage, stupid. The last thing you want to do when you regrade is send water into your basement. Or, even worse, into the basement of your (formerly) good neighbour.
I’m immersed right now in estimating – or, in landscape terms, interpolating – changes in elevation in a hypothetical garden. Part of our challenge is to recommend how to add typical garden elements such as a patio, garden beds, a garage and driveway… all with grading as a key consideration.
We have to interpolate existing conditions from a few given elevations, and recommend new ones so that a contractor could carry out the plan. The choices in one area have impact on another. And don’t forget to allow for the underpinnings when you lay that patio. And don’t bury the roots of that tree, you’ll kill it.
It’s a game of garden domino effect.
Hey, I’m a plantsperson. Being a novice at this (and five weeks does not a landscape architect make) can feel like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle by inserting all the puzzle pieces simultaneously. There’s a lot, a lot, of back and forth. However, I’m learning. I also have new respect for people who mentally shift soil for a living.
And for computer-aided design. I’m sure the pros aren’t stewing over every calculation with their pencil, Touch calculator, mini-PostIt notes and accumulating pile of eraser dust. Automation must make this quicker.
At least, that’s one woman’s interpolation.