Does your landscape need a refreshing update that captures the beauty and splendor of your home? The lawns and gardens you see in the magazines don’t have to be limited to what you see in pictures. You, too, can have a professional yard that goes beyond the limits of your imagination. And, you don’t have to hire a professional landscaper to achieve your goals. Applying the basic concepts of landscaping will accomplish much of what you have in mind, and you can enlist the help of a professional for the details that are beyond your skill level.

Here are simple tips for designing your optimal landscape.

Take a Photo of Your Property

Take a few photographs of your property and print them off. Use them for blueprints so that you can decide where you want trees and flowers planted as well as hardscape and water features. Also write down the measurements of your landscape on the back of the photos so that you can properly position all of the design elements. Proportion and unity are everything.

Determine What Your Priorities Are

You can design the most beautiful landscape, but if it isn’t conducive to your lifestyle, you’ll find yourself feeling frustrated. Identify what your goals are. Will you be using your backyard for entertaining friends? Playing with the kids? Growing flowers and vegetables? Your priorities will impact the design and layout of your outdoor space, so be sure to factor this into your overall design scheme.

Know Your Limitations

It’s easy to get carried away in the planning stage, especially when your imagination starts to take over. Budget is always a prime limitation, but there are other factors that will affect your design. These include your neighbors’ boundaries, utilities, irrigation systems, downspouts and drains and existing plants. Also consider the direction that your home faces and which areas will be most conducive to growing trees, flowers and gardens.

Incorporate Major Design Principles

Landscape design principles include form, lines, texture and color.

  • Form: Plants can be weeping, round, pyramidal, spreading, oval, vase or columnar. Consider the forms of plants and trees and what they will look like through the various seasons.

  • Lines: Lines are used to draw the eye to a focal point in the yard. Establishing lines is one of the first things to do when designing a hardscape, and they can be either curved or straight.

  • Texture: Leaves, stems and flowers have various textures. Think about what your plants will look like year-round and pair up textures that complement each other.

  • Color: Color is the best way to enhance a garden and add personality to the home’s exterior. However, color must be used wisely, otherwise it can make a space look cluttered. You can choose any colors that you want for your garden, just be sure to take into account the various hues brought in from perennials, annuals and flowering trees throughout the year.

Have an Established Budget

When you know what you intend your landscape to look like, you can start the best part: shopping! Of course, you’ll need a budget in mind, because these types of jobs tend to cost more than we think. The good news is that you can do your landscaping in phases. Focus on accomplishing a specific part of your yard, such as a garden or row of trees. Buying plants smaller can also save money, but they’ll need extra time to become mature. Also buying trees out of season can save money, so check out your local nursery in the fall (which is also a great time to plant trees).

If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to hire a professional or take a gardening class where you can pick up basic but essential landscaping tips. The time, money and effort you put into your outdoor space will be well worth it!

You can find more information on landscape design in the Summer, 2013 edition of Trees and More…