Last week, I wrote about container gardening and inspired a friend to plant some pretty tiered pots around her new gazebo. They look gorgeous and helped create an instant botanical sanctuary in little time and for little money. The only downside is that my friend now feels that her landscaping is suffering by comparison. She’s ready for an overhaul, but doesn’t know where to start. Like many homeowners, she’s never thought of her landscaping as a large garden, but the best landscaped yards develop their plan with a gardener’s eye. Whether you’re moving to a new home with a tabula rasa or an existing home with an overgrown yard, these tips should help get you started on developing a beautifully landscaped yard that will make professional gardeners green with envy!
Start with some rough sketches of you yard, including thoughts of where you want to place things. Don’t worry about creating a rigid master plan… just get some ideas down on paper so that you can reference it with professionals at your local nursery or garden center. Study the sun and wind patterns. Your design should take into account what the sun and wind do at different times of the day and year and plant accordingly. Talk to a professional about shrubs that thrive in direct sunlight and perennials that need a shady spot to thrive.
This next piece of advice is tough, but important: take it slow and start small. HGTV loves to reveal complete garden makeovers that were done in a mere three days. You don’t see the crew of 60 landscapers working round the clock. Believe it or not, part of creating a landscape garden is slowly developing a plan and enjoying the process. From the master plan, start with a small flowerbed. Don’t worry about filling the entire bed immediately. Plants grow and things fill in. If you try to do too much, too soon, you risk burn out and you’ll be left with half a landscaped yard.
Work around a focal point. Any good garden design has a focal point or series of focal points, and it's an easy principle to put in place in landscape design for beginners. That may be a sculpture or a stunning plant, a tree, or a series of shrubs. The point is to draw your eye and move it through the landscape. Focus on scale and pacing to give your yard a pulled-together look. You want variations in size, shape, and color, with tall plants against a building or in the back of a flowerbed, and paths that lead people through the space. You might want to repeat some elements, whether it's a certain plant, a common color, or even a shape, so there's a sense of cohesion, but you don't want it to be monotonous, so try adding an occasional element that's different from the landscape and will stand out.
Remember: patience is the key to landscape design for beginners. If all of that bare space is too much to look at, rely on temporary solutions — annuals, fast-growing groundcovers that you don't care about for the long term, even mulch — to cover an area while you're figuring out what you want. Large landscaping features like trees can be hard to move; annuals can be taken out, and small perennials and shrubs can be transplanted if you realize they're in the wrong spot. Over time, you’ll develop an “eye” for the right landscaping that frames your home in the best possible light and boosts your home’s value at the same time!