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Planning a landscaping project: what to know

Last modified: 2021-04-15 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

Amanda Harvey

Have you tried your hand at designing a landscape? No doubt, this is an exciting project to plan out and complete, but the abundance of choices could leave you feeling overwhelmed. What plants are correct for your region and which work together? Will you include accessories like a bench, fountain or birdbath?

Luckily, if you’ve had a hand in designing your interiors, taking a leap with a landscaping project won’t be as daunting as it seems. Planning out a plot follows the same principles that guide an interior setup- with a few modifications of course.

If you’re ready to try your hand at planning out a landscaping project and are curious about the steps, then know you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to offer some important notes when it comes to starting this venture.

Planning a landscaping project: what to know

landscaping

source: Katrina Chambers

1- Determine your needs and wants

As mentioned in our introduction, a landscaping project can be daunting at first. An excellent place to start is to determine your landscape needs and wants. What is the most important aspect of your landscaping design? Consider some of the following questions:

  • Are you taking on the project for aesthetic purposes alone?
  • Does your family need a functional yard more than one that’s simply beautiful?
  • Are you looking to incorporate electrical elements, such as a water feature, lights, or even an outdoor kitchen?
  • Do you have pets that need space to run free?

These questions can help you to come a little closer in terms of layout and functionality. Remember, you can create various spaces with different uses as long as you use strategic planning and some hardscaping. Further, we’d suggest doing a sketch of your lawn or backyard in order to get a visual sense of how you intend to lay things out. This doesn’t need to be your end plan but will allow you to make some informed decisions moving forward. 

landscaping backyard

source: Color & Chic

2-  Know your land

An important part of designing a landscape is knowing which plants are native to your region, and thus, will flourish in your landscape. Consider your regional climate, the topography of your site as well as the type of soil you’re working with. Most of this information can be found online, and if that doesn’t suffice, we’d suggest taking a trip to your local garden center and speaking to an employee for a bit of insight into what will and will not grow.

Another note is that your yard will likely have very specific conditions and create a microclimate based on the amount of sunlight and shade it receives. This will be a major consideration when it comes to determining the plants that are able to live on your property. You can think about these microclimates in 4 different categories: full sun, partial shade, shade or deep shade. When you’re drawing up a sketch of the areas you’re going to be taking on, take note of these regions.

Lastly, consider the topography and how water drains on your land. Do bear in mind that the best design of a landscape will allow water to drain away from your home.

3- Thinking about themes for your landscape

Choosing a theme for your landscape can be helpful when guiding where your plants and materials will go. We’d suggest choosing a theme that’s in harmony with the architecture of your home. If you’re thinking about your landscape as an extension of your house, you’ll want to work with cohesive lines, patterns and forms. Are you interested in a landscape with neat and tidy geometric shapes? Or, do you prefer softer lines and a natural feel when it comes to your space? 

As mentioned, your yard should be thought of as another room of your home. In the way that your interior has carefully designed rooms, so should your landscape. You can use plants and materials to create different rooms. These considerations can move you closer to a concrete landscaping plan. 

landscaping driveway

source: Southern Living

4- Hardscape, then softscape

Before you set out any plants, we’d recommend beginning with hardscaping elements. Hardscaping can include features such as a patio or porch, fencing, walkway or driveway, parking areas and so forth. In most cases, these are involved in construction projects and thus, will damage any turf, grass or plants you’ve already laid out. 

By now, it’s likely you've determined which plants will work for your landscape and climate. Plants can be used to clearly define barriers as well as where your landscape ends. Low-growing plants can offer an implied barrier or border, whereas taller plants can be used to clearly define areas. It’s important to mention that when correctly placed, plants and trees can greatly alter the conditions of your site. This will include temperature, light and wind conditions, as well as how noise travels within the space. 

When structuring your plants, consider the various visual planes of a landscape. The overhead plane will include tall trees or plants. The vertical plane will include how plants sit in terms of their distance between one another, as well as the width and heights of smaller plants. Lastly, there’s the ground plane, and this is left for how smaller plants are grouped together and arranged. Regardless of the plants you’re working with, remember to uphold a sense of unity throughout your entire landscape.

landscaping fire pit

source: Homes to Love AU

5- Start small, but think about the future

If this project still feels overwhelming to you, we’d like to take a moment to mention that part of designing your own landscape is to slowly and carefully develop a plan and to have fun while doing so. Don’t spend too much time thinking about how quickly things need to be finished and take this one step-by-step. You want to pay careful attention to detail and this can only be done when you approach it from a slow and balanced perspective.

Of course, you’ll also need to consider the future of your landscape. Specifically, think about how the passage of time may affect the plants. This means, when selecting your plants, to consider their growth rate, maintenance requirements and the size they’ll be at full maturity. It’s important to keep in mind that a plant has the potential to grow smaller or larger in your specific conditions.

If you're looking for more information about landscaping projects, consider our other articles:

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