Creating a beautiful landscape involves utilizing some key design components. We talked to our experts who shared their secrets so you can design a space that looks like it was created by the professionals.
The first step to any design project is to consider the site you want to design. Take into consideration any existing trees, shrubs or perennials that will be incorporated into the design as well as the surrounding structures and hardscapes. Make note of wet or dry areas within the site as well as how much sun exposure the site currently receives throughout the day. Take measurements of the area you want to design as this will help with spacing and how many plants you can accommodate.
It’s important to know the purpose for your design. If you are planting a space for privacy, evergreens provide year-round coverage. If you want to reduce heating and cooling costs, planting a shade tree on the south or west side of the the house or shrubs on the north side to block harsh winter winds will help with that goal. If you are wanting to create a habitat for birds, butterflies and other pollinators, it will be important to incorporate plants that attract specific wildlife. Maybe your goal is to create a focal point or add beauty and value to your space. Whatever your purpose may be, it will guide you in narrowing down the plants you choose for your design.
It’s also important to think about how much you want to do to maintain your garden, says Mary, a landscape designer at The Growing Place. “Alliums require much less care than salvia and both offer a purple color.” Knowing how much time you have to dedicate to garden chores will help you decide which plants to choose in your space.
Creating a Design
Now that you’ve done the prep work, you will be ready to start designing the space. There are three main elements to a design:
- Focal Point: this is where you want to draw the eye. This could be a front door, a bird bath, a seating area or a specimen plant.
- Framing Plants: these are usually trees and shrubs that help frame and balance the space.
- Connecting Plants: these are usually smaller shrubs and perennials used to repeat colors, textures and/or shapes to unify the landscape.
“Landscaping in the front yard is most effective when you have larger groups of plants for that wow factor,” says Mary. “But look for a balance of textures in your garden.”
Mix Different Textures
She suggests mixing large-leaf shrubs, like Oakleaf Hydrangeas, with more structured forms of small-leaf shrubs, such as Evergreens. To achieve the same effect, Mary recommends adding plants with thicker leaves, such as Sedum, if there is an abundance of fine foliage in your garden. Varying plant shapes provides visual interest as well. Using perennials with vertical forms, such as Yucca Color Guard, helps to draw the eye up among lower growth habitats.
Plant for All Seasons
Think about the visual interest the space will provide throughout the year. Incorporating perennials and flowering shrubs with different bloom times is a great way to have color all season long. Plants that provide winter interest, such as ornamental grasses, will give your garden structure in winter months. A seating area or garden art can serve many purposes in a design. It can be used to provide winter interest, fill an area that is difficult for plants to grow, or serve as a focal point in your design.
Keep Mature Size in Mind
When using framing plants, it’s important to take in to account the maturity size. These plants are often used to frame the garden space or the house in a front yard landscape and will be the largest plants in your design. Planting them too close to pathways and structures can wreak havoc on your design once they reach maturity. A good rule of thumb is to take the maturity spread of your tree or shrub, divide it in half and use that as the minimum planting distance from any surrounding hardscape or structure.
Unify Your Space
Connecting plants are what help unify a design space. You may have pathways or driveways that will divide the space you’re designing, especially in a front yard. Repeating colors textures and shapes in these separate spaces will make it look cohesive.
Pro Tip: Carry the bedline visually across the driveway to unify a front yard landscape.
Take a look at our sample designs to see how these concepts are used in different spaces for inspiration in your own yard.
The care of your new garden starts with great soil. In our area, many homes have compacted soil that is heavy with clay. Amending the soil with The Growing Place Garden Compost Mix before you plant will provide nutrients and adequate drainage for your new plants. Adding our Espoma Bio-Tone will give your plants an extra boost of nutrients with beneficial mycorrhizae to stimulate root growth.
Mulch is important to help retain moisture in the soil, but do not mound the mulch around the base of the plant as this can increase the risk of pests and disease to the plant – no volcano mulch! Moisture should be checked every day in the first week of planting.
If the soil is dry one inch below the surface, water slowly and deeply. In week two, check every two days and water slowly and deeply when dry. Week three, every three days. Check at least once a week through November, especially ornamental grasses and evergreens. Our full watering instructions are available here.
Our In-House Design Services
If a DIY design project seems overwhelming, we have professional landscape designers at The Growing Place who here to help. Visit us online for more information about our Landscape Design options and sign up for a Virtual or At-Home Design Session.