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 Pre-formed concrete pavers that can never be matched (and frankly are outdated) are the beginning of a disconnected project.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 email@example.com 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”
These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to use river rock as accents in your landscape. My husband and I just moved into a new house, and I want our new yard to look appealing. I’ll definitely try to add some river rock to accent my flowerbeds and add some variety in texture. Thanks for the great post!
For the longest time I have wanted to plant trees, fruit plants, roses, and tulips in my yard. Now I know I should wait until fall to plant them, and I can’t wait to see how they look. I’m sure I will have the best looking yard in my neighborhood.
I agree that you should use the right materials. I personally believe that quality is better than a cheaper price. I would rather something last a long time, than fall apart in just a few years.
I have been wanting to add some trees to my landscaping, but for some reason I thought that spring was the best time to do that. However, I am really glad to learn that fall/winter is the best time to plant them, because that means that I could probably plant a couple of them in September. Yet, are there any trees that do better being planted in the winter rather than the fall?
Most trees can be planted all winter. The only ones I usually wait on are Crepe Myrtles so I can really see what color they are.
I like what you said about how you landscaping can improve the space. It could be something that would add a lot of value to your home. After all, it seems like it would be something that would improve your life as well. After all, it would be somewhere you could relax.
I like your tip on using the right material for the job. I think that it’d be super cool to put in a rock garden. I don’t know if my husband would agree with me, but they just look so peaceful. My husband just told me to look for mulch, not sand. He’s just mad because it does look so good.
My husband and I are redoing the landscape in our yard. Thanks for the advice about using the right materials and how cheap products are not a bargain. Hopefully, we can find someone to help us plan out and redesign our yard.
Landscaping, like you mention at the start of the article, is a lot harder than it looks. It is comforting though that there is ton of great information out there to help people like me who don’t know what they are doing, to, like you mention, take on the challenge. I’ll have to work hard to find the information and make my yard something to be proud of.
Choosing the right plants is a good idea. I love desert plants, but they would look awful where I live now. Not to mention, they would not last in my climate. And the same goes for people living in the desert. It is hard to grow a lot of types of flowers in the desert. So, before you think about adding tulips or daisy’s to your desert landscape, remember, they aren’t going to last!
You are so right. It is crucial to choose the right plant for your hardiness zone which can vary accross the country.
I like your tip to use native and adapted plants that belong in your area. I had to remove a bunch of unhealthy plants when I moved into my current house. I haven’t replaced any of them just yet, but when I do I’ll have to get some native plants. Thanks for the tips!
I live in the desert and so many people try to plant plants that do not fit with the area at all. I love the way non-desert plants look. I love flowers and would love to have them all over my yard. The thing is though, flowers don’t last long at all in the heat. I think before you start thinking about what plants to add to your yard, you should know what plants grow in that area and those that will live and not die right away!
Absolutely right. It has to be plants that are indigenous to your area. Anything else is just money down the drain and eco system degradation.
I wish people in my neck of the woods would pick a lane….nothing but tacky statues and yard deco. These are tips everyone should be reading.
Justin This should be a handout at closing. Too many people purchase home with no idea what to do with their yards or how to properly respect their land. The asthetic is the least offensive to the chemical adulteration but it is sure hard to look at sometimes.
I really like your fourth tip “timing is everything.” My husband and I have been working on our landscape design for the past few months. I didn’t know that the fall/winter was the best time to plant trees and roses! That will definitely come in handy while we are getting things ready to plant. Thanks for sharing!
HI Danni, the right timing can make all the difference. Happy planting!
I agree with the article that landscaping is harder than it looks! A lot of people just think it’s planting flowers. But there’s a whole science and visual mechanics behind it as well. I want to redo my yard but I’m going to hire a professional company because they really know what they’re doing.
Pam, it is so true that educated landscape professionals are under valued. Just because someone owns a shovel doesn’t make them good with plants. Do your homework, hire knowledgeable professionals because you really do get what you pay for.
I appreciate you taking about the importance of making sure you give the plants in your landscape plants the right amount of sun they require. We are planning on fixing our landscape to make our house more appealing since we are trying to sell it so these tips are really helpful. It is important to remember that taking the time to consult with several companies can help you make sure you get quality services from a company that knows how to work the ground to your benefit.
I like that you mentioned to make sure you choose the right plants for your landscape design. That way, you can be sure that the placement of your plants will coincide with the amount of sun or shade they need. My wife and I are designing our new landscape, and we have been looking for any tips we can get. This should really help, thanks for sharing!
I hadn’t thought about how summer is better to install a hardscape because the weather won’t change it as much. I have been needing to start a yard at my new house. I’ll have to be sure and call a landscaper to start planting some trees. That way I won’t have to worry about any plants dying off too soon.
Winter is a great time for trees. It can also be a good time for hardscapes if it isn’t too cold or rainy where you live. Here in Austin Texas were able to hardscapes almost the entire year. This allows yo to prepare patios, beds and stonework well in advance of planting season. Happy gardening!
My wife and I are wanting to start a garden and landscape this spring, so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about how planting in stages lets you manage your budget and water. We’ll be sure to start small and slowly expand as time goes on so we don’t spend too much at once.
It really is important to take your time and have fun. The more you create a relationship with the space, the better your chance of success.