The Landscape
Design of Nature



   There is a landscape design of Nature. It is made up of threewater lines and three land shapes. It includes also three land forms and one specialpattern.

   We start a trip to the origins of landscape in order to learnhow to design better landscapes for ourselves.

   In the beginnings of the world there was chaos. There were noforms, no design and no life. Then there was a great change; the land was dividedfrom the water; the continents and the islands became separated and defined fromthe seas.

   The dividing line around each was a contour. THE FIRST LINEOF NATURE'S LANDSCAPE DESIGN IS A CONTOUR WATER LINE. The natural contour lines showwhere the surface of still water makes contact with the land.

   Now the water attacked the land with the blitzkrieg of sea tidesand tidal waves, the artillery of storms and the infantry of raindrops. The waterdrained off the land back to the sea to attack again. THE SECOND LINE OF NATURE'SLANDSCAPE DESIGN IS THE WATER-DRAINAGE LINE. It is the line of the water courses,the streams and the rivers.

   Here in the drainage lines of the land, Nature made first useof the branching and joining pattern which became one of her favourites.

   The draining of the water back to the sea also divided the landsurfaces into watershed regions. THE THIRD LINE OF NATURE'S LANDSCAPE DESIGN IS THEWATER-DIVIDE LINE. It separated all the lands of the Earth into great regions anddivided all the land within them into lesser regions.

   The attack by water on the land and the draining of the waterback to the sea, aided by the other forces of land disintegration, fashioned andsculptured the surface while much of the land was lost to the sea. The result wasthe foundation for the GREAT REGIONAL DESIGN OF NATURE, and for the shapes and theforms of the land.

   The grand strategy of Nature was the creation and the deploymentof life to protect the land from the agression of water. The movements of the waterover the land were slowed down by the soil, the grass and the trees. Slowly thereafterthe natural landscapes developed as the life forms within them became numerous andvaried. Nature sided with the land against the water to create great variety in lifeand durability in Her landscapes.

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   The main ridge is the first land shape. It carries the water-divideline and is thus the boundary of all the regions of Nature's landscape design. Lookat the skyline; it is the line of a main ridge.

   A main ridge almost surrounds the catchment areas of the greatriver systems of the world; a main ridge almost surrounds the catchments of everywater course and stream within these regions. The 'almost' indicates there is a lowplace where water escapes from the confining region and main ridge, as it does wheretwo streams join and where a river flows into the sea.

   Just as all the low places within the great regions are connectedup by the joining of every water course, stream and tributary river to the main river,so also are all the higher places--the ridges, with their water-divide lines--connectedup from the smallest ridge to the largest main ridge. This fact was vividly demonstratedwith a hollow and thin fibre-glass model of an actual landscape. When turned upsidedown and sprayed with water, it disclosed what could have been the working modelof a different landscape. The valleys and ridges were reversed; the stream coursesbecame the main ridges, the main ridges became stream courses. The hills became lakes--alake is an upside-down hill. The branching and joining pattern of the ridges wasclearly disclosed.

   In Nature's landscape design the branching and joining patternof the two water lines--the drainage lines and the water-divide lines--are intertwined.Together they form an almost never-ending interlacing, yet the two different waterlines do not touch each other. They disclose the anatomy of the landscape.

   The water drainage lines are obvious in the water courses, thecreeks, the streams and the rivers. The water-divide lines of the ridges are notso readily seen.

   To illustrate the water-divide line and to examine the shapesof the land, imagine we stand between two creeks where they join on the cleared andundulating land of a farm. We turn out backs on the junction and walk up-hill awayfrom it following the highest land between the creeks; the land widens out as wego. We are walking along the crest of a main ridge--on a water-divide line--but wecannot see it. If it were raining heavily we could see it. The rain water would beflowing away from the water-divide line in both directions, some to flow to the creekon our left, the rest to the creek on our right. Eventually the water would joinup and flow together at the junction we left behind us.

   The crest line of a ridge and the water-divide line are synonymous.The centre of a road and the ridge of a roof are water-divide lines; water flowsin opposite directions from both.

   From the main ridge the two creeks are in view. The sides ofthe main ridge slope more or less uniformly to the creeks below. Valleys form intothe sides of the main ridge. They are named primary valleys. The side slopes of themain ridge left standing, as it were, on each side of these valleys are also called'primary'--primary ridges.

   There will be a few or many primary valleys and primary ridgesbelonging to each main ridge. Since the primary valley has a primary ridge on bothsides of it, there is always one more primary ridge than there are primary valleysin any main ridge system.

   The primary valley is the smallest of the three shapes of land.It is the first valley and the only true valley shape in the landscape. The so-calledvalleys of streams and rivers are in reality, watershed areas--Nature's regions--andthey contain both primary ridges and primary valleys.

   The primary valley has a special shape. The start of the valleyat the top end is the steepest slope in the landscape. This first steep slope atthe head of the valley is short, then the slope changes to a flatter and longer slopewhich extends to the creek below.

   I named the point of slope-change in the primary valley, theKeypoint. A contour line around and across the valley from side to side though thispoint is the Keyline of the valley. ONLY A PRIMARY VALLEY HAS A KEYLINE.

   The primary valley collects its water only from ridges; fromthe main ridge out of which it was born and from the primary ridges on either sideof it. Water flows down the primary valley when it is raining. It is the first watercourse to cease flowing after the rain.

   In the wide agricultural areas the primary valley was grassedover and of a smooth rounded bed, down which the run-off waters from rainfall flowed--thatwas before so many became eroded into gutters and gulleys, to bleed the moisturefrom the surrounding land.

   The primary ridge is the largest of the individual shapes ofthe land. Because there are many more primary ridges than main ridges and becausethe primary valleys are the smallest shape, the primary ridges include more of theland surface than the other two shapes combined.

   From the crest line of the main ridge it will be plain to seethat the main ridge is not level or even uniformly rising. It may depart from itsgeneral rise and dip down, then rise again. The low place is a saddle in the mainridge and it often shows where a primary valley has intruded deeply and reached thecrest line of a main ridge. When the saddle is deep the first steep slope of theprimary valley may be gone. The Keypoint of such a primary valley is the saddle point.

   A saddle is a unique land form which has significance for landplanning. Road makers make use of the saddle of a main ridge to cross over from onewatershed region to the next.

   The saddle has left a higher piece of land sticking up on themain ridge. This land form is a hill. It often has a saddle on each side of it.

   The third land form is displayed in the depression of lakesand ponds.

   Continuing along the crest of the main ridge, a place is eventuallyreached where it appears to go two ways, as indeed it does. To the left the mainridge continues to almost surround the creek on our left and the right branch goeson to almost surround the creek on our right. But the main ridges of the watershedregions of the two creeks have now joined up with other main ridges, which surroundother creeks and streams and provide the boundaries for their separate watershedregions. They have become a part of the main ridge system of Nature's design.

   Each of the two junctioning creeks has its own region boundedby the crest line of its own main ridge. These regions thus include all the landfrom which rain run-off water flows to each creek. The land covers the one side ofthe surrounding main ridge which slopes towards the creek and the series of primaryvalleys and primary ridges which likewise fall from the side of the main ridge tothe creek below. This is the basic, the single, THE UNIT-REGION OF THE LAND. It maycontain only half a square mile or many square miles.

   The main ridge which started between the creeks at the junction,divides, and the two branches become widely separated before they come closer togetherat the single stream below the junction of the two creeks. This main ridge withoutthe branch between the creeks is thus the boundary of a larger region--a twin region--whichincludes the two single unit-regions of the two creeks. In like manner all the regionsof Nature expand in numbers of unit-regions within them, where each larger regionhas its own main ridge, up to the largest region of Nature. It may contain half amillion square miles and embrace the entire watershed region of the great river.

   This is the landscape design of Nature. It is repeated endlesslyto cover the land surface of the Earth. But what is the purpose of this design?

   The purpose of Nature's landscape design must surely be theprotection of the land from the attack of the waters. The waterline design and theland shapes appear to be designed for no other purpose than to get rid of water asquickly as possible. The shapes of the land reach the absolute in efficiency forachieving this objective.

   The harmony of the landscape has been produced over aeons oftime by the evolution, interaction and fusion of the three shapes of land.


   The evolution of the design of Nature on the many and variedgeological structures below the surface of the land, has provided the natural landscapeswith character and variety. But there is hidden in the three shapes of land--themain ridge, the primary valley and the primary ridge--something more to add to thewonder of the landscape design of Nature; for each of the three shapes of land thereis a unique and constant geometry which is disclosed in their contours and whichwill shortly be reviewed. In combination with their depths, lengths and widths, thereis endless variety. But multiplied by the effects of the profusion of climates, varietyapproaches infinity. Yet our man-made landscapes so often reflect only monotony andboredom.