Dangerous curves ahead

February 19, 2018 Dave Marciniak 0 Comments

Seeing the trailer for The Incredibles 2 has me so, so excited. The first movie had wonderful characters and a great story, and naturally my favorite character is Edna Mode – a designer with a strong point of view and very strong opinions that are rooted in years of practical experience.

Capes and costumes aren’t relevant to what we do, at least not yet – you’d think one of these spiders would HAVE to be radioactive, statistically – but I have my own absolute: no squiggles!

Homeowners and landscape contractors alike seem to have a deep love for curves. Large, sweeping curves are beautiful for planting beds. Curves can be used thoughtfully with walks and patios to create some interest, and reflect the shapes and forms elsewhere in the landscape. Where I’ve seen pros and non-pros both get tripped up is when they add a lot of little curves in too small an area.

Why curves can be a problem

A lot of people struggle with foundation planting beds because they’re up against a totally straight house. Just creating a line parallel to the foundation several feet out seems dull and uninspired, so they think “let’s add some curves to that.” The result is often something that has no relationship to the house or the contents of the plant bed and it just looks awkward.

Squiggly plant beds are also a hassle to mow, especially if you use a large riding mower or ZTR. Even if you’re paying someone to mow, plant beds with too many curves require slower mowing and more trimming, which you’d better believe is factored into the price. It’s awkward looking and it’s costing you money. Where’s the benefit? See what a difference there is with a lawn bordered by plant beds defined by large, sweeping curves.

Excessively curved walkways are also a problem. For one, it makes the construction needlessly complex, and tight radius curves on the borders will just never look great. The bigger problem is human nature: we’re lazy. We want to take the shortest path from point A to point B. Throw a bunch of needless curves in and people are either going to get frustrated using the walk, or they may just cut a straighter path.


Case study

We recently did a front walk for some wonderful friends. This was what we replaced.

The homeowners and I spitballed a bunch of ideas for how the walk could go, and they mentioned that they liked the idea of a curved walk. My issue (no squiggles!) was that it’s such a short walkway that going too crazy with curves would look forced and not feel comfortable to use. Instead, we created a compromise that gives a meandering feel to a straight, very functional walk.

And you’re darn right those are perfect curves that hit tangent. Juan’s an artist!

The squiggle thing was something I had to overcome early in my career, and that’s not unusual. Maybe it’s because we tend to not look at the bigger picture at first. Maybe it’s because we’re Americans, and so if one curve is good thirteen curves are better. Just keep in mind that a path should always be functional. A bed edge exists to contain your landscape plants, and those should be the stars of the show – not the edge.

Do you need help overcoming squiggly line tendencies in your landscape? Contact us today and let’s see how we can help.

leave a comment