low border of Electric BlanketWhat is a landscape?

Pertaining to our yards and homes, the landscape is the interaction of exterior space, people, nature, and plants.

Landscaping serves many functions.

  • Solves problems
  • Creates outdoor living spaces for play, work, and entertainment
  • Compliments our homes
  • Reflects our personalities
  • Creates moods

What is a landscape design?

A plan to follow while you install your landscape

Why do you need a design?

  • It would be nearly impossible to meet all the functions of a landscape without going through the thought process of a design.
  • A plan allows you to incorporate the design over time as your time and budget allow but still meet all the goals and expectations of the design
  • A design helps you avoid costly mistakes by working them out on paper

There are two parts to the design process:

  1. Compiling information
  2. The actual design

Creating a Step by Step Landscape DeisignCompiling information

Step 1: Make notes of problems you need to solve.

  • Blocking unsightly views such as roads, garages, neighbor mowing grass in Speedos.
  • Slopes you may not want to mow or maintain.
  • Create privacy from road, neighbors, and other areas of the yard.
  • Drainage issues.

Step 2: Make notes of key items you want to incorporate

Sitting areas, water features, vegetable gardens, play areas, swing sets, perennial gardens, gazebos, arbors, fences, boulders, pools, level lawns, accent walls, sidewalk/pathways

Step 3: List particular plants you may want to use and requirements of said plants

  • Specific trees, shrubs and perennials.
  • Annual beds.
  • Colors you may want to use or exclude.
  • Attract birds and wildlife.
  • Fragrance or movement.
  • Deer resistant.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Moisture tolerant.

Creating a Step by Step Landscape DeisignThe actual design

Step 1: Make a scaled sketch of the property. Include:

  • Property lines.
  • House, driveway, outbuildings.
  • Trees and natural areas.
  • Existing fences and other structures.
  • Note north, south, east, and west on the design.
  • Note where water runs through property.

Step 2: Draw what areas will be used for what purpose

  • Where are my options for sitting areas? Do they have shade?
  • Is there privacy, or can it be created?
  • Logical play areas. Is the area level? Safe?
  • What kind of view to Mom and Dad have from house?
  • Vegetable or perennial gardens. Where is the most sun?
  • Note where views from the house and other sitting areas are.
  • Where can water features be placed so that they can be seen and heard.
  • Where do I want to place accent walls?
  • Where do I need walkways or paths through beds?

Step 3: Where do I want trees?

  • For privacy, for shade, for interest, or for some height?
  • Note which trees should grow large, which ones need to stay small, and which ones need to be evergreen.

Step 4: Lay out bed lines

  • Use large sweeping curves; don’t make lines look busy.
  • Be generous with sizes, especially near the house.
  • Keep in scale with house and yard.
  • Is the sidewalk long? You can visually shorten it by having it run though beds and grass.

Step 5: Draw in specific focal points (plants or features that will attract attention) and other areas of interest.

  • In the front yard, it should be near the entrance.
  • In the back yard, where it will be most seen from inside and outside.
  • Can be a specific plant or tree, statue or garden accent.
  • Can change with the season.  A mass of colorful shrub roses might be focal point during spring and summer, then be replaced with the coral bark of a Sango Kako Japanese maple in the winter.
  • Lay out the annual beds. They can be at the beginning of sidewalks or anywhere along them. At peaks of beds, or at far ends of pathways or walks, to draw you towards them.
  • Choose your plants to be used at the front corners of your house as well as the entrance.
  • Mimic your architecture. If you have a tall house, with columns or tall stone entrances, use upright-growing plants, possibly pyramidal in shape.  If your house is 1 story, or has a low, squatty roofline, you may use more rounded plants or even plants that might weep to reflect the style.

Step 6: Start filling the beds with plants, ground covers, garden accents, boulders, etc.

  • Work out from key areas of interest and chosen focal points

The fun begins with step 7

landscape3Step 7: Actually choosing the plants and plant combinations.

  • This is the most challenging part of the design process.
  • Choosing plants is like putting a puzzle together; each piece must fit with its surrounding pieces (this includes neighboring plants, nearby structures, and allotted space)
There are many aspects to consider when choosing plants for specific areas
  • Heights, especially around the house. You do not want plants to overgrow or cover up the house.
  • Avoid a lot of up and downs through the landscape. This can be unsettling to the eye.
  • Keep in mind one of the objectives of the landscape is to compliment your house, not overbear or hide it.
  • Keep a good balance of evergreen and deciduous plants near each other.
  • Create continuity by repeating plants or plant patterns. This helps create balance, and tie beds together. (You want to avoid having beds on one side of the sidewalk that have nothing in common with the bed on the other side.)
  • Are there deer in the area?
  • Cultural conditions such as sun, soil, wind, additional heat reflecting off white walls, etc. Fragrances and movement both add interest.
  • Use foliage and blooms to add color, but watch what is around you. Remember the puzzle.
  • Interest coming and going year round.
  • Frequently consult your list of plants you want to include.
  • Look around the neighborhood; don’t repeat what the neighbor has.
  • Strive for something different; be creative.
  • Use large sweeps of plants in beds for more impact, and then repeat the sweep in another bed for continuity.
  • Vary textures; incorporate grasses and conifers to compliment hollies and other broadleaf shrubs.
  • Try not to create too busy of a look. Sometimes you might want to use hollies or ground covers to help carry the eye further on without drawing attention to themselves. If you have too many different plants and colors, the eye can’t focus on any one thing, and the look can be unsettling.


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