Creating a landscape requires planning and design. You may see complete landscaping makeovers on home and garden shows, but those are usually completed by professionals with crews.
For the beginner home gardener, there are simple landscaping ideas for achieving your dream yard. Start small, focusing on needs and wants.
Start with a Hardscape
There’s a lot that goes into landscaping, from choosing flowers, shrubs and trees, garden ornaments, paver walks, rock walls, retaining walls, water features, the list goes on. All of that can be a little overwhelming for the beginner.
It’s also important to consider how much time you want to spend on the project and what your budget is. Lawn mowing, weeding and watering are all important aspects of keeping your yard looking good throughout the year.
Creating your dream landscape doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Start with the basics and work your way up. For example, you could start with a simple water feature to add soothing sounds to your backyard. Then, map out the landscape using graph paper or just a quick sketch on a piece of scrap paper to see what your vision is going to be like. Make sure to include the areas that will be used for entertaining, walkways and play.
Think About the Sun and Wind Patterns
Whether you’re redesigning your whole front yard, revamping the backyard or tackling a small area, take some time to think about what you want from this project. You and your family might have different ideas, but by sitting down together and putting them on paper you’ll find yourself more likely to be happy with the results of your DIY landscape design.
It’s also worth studying your home’s sun and wind patterns to make the best use of your space. For example, a west-facing patio might get afternoon sunlight that makes it uncomfortable to sit outside in August or a northeast-facing deck could experience strong winds that whip around the fire pit (this Better Homes and Gardens Carter Hills propane table, $349, Walmart) and quickly extinguish any flames.
Form, or the shapes of individual landscaping elements like plants and furniture, should complement your home’s architectural style. Likewise, empty spaces, or voids, should be thoughtfully placed to balance the mass of your landscape and tie together individual elements.
Make a List of Needs and Wants
Before you dive into a garden landscaping project, make a list of needs and wants for your space. This may sound obvious, but many gardeners don’t think about what they want from their landscape.
For example, do you need a place for your kids to play or grow vegetables? How about an outdoor kitchen? Do you enjoy entertaining friends? Consider a patio and fire pit.
If you’re not sure where to start, begin by making a list of flowers that interest you. Research their light and water requirements, blooming habits and maximum planting zones to determine if they are viable options for your location. Then move on to shrubs and, if desired, ornamental trees.
Once you have a clear idea of what plants will work for your landscape, begin to look at hardscape features, such as patios, walkways and retaining walls. Creating these spaces first helps ensure the plant-oriented design will fit with your hardscape components and ties the whole landscape together.
If you hire a professional landscape designer to design your yard, one of the first things they’ll do is create a plot survey. This is a map of your property that shows the placement of man-made, or hardscape, features like fences, sidewalks and driveways as well as larger landscaping elements such as trees and boulders. This will form the “bones” of your landscape design and give you a reference point once you start on the plant-oriented, or softscape, aspect of your yard.
Once you know where the bigger items in your yard are, such as a tree, flowerbed or steppingstone path, you can start designing how the smaller components will work with them. This is the principle of scale and pacing that will pull your landscape design together, Lipanovich says. For example, if you have several tall plants in one part of the garden, they can be used to frame a view or draw eyes from one area to another.