Top 5 Landscape Design Tips
The first thing to understand when taking on a landscape project is that sometimes it really is harder than it looks. The good news is that there is a ton of great information to help you take on the challenge. It is important to take into consideration how unique each space is and needs to be treated as such. Be sure to educate yourself by hiring a professional for a landscape consultation, or by reviewing the hundreds of available YouTube “how to” videos or ocean of blogs for Central Texas Gardening. Here are some basic rules of design that will help set you in the right direction.
- Pick a lane
Yes, pick a lane indeed! We have all seen the crazy pot lady who has 14 different kinds/colors of pots in the front yard that don’t match the house or each other. Or how about the “I found 10 different kinds of stone for free on Craigslist” guy? Sometimes a bargain is only a bargain if the outcome just doesn’t matter to you. If the finished product matters and you really want to improve your property value, you have to pick a lane. That begins with only choosing a maximum of 3 colors/textures.
So for example, if your house is brick and stone, use either the same brick and/or stone in your landscape and perhaps add some colored metal edge and river rock as accents. If your front door is red, carefully use red accents in your pots, bench, art, etc. as too many colors can begin to look riotous when used by an amature. Understand that accents should be used sparingly or it can look “chochki-ish”. Finally, have a plan when choosing your lane, think about the cohesiveness of the overall design and be sure it carries throughout the space.
2. Use the right materials for the job
Cheap products are not a bargain. Free limestone left over from a neighbor’s project is great if that is the material you planned to use. Pre-formed concrete pavers that can never be matched (and frankly are outdated) are the beginning of a disconnected project. Avoid plastic edging, (that should be against the law), and don’t skimp on the details. Buy the landscape fabric for mulch on a hillside or plastic liner for beneath the river rock. Don’t use crushed granite in areas with runoff (it will wash away completely), or pea gravel in a walkway that stays fluid like sand on a beach. Don’t be in a hurry to do the whole project if money is an issue, take your time and do it right the first time. Do consider a landscape design. This can be a great way to see the big picture and tackle bite sized pieces over the course of a few years.
There are many free software programs available online that are very user friendly. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, visit the nurseries and stone yards, and grab samples of the stone to compare in your space.
Remember, stone varies greatly from pallet to pallet if they are not cut at the same time, so if you find a match you love, buy all that you will need.
3. Choose the right plants for the job
This is a HUGE problem many people know well for having inherited the standard “builders” beds planted with whatever they had left on the back of the truck. In my neighborhood they made it easy for themselves and gave everyone the same 5 shrubs, liriope and 1.7 Oaks (which I yanked). Or perhaps you have the “previous owner blob of plants”. They lost control of because they were planted too close together and now they are constant maintenance. If you have sick, unsightly or oversized plants in your space remove them and replace them with plants, trees or shrubs that belong there. Use native and adapted plants, and know their mature size so you can properly space them. Plant at the right time in the right light.
Shade plants go in shade and sun plants need 6 hours of sun, part sun typically means it can do well with less light but it may also mean morning sun only, so do your homework. There are tons of sources for plants here in Central Texas but the best ones have pictures, light requirements and mature size, height and width.
Check out my facebook page and YouTube channel for some great plants and trees for our area. Sounds simple, but of all of my consultations, and I have done HUNDREDS of them, the most common mistake is to choose the wrong plant and/or plant it in the wrong place so map out your beds and measure. Colors of plants should never be restricted, if you like them all use them all but be carefull with heavy colors like red that will take the eye to it. If you use red on one side of your yard, use it on the other. It does not have to be the same plant, but symmetry will help your yard feel more balanced.
4. Timing is everything
Late Fall/Winter is the best time to plant trees, fruit and many roses. Spring and fall is the best time for plants and shrubs. Summer is the best time to plan, design, install hardscapes and install (empty) mulched beds for the fall. Never take on too many plants at one time. If you have a huge project it may be best to plant in stages so you can water adequately without breaking the bank or the watershed. I suggest you do the front yard one year and the back the next.
5. Improve the value of your space
Not just monetarily, but functionally as well. Over personalizing a space can really hurt the resale of a home not to mention be an eyesore. Just because you’re a UT fan does not mean you need an burnt orange patio. The potential future buyer could be an Aggie 😉 When I design a space I drive through a neighborhood to see what the norm is. If the norm is not impressive I take it up a notch, but building the taj mahal in a middle income neighborhood will never get a return on investment. Intelligently enhancing your landscape will not only improve your quality of life but also improves the quality of the neighborhood and the resale value of your home.
Before, (above) an outdated landscape with overgrown shrubs and antiquated stone work.
After, simple and elegant with updated stone work and deer resistant, appropriate sized plants. Over sized plants shrink the house and hide its assets.
A final note, be sure improve your soil (or in my case dirt/clay) with lots and lots of compost and mulch. Expect to compost every spring and mulch every fall and NEVER use chemical fertilizers or weed control in your yard unless you have exhausted organic efforts first. Most importantly, whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, have fun. If you aren’t enjoying the process you are doing it wrong.
If you are in the Austin Texas, or surrounding area and could use some help in your space, contact me for a Landscape Design or Education Consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 512-733-7777.6
Now go get your garden on!
Lisa’s Landscape & Design (“like” me on Facebook!)
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”