Do you have a bare lawn with a few sad builder bushes, or an overgrown landscape left behind by your home’s previous owner? Whether your house is brand new or has an established yard, designing a landscape plan that fits your needs can be a challenge. However, with a few pointers, you can DIY the landscape design of your dreams.
Chances are, your yard came to you in one of two ways: you inherited another homeowner’s landscape when you bought your house, or you built a new house and were presented blank slate, maybe a sad sprinkling of grass seed and some builder bushes.
In either case, if you want to transform your yard into something you truly love, where do you begin?
It’s ok to be aspirational here. In fact, it’s preferred. How do you plan to use that lovely yard, anyway?
Are you a backyard griller, or do you cherish reading novels on the front porch? Do you have a green thumb and hope to wear a big hat in the yard while cutting flowers and waving to neighbors? How do you feel about summer vegetable gardens? Not just the fresh tomatoes, but the actual gardening part? And be honest, are you planning to be anywhere outdoors in your bathrobe?
Are you the type who loves the straight rows and formal symmetry of a grand landscape such as Versailles? Or do you like the more organic and curved shapes of an English country garden? Nothing says you can’t have both- say, a little Versailles in the front and cultivated wildness in the back- just know what look you’re going for so you can achieve your dream yard.
Whether you’ve got an overgrown mess or a blank slate on your hands, be sure to identify the keepers. Are there any specimen trees worth saving, like a Japanese maple or flowering dogwood? Shade trees, ornamentals, or anything sentimental, like your grandmother’s rosebush? Just be sure to note what’s working well in your yard, and this includes favorite hardscape elements like pathways, decks, or fences.
In planning your landscape, sun/shade mapping will be critical to your happiness. Where do you plan to sit with your morning coffee? Where is the sunrise, and where is the sunset? Will you be able to enjoy a cocktail and a book at 4 p.m. on a July Saturday somewhere in the yard where you’re not baking in direct sunlight? Get a handle on your orientation and shade patterns. This will help you with plant selection as well as with creating outdoor spaces you’ll enjoy. Remember that, depending on geography, the location and amount of your shade will most likely change with the seasons. That’s part of the fun. Check out this article to learn how to measure sun exposure in your lawn or garden.
Before you start digging and planting, think about outdoor seating and gathering areas such as decks or patios. Decks, patios, outdoor kitchens, play areas, and the connections between them may all require an investment in hardscape. Will you need a fence for privacy (see “bathrobe,” above) or a dog? Would you like to include a pretty gate as a cut-through for your favorite neighbor? Do you need some paved walkways?
Once you’ve defined your hardscape, you can begin designing borders, raised beds, vegetable gardens, and zones for plantings. You’re free to be creative here; nobody says you have to plant in neat rows or straight lines. Have some fun with curves. You can start with a sketch, and then as you’re experimenting, use a garden hose to lay out planting borders and see how they look at full scale. Plants can be used to soften edges as well as define them.
Decide in advance where the height will be in your landscape, and remember that trees and bushes may start small but need ample room to grow. You may opt for taller bushes or a hedgerow in spots where you’d like a bit of privacy or to shield a neighbor’s fence, with clusters of mid-height plants in certain zones and ground covers in others. Variety is a great quality in a landscape, and planning for seasonal color throughout the year offers visual interest.
Now that you’ve done the research and made a plan, it’s time to start shopping, digging, and planting. A local nursery can help you select the plants which will work with your yard’s climate and advise you on the best time to plant, though many online retailers can offer a huge selection and competitive prices. Plants native to your area are a great choice and are more likely to thrive in severe conditions such as a heatwave or drought. Be sure you know when your frost date is so that you don’t get caught with a tender plant in an unexpected late-season chill.
Perennial plants bring joy to your yard year after year and are a long-term investment in your home’s value. The bright colors and charm of charms of annual plants may be more ephemeral, but these make delightful seasonal additions to fill in landscape gaps and add to your home’s curb appeal. In the right climate, you may be able to incorporate edible landscape features as well; fruit trees or berry plants will contribute more than just good looks to your yard when a crop comes in.
Take time before you start planting to think about how your new yard will work with your lifestyle, and you’re sure to arrive at a landscape plan and plant palette which you’ll enjoy for years to come.
Have any questions or need more ideas? Call Fitzgerald’s today and our experts will help you every step of the way!