Think native plants and wildlife-attracting gardens look messy? It doesn’t have to be that way. In this series, we’ll talk about the techniques involved in designing a beautiful wildlife garden. At left, landscape design by: Shades of Green Landscape Architecture, Sausalito, CA. Recently, Rachel Matthews wrote a guest post here about what she sees as the most important aspect of landscape design: Shape. I want to follow up on that concept because this is something so critically important to wildlife gardeners. When we’re gardening for wildlife, we’re often thinking about planting specific plants to host caterpillars/ butterflies or providing a certain type of shelter or habitat. Sometimes, we can get so focused on the details of attracting wildlife that we lose track of the bigger picture, design-wise. The shapes you use throughout your garden give it a sense of structure and beauty that allows even disparate garden elements to feel like they “fit”. The shapes of what, you might ask? Well, when thinking about shape, I start by focusing on the “negative space” – the lawns and patios which work to highlight and create a staging place for our garden features and plants. Positive space is anything that could be considered a focal point- plants, fire pits, sculpture. Those are elements that by their very nature attract attention. In contrast, lawns and patios are usually noticed for their ability to make the things around them look good. Because of the role they play in enhancing the other elements of the garden, their shape plays an important part in how well your overall garden functions and looks.