Read these 28 Planning and Designing Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Lawn tips and hundreds of other topics.
Mulch is essential in a sunny garden both from the perspective of maintenance (less frequent watering is needed) and in order to tie plantings together. Dark colored mulch will give a solid grounding to your plantings but gravel might unify a natural looking landscape.
A plant's density or visual weight creates a great deal of impact in a garden. For example, consider an evergreen tree, as opposed to a deciduous tree. Even in the middle of summer, the evergreen tree tends to have more visual weight than the deciduous one. This means these plants should be considered carefully in developing your garden picture. Used as specimen plants, they will attract a great deal of attention. Used in groupings, they can serve as a dark background for a plant of finer texture.
The focal point is an interesting element where the eye comes to rest when viewing a garden. The focal point of a garden may be a bench, a striking Japanese maple, a garden sculpture, or your neighbor's majestic oak tree. There should be only one focal point to any view, but a series of focal points can take the visitor from area to area in a garden. This creates movement, a very important element to any garden.
When choosing plants, do not focus on only the flowers they may provide. It is important take into consideration a plants foliage texture (feathery, shiny, fuzzy) and colour (yellow, silver blue). Consider fruit trees and shrubs that can provide attractive flowers, colors and a good quantity of edible fruit. Fruit can stay on the plant for several months and also feeds the birds. Consider fall leaf colour that may last for 2 weeks and stem and bark colour that can add to a dreary winter landscape.
Vertical elements impact a garden in a variety of ways. The higher a fence or hedge, the smaller the enclosed space appears. Accordingly, the smaller the garden, the more the vertical elements predominate the area. In small yards, then, it is crucial to consider your vertical elements carefully. Using trellising or a nonsolid fence can give a small garden structure while still allowing light in. In a large yard, vertical elements can give a sense of intimacy and security by dividing the space into garden rooms.
If you have bought a house whose yard was ignored or abused by its former owners, do not be in a hurry to correct the problem, tempting as it may seem. It's a better idea to take a slow but steady course of action that lets you first trim back ungainly overgrowth and then discover what's worth keeping and what's not.
It's a good idea to live in a house for a year--through the four seasons to see how the landscaping elements work before making any landscape changes. That old maple tree you may have initially wanted to remove may be doing a great job of shielding out the hot summer sun on the patio. You won't know that until you've seen how and where the summer sun effects the house.
With a large property, you have a much broader selection of planting to choose from than gardeners with a small yard. However, with choice comes responsibility. Don't spread tiny groups of plantings out over the entire yard. If you can't afford to plant the entire garden at once (and really, who can?), choose a couple of key areas to focus on and build outward from them.
Eventually, you will be able to link these areas together into a unified whole.
Gardeners with sunny yards certainly have a vast number of plants to choose from, but sometimes all you want is a little shade for contrast and relief. You might consider creating your own shade with structures like arbors or pergolas covered in vines or by planting trees and shrubs. These are also good elements from a design standpoint in that they provide bones for the yard. The main challenge in designing for a sunny yard is to keep things interesting. One strategy is to play up the amount of light in the yard with light colored plants. Grey leaved plants such as Lamb's ears, Lavender, and Carnations or pink Dianthus can be used to a great effect in a sunny exposure.
The purpose of landscaping is to enrich the quality of life on your land, be it a small backyard in the city or acres of space in the country. Gardens offer texture, color, and fragrance, pleasing shapes, fresh tastes, protection from the elements, and sound (from winds)----in countless combinations. Also, the average landscaped house can add 10 to 15% more to the value of a home!
There are several options for adding depth and interest to an uninterestingly shaped (but definitely typical) yard. Place the entrance to the garden on an angle or on the lower half of a long side. This creates immediate interest by giving visitors an unexpected perspective as they enter the yard. Next, if practical, place your entertainment area (barbecue, patio, terrace) in a location away from the house for the same reason. Or use decking to create different levels, creating more interest for the eye.
Your house may be exposed to winter winds and require protection. During your first winter, mark the direction of the prevailing winter winds. Keep in mind a windbreak must be at least 1 1/2 times its height away from the object to be protected. Make a note of areas where snow drifts onto walks and drives. A planting of shrubs may be able to act as a living snow fence.
Proportion considers the relationship between the size of one element in a garden with the size of another. Unity or the repetition of an element (shape, color, texture, or even the same plant) throughout a garden ties it together. Contrast provides an element of surprise or variation to your garden. Using two plants with similar sizes but different textures or placing a strong colored element against a pale background can be appealing. It is usually important to keep some element of similarity between plants in order to provide unity to a garden picture, but that shouldn't stop you from experimenting to create your own unique look.
When it is time to buy the trees that will form the basic structure of your landscape, invest in only those which are hardy for your climate or Zone. The trees and shrubs that you plant are an investment and should be able to grow healthy and relatively problem free for decades to increase in beauty, as well as, the value of your property.
To help plan a design for your yard, take a walk around the property and note both the good and bad features of your landscape. Take into consideration the location of walks, drives, utilities and existing plants. Look for good views you wish to keep, as well as bad views you would prefer to hide. Examine how the sun and wind strike the house and decide whether you wish to change these. Look for ways to increase privacy in certain areas of your landscape.
When developing your own landscape plan, first put ideas and notes on paper along with rough sketches. A good idea is to draw a simple base plan at first. Try to make it complete but it does not have to be to scale at this point. It should show your property lines, house location, utilities (above and below ground), existing plantings, walkways, drives and any other features such as rocks, streams, slopes, hills, etc. Although exact scale is not necessary, try to obtain realistic proportions. Show dimensions for property lines, house outline and other permanent landmarks or structures. This can be the base for future drawings from which a more final and exact plan can be derived.
With a new home you have the advantage when it comes to planning your property's landscape. Although a complete landscaping project may be financially impossible to undertake at one time, homeowners should devise an entire plan to include patios, planting beds, shade trees, flower gardens, play areas and perhaps a swimming pool. A master plan means the finished product will be cohesive and it
is much more economical to spend extra time and effort in proper planning than to correct mistakes after the work and money is spent in your garden.
One step to successful landscape planning is to make a list of existing and outdoor features you may wish to add. These may include a patio, children's play area. flowerbeds, vegetable garden, storage or tool shed, sports area, etc. You should try to list as many features as your family desires and your property size permits even though they may not be all included at one time. (in the future, interests may change and new features may be added or removed) But develop your list for the present and near future…note which features you would like to keep or improve that already exist.
If you take a photo of the main view of your landscape and hold it upside down and, if it looks like it will tip over, then the visual weight of your design elements may be off balance. Have an enlargement made of the photo and use an acetate sheet as an overlay - then experiment by drawing in plants of different shapes and sizes and recording any additions or changes you may want to make on the overlay sheet. Once you have determined which shapes and sizes improve the overall balance of the picture, you'll have a better idea of what type of plants to use. By balancing those elements your overall landscape composition will be more peaceful and satisfying.
A helpful idea to record your ideas and thoughts about changes you may wish to make on your landscape (and we all have some of those!) is to keep a small notebook handy to record your ideas and observations. Using the notebook is also a great place to write down things you may have seen in other landscapes that you find attractive and may want to use in your own design.
Movement in a garden refers to the use of different shapes or plantings to nudge you and your view from place to place in the garden. The use of a series of focal points can create movement in a garden. Also, the shape of a garden room or area can have meaning. A narrow room ushers you through quickly, even more so if it has vertical structures that become taller as you walk through. A broader room gives you the chance to stroll and meander. A round or square area is restful, serving as a stopping point for body and soul.
Photos can be used to develop a site plan and record seasonal changes in your landscape especially with changes in color and lighting.
If you want to see your property in a “different light”, take a photo, but instead of using color, which will mask certain characteristics of your yard and blend everything together, use black and white. Black and white film will bring out any obvious errors in the structure of your garden…if something doesn't quite belong, it will stand out!
While the gardens pictured in glossy magazines and fabulous coffee table books can be fun to look at, it can sometimes be difficult to apply their ideas to one's own yard. Nearby botanical gardens and arboretums can give you a better sense of how a plant or tree grows (height, width, and visual weight) and, better yet, how well it does in your area. Garden tours sponsored by your local garden club or society can be better sources of inspiration showing real life gardeners in yards similar to your own. Even strolling around your own neighborhood can provide you with ideas on plantings that complement (or hide) the housing in your area.
A formal garden is based on symmetry although you can have either a symmetrical formal garden or an asymmetrical one. The shapes of beds and features of both types of gardens tend to be regular rectangles or ovals and the paths are straight. Plants of the same type are usually planted to create symmetry. An example would be: two globes of common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ) on each side of a doorway.