We can and should view any landscape design or feature through each of four lenses:
Purpose describes how people use the landscape. What can we do there? Are there areas for casual play and organized sports? Can we picnic together, take in the view, or just enjoy sitting in the sun? How easily can we find our way and navigate through the spaces?
Ornament focuses on the look of the landscape. What shapes, colors, and forms meet the eye? How are they composed and juxtaposed? Are the plantings orderly and manicured, or do they curve softly into the landforms, with a little wildness? How does the look change with the seasons?
Ecology refers to how the landscape fits its context and the larger environment. How does it serve the birds, butterflies, and bunnies that would live there? How does it influence the flow of air and water (especially stormwater), or the mix of sun and shade hitting the ground? How much fertilizer, pesticide, labor, and money must we expend to manage it?
Meaning encompasses deeper concepts behind the landscape. What does the landscape say about us, our values, and our principles? What does it say to us about our culture, both at this location and in this era? How does it feel to us, and how do we feel in it?
And just as the word “poem” is not complete without all four letters, so a landscape design is not complete without dealing with all four lenses.
Too much of 21st Century American landscape design focuses almost exclusively on Ornament, with a little thought to Purpose, but has little or no regard for Ecology or Meaning. That approach can be good for business (the landscaper’s) but for nothing else (not the client or the community or the environment).
Management (or maintenance) covers the resources and efforts needed to keep the landscape in good condition, keep the plantings growing and thriving, and deal with new needs as they arise.
But adding another "M" to the acronym and ending up with "POEMM" isn't quite as artful, is it?
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