When was the last time you looked at your landscape and felt joy?
Joy is a word that is often used interchangeably with happiness, but psychologically speaking, joy and happiness are different. Happiness is a sustained feeling, while joy is something much more immediate and passing. Both are important to our overall well-being, but we tend to focus so much more on our long-term happiness that we sometimes overlook the small moments of joy in our daily lives.
Often a feeling of joy is brought on by something that we experience. And since we believe that landscapes are meant to be experienced, we decided to explore some of the ways that landscapes can create moments of joy for the people who visit your property.
In her extensive work on the subject of joy, designer Ingrid Fetell Lee identifies five things that she calls the Aesthetics of Joy. Her idea is that the traits of physical objects in our world can create a sense of joy inside the person who experiences them.
Here are a few examples of how these design elements can be incorporated into your property’s next landscape enhancement project to help create joyful moments for your residents, employees, or any other visitors that experience your landscaped spaces.
Round, Curved Shapes
Have you ever noticed that the edges of landscape beds are rarely created to be right angles? Now think about your favorite walking path or nature trail. You’re probably imagining a meandering path that bends and curves through swaying trees or a blooming garden.
Straight lines and sharp edges have their place in our built world, but organic shapes are far more pleasing when it comes to the natural world. When pathways are created to curve and bend, they are so much more interesting than the straight lines of a busy city sidewalk.
Creating new landscape beds for flowers and plants gives you an opportunity to soften the look of your property and create a more inviting and joy-filled space, even in a modern, urban environment. Paths that don’t intersect at right angles are more inviting for visitors because they offer a sense of adventure. When you can’t look ahead to see which way the path will turn next, it encourages you to keep walking, to see where you’ll end up.
Bright Pops of Color
Incorporating color into your landscape, especially bright, vibrant colors, is one of the easiest ways to add more joy to your landscape. Annual flower displays are the most obvious way to add color to your property, and it’s why so many of our clients are interested and involved in their seasonal color installations.
But annual flowers aren’t the only way to add more color to your landscape. There are so many perennials and flowering shrubs and trees that you can choose from, no matter what region of the country you’re in. For clients in the Southwest that don’t have properties filled with lush, green grass, you can incorporate colored stone, installed in intricate patterns that mimic the look of an annual flower display in other parts of the country.
This is something that our landscape designers often need to help our clients understand, but once you see an area with intentional plantings in repeating patterns, you can’t help but feel a sense of joy come over you.
From a young age, we’re taught to recognize repeating patterns. The sense of order and intentionality is grounding and comfortable for us, even as adults. So it makes sense when we see these same principles applied to the landscapes we manage. Shrubs pruned to the same shape and size, in an offset planting pattern, create this sense of symmetry, while keeping the look of something natural and untouched by human hand at the same time.
And it doesn’t just apply to plants and trees that we install, even the stripes in your turf after a fresh mowing can create a moment of joy for your property’s visitors.
Abundance and Multiplicity
No matter how small or large your property’s landscaped spaces are, this principle can still be used to make your property feel more inviting and joyful.
Abundance doesn’t mean packing in as many plants and trees as possible into your space. In fact, simply making sure that the plant materials you have in your landscape are healthy and allowed to fully mature can often create a far greater sense of abundance.
The same is true with the concept of multiplicity. The counterbalance of planters on both sides of an entry door, or hanging baskets on each side of a street or walkway, creates a sense of recognition that unites spaces that might otherwise feel disconnected.
Elevation and Light
Landscapers and Arborists can sometimes have a hard time relating to each other. It’s mostly due to how each is trained to look at a property. Simply put, landscapers are trained to look down, and arborists are trained to look up.
But if you’re investing in a landscape enhancement project at your property, you need to consider both what’s being planted in the ground, and how you can add more elevation and light to the space.
Giving visitors in your landscape a reason and a prompt to look up will bring them more joy. The scientific fact is that the more light that hits their eye, the greater their feeling of joy and warmth. So much of our modern lives happen out in front of us, at eye level. It’s easy to go through life without taking the time to look up at a tree canopy or the clear blue sky.
Intentionally designed landscape enhancements make room for light. Practically, this is for the health of the plant material on the ground. But for people walking through our landscapes, these channels of light cutting through trees and branches invite the eye upward, to see where it’s coming from. In urban environments, green roofs can do the same thing for your residents and guests. Creating these unexpected natural oases atop our buildings gives city dwellers something other than the architecture to look up at and admire.
As Landscape Professionals, we take our responsibilities to care for our client's landscapes seriously. Landscapes provide so many benefits, that it’s easy to sometimes overlook one of the most basic reasons that people love the work that we do.
Your landscape has the power to create moments of joy for anyone who encounters it. From the residents in your community association to employees in an office, or guests at your retail center. And if joy is meant to be something we experience in a moment, that moment can be repeated each time we return to a place.
If your goal is to create a place that people want to come back to again and again, consider how you can incorporate some of these elements of joy into your landscape. And if you want some professional creative help and inspiration, contact your local Yellowstone Landscape Professional to talk about your next landscape enhancement project today.
Credit and inspiration for this post go to Ingrid Fetell Lee. To view her full, excellently delivered TED Talk, click here.