Landscape designers spend years learning the science of horticulture, plant selection, and the elements of design. The most important thing to consider when developing your landscaping is to create a functional space that you and your family will love and enjoy for many years to come. Below are a few design basics from the Pros that can help:
Function—Your yard should meet your family’s needs. Before you start planting, think about how you want to use your yard: do want to create great play areas for kids, do you want to create a yard your pets will love, do you want to attract wildlife, or do you want to relax and entertain in your yard? Answer these questions before you start designing your new landscape.
Color—Consider plant color, not only in the flowers, but also in plant leaves, fruit, and branches. Remember to check the seasonal color changes of plants as well. Create visual interest per season. One mistake people make is to use too many different colors. Create masses or blocks of color rather than a scattering of all colors which can be confusing to the eye. Remember that your eye will be drawn to the colorful plants, so do not feel the entire yard has to be full of them. Instead, have some accents of color in different parts of your yard in all seasons.
Proportion and Scale—Plant size is important. Plan where to place large plants such as shade trees first, then locate smaller trees, shrubs, and finally ground cover and flowers. Tall plants and trees anchor a space, and provide shade and privacy. Consider where you want to use larger plants to screen unwanted views and where you want to have smaller plants to open up or enhance a view. Be aware of the size a plant will be at maturity. A single decorative ornamental tree or shrub or specimen agave or cacti can be added as a focal point in the landscape. Remember that larger masses of one element, be it annuals or shrubs, can often achieve a better effect than one large plant.
Texture and Form—Many plants have beautiful textures and shapes. Select a few plants that have an interesting form or texture. There are plants that grow upright or cascade. Some are spiky. Some are columnar or round shaped. Some are evergreen. Some are succulents, agaves, or cacti. Choose a few plants that provide interest, variety, and contrast. Get creative.
Organization—Your yard will take on a well-planned look if plants are installed in an organized way. Masses of plants in a well designed plan tend to look better than a jumble of individual plants. Even an informal, “naturalistic” theme should involve masses of plants in an organized design instead of random individual plantings. A basic design principle is to put plants together in odd-numbered groupings of three, five, seven plants, etc.
Theme—If you uncover a design theme for the yard, your design choices will be made easier. Do you want a look that is natural and romantic with curving lines and hidden spaces, do you want a modern and urban feel, or do you want a neat and highly manicured appearance? The beauty of landscape is that it is possible to divide up the space and have different looks in different areas of your yard.
When planning your landscape, it is also important to consider your climate, soil type, drainage, exposure (sun and shade), potential use of native plants, water requirements, and types of wildlife, such as deer, that are in your area and more. By incorporating a master plan, you avoid potential problems of having to re-do work, wasting money and time. Landscape professionals can provide consultation, design, and installation expertise in all of these areas. They can also help with information on local building codes, restrictions, and potential maintenance and water cost issues.