Ideas about landscape design vary from fabulous to fundamental. Some view landscape design as creating an elaborate, natural, outdoor living space while others view it as simply as asking their spouse what kind of grass to plant.
The beauty of residential landscape design lies in its endless variety of enhancement options. Take a deep breath and study a few facts before grabbing the shovel or bringing in the backhoe. Forethought will save you time, money and frustration.
The Elements of Landscape Design
Professionals define landscape design as “the conscious arrangement of outdoor space for human enjoyment and satisfaction.” Most experts agree that a nice landscape pumps up curb appeal, increases home value and can be eco-friendly.
The known elements of landscape design reveal more about what’s involved:
The expenses involved in landscape design range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It depends on the associated elements, space, materials, size and complexity.
Start by asking the true purpose of the project and then summarize it into a single sentence. Make sure the answer is as specific as possible. An ambiguous statement makes it harder to accurately estimate time and expense.
- “I want to beautify my home” versus “I want green grass and a swing set for the kids.”
- “Let’s get better landscaping” versus “let’s get new plants for the big bed.”
- “We should spruce up the yard,” versus “we should plant a row of privacy hedges.”
Landscape design tends to tickle all the senses, as well as our creative, emotional and spiritual sides. Design becomes quite personal, but it must be functional and affordable.
Only you can determine how much to spend, but landscape designers give benchmarks that anyone can scale down. They say that the cost to install an all-new, functional landscape is about 5%-10% of the entire property-value amount, plus maintenance expenses.
How to Create a Landscape Plan
If you’re looking to start a residential landscape-design project, create your plan around these steps:
- Develop a plot plan: Consider the overall property and how project elements will relate to it and each other.
- Analyze the site: Observe the sun and wind patterns. Test the soil acidity, PH level and drainage, and look at the sights and sounds around the space.
- Assess family needs: List activities planned for the new area and allow room for fixed items such as planters, trash cans, hose reels and dog houses.
- Locate use areas: Mark off concepts with tape or chalk and see if there is ample room.
- Design: Make a sketch or several sketches that include a north directional arrow. Experiment on paper with different styles, textures, and colors.
- Scale: Put the sketch into life-size proportions using tester objects since scaling is often the most difficult step for DIY landscape designers.
- Construct and plant: Dig in and bring your vision to life.
Thorough plant research helps landscapes flourish. Find a good nursery and go there to study colors, textures, plant height and width, spacing, and water and sun requirements. Think about which areas you want to come back every year – perennials – and where you want to plant something new each year – annuals.
You should also know your hardiness-zone number, so you don’t inadvertently get Texas roses for Wisconsin or vice versa — especially when ordering seeds online. Most nurseries sell plants that grow well in their local zone.
Think your property through and ask questions. Do you have a focal point? Will the space need a walkway, path or special lighting? What outdoor furniture or accessories fit? Browsing the marketplace will help you find great ideas and maybe even that special piece you seek, such as the water features and other outdoor furniture.
Should You Hire Help?
Somewhere in the planning process, you’ll have a natural feel for whether you’re comfortable going it alone or need professional help. A landscape architect or landscape designer has the expertise needed for nearly any kind of project, and can plan, implement and find qualified subcontractors for it.
An architect works mostly among the built environment alongside architects, engineers and urban planners. A designer works mostly among the natural-outdoors environment. Both have excellent knowledge of horticulture, landscape materials and eco-friendly design.
These professionals are likely to have a science degree and may obtain certification through their respective professional organizations, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD). Each entity adheres to standards of excellence and requires continuing education for certification.
A master gardener, often found at the local nursery, also carries credentials in horticulture and knows a vast amount about plant size and placement, hardiness, color, foliage and growth patterns. Some gardeners gain their mastery through formal education and work, while others acquire it purely from experience.
Not only is gardening knowledge needed but if you require heavy equipment you may need someone who knows how to operate it.
Landscape design holds a dizzying number of possibilities, but once you clarify your direction, you can proceed smartly. Mix in equal scoops of education, planning and hard work for results that leave your property looking breathtaking for years to come.