How to Plan your Landscape – Part 1

The landscape sometimes becomes the forgotten element of the home. But if you design your landscape with real thought and care, it can become one of the best parts of your living environment and even increase your home’s value. In this first half of our landscaping guide, we’ll cover how to evaluate your particular situation so you can create the best landscaping plan possible for your home.

The Perfect Landscape

What do you think of when you think of the perfect landscape? The best landscapes are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. It would be a mistake to focus on one while sacrificing the other. Imagine a yard that is beautiful and breathtaking – but there is no where to sit and enjoy it, no easy way to walk in and amongst it. And imagine a landscape that is comfortable to traverse with many comfortable lounging options – but the views are dull and disappointing. How much time do you think you would spend in either? The first thing you can do is start to think about how you can make your yard both beautiful and comfortable.

Needs and Wants

You can start to formulate your overall landscaping plan by evaluating what the space needs and what you and your family want to do with the space. Begin looking at all the everyday problems inherent in your outdoor space as opportunities for design. If you see a worn path trampled in the lawn, consider how a stone walkway would look there.

Think about the ways in which you and your family would like to use your yard and how the space could be divided up into different areas for different purposes such as gardening, children’s play, and entertaining.

Sun and Shade

Understanding how the sun affects your outdoor space is crucial to creating a pleasing outdoor landscape. Take note of how the sun crosses your yard. If you live in a hot climate, you will want to think about protection from western exposures. If you live in a cold climate, you’ll want to think about northern exposures. Think about the ways in which you plan to use your yard and in what ways sunlight would help or hinder those activities (i.e. giving necessary light, shining in your eyes).

While lots of shade may seem like a good thing, it can also attract mosquitoes and too much can make a yard dreary. Our advice is to opt for dappled shade with plants that don’t completely block out sunlight, but let in just the right amount. You’ll also want to consider what areas of the yard you want to cool and when. Trees to the east of your home will reduce heat in the morning while trees to the west provide cooling in the afternoon.

Air and Water

Nothing ruins an outdoor space like an abundance of bugs. Evaluate your bug problems so you can make sure to design your yard against them. You can keep bugs at bay with exterior ceiling fans above deck space and keep them from multiplying by getting rid of stagnant water. Water elements make any landscape more beautiful and, luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice them. Consider generating movement in water through submersible pumps and make sure if you decide to have a bird bath that you refill it with fresh water every few days. Screened areas can also protect against bugs quite effectively.


Another key element to consider is privacy. If anyone could see your yard space at anytime, how likely would you be to use it often and feel comfortable there? Consider also how the interior of your home has both shared and private spaces and how you could do the same with your exterior. Decide what level of privacy you want your outdoor space to have and then start looking at ways you can achieve that.

Plants can help make your yard or certain areas of it private, but it is important to consider seasonality. If you want an area to remain private year round, stick with evergreen plants. If year-round privacy isn’t necessary, then deciduous trees can do the job just fine. Or you can opt for a mix of the two with varying degrees of privacy throughout the year. Fencing also provides privacy. Tall fences in the backyard with shorter ones in the front can allow you to still have open communication with neighbors while retaining an element of privacy.

Views and Transitions

Be careful not to think of your yard in isolation to your house. They should relate and compliment each other as two parts of one single living environment. Make sure you think about how your design will look from the windows of your home. Pleasant exterior views can make interior space seem larger and more inviting.

Its also a good idea to analyze the way traffic moves in your house. Take note of how people enter and exit your home and what paths they take, and then design accordingly both indoors and outdoors.

At this point, you’ve established what you want from your landscape and explored how you might achieve it. Come back next week and we’ll cover how you can make your landscape more appealing through design and style.