Landscape design encompasses many aspects besides just plants. Think about surfaces, furniture, lighting, and art when you think of outside spaces.
Use our handy guide below which discusses some of the design elements to include in any design. Plan ahead, and try to journal all plants, their location, and progress. Simple drawings and notes are all that is needed to chronicle your landscape design progress.
Landscape design may seem to be a simple task. Go to the local garden center or nursery, pick out some plants and presto, a landscape is born. WRONG! This approach can lead to failure. You wouldn't take a test on an unfamiliar topic without doing your homework and research. Landscaping is no different. There are many publications out there to help increase your knowledge about horticulture and design. If you didn't like science or art, you likely will not like studying about plants. But, in short, it is always best to have a plan based on the following basic principles:
Site Look around the location to be landscaped for things such as slopes, trees, terrain, streets, and utility areas. Will there be irrigation? All of these items must be considered when initially designing the plan. Consideration of the items will determine the types of plants you will eventually need to implement your plan.
Style What do you want your landscape to imply? What do you want your landscape to do for you. Would you prefer a formal landscape, requiring lots of upkeep? Do you prefer a more simple design with natural areas, and minimal upkeep? Do you want a combination of both? The plants you choose will somewhat determine the style. Please keep in mind though that if you plan to sell your home in the future, limit the amount of free form in your design, as others may not appreciate less than formal looks.
Size The size of the plants you start off with will determine the length of time needed to implement the design and will affect the cost of the project. By using very tiny, inexpensive plants, it is likely to take many years for the design to mature and to be attractive. Using all large plants creates an instant landscape, but costs considerably more. It is better to implement a plan in stages, using medium to large plants than to install many tiny plants, if money is an issue.
Scale Scale relates somewhat to size, but not entirely. Scale is the placement of plants relative to its surroundings. Placing a tiny plant at the base of a high-pitched wall, looks odd. If you have a large wall, use a good-sized plant to balance the wall to the plant. Likewise, if you have a small courtyard, use smaller plants that will not quickly out-grow the site. Use smaller plants in the front of gardens or beds, with larger plants going in the rear. This creates depth.
Balance This is a symetrical approach. Focal points such as doors should be somewhat balanced, or equal on the left and right. This can be achived by using different things in equal mass or using identical plants. It might look odd to have one side with tiny plants and the other side with large plants.
Unity This could be as simple as using the same bricks for a wall as the bricks used in the house. Combining like materials throughout the landscape to tie it together.
Repetition Too much repeating of the same plant is no good. While some is needed to give unity, using the same plant over and over is boring, and does not give the best results. One plant over-used is azalea. Many people plant lots of azaleas. They have a very short bloom period, and when not in bloom can fade into the background. Now they are beautiful when in bloom, don't get me wrong, but too many are boring. Equally, using many different species can make a place look "busy." Use a variety of plants repeating them throughout the landscape for a more professional and polished look.
Color This element of the landscape is very important. Color pops a landscape. Be careful not to use too much color. Reds attract attention. It brings things closer. Use these colors sparingly, especially in small areas. They are needed, but too much creates chaos. Red, yellow, and orange are hot colors. Blue, purple, and white are cool colors, and recede. Get to know the color wheel. Know what colors compliment each other. Also design for color throughout the year, as seasons change.
Texture This feature is using a variety of leaf types, textures, and sizes. Small leaves, large leaves, grassy plants, thick leaves, delicate leaves, prickly leaves and glossy leaves all provide different textures to the landscape plan. Use a variety of textures in the landscape. There are many plants to choose from, and the different textures can make a more attractive landscape.
Focal Point This portion of the plan could be a specimen tree or a water feature or a hardscape feature. Budget, location, and size are factors when considering a focal point. It could be a simple fountain or bench, or an elaborate gate or water garden. In a small area, using "hot" colors can provide an enhanced focal point. Many people are considering night lighting for creating focal points after dark. Many people work and are unable to fully-enjoy their landscapes. This type of focal point gives extended usage to the site.
Function Think of this feature of the landscape when thinking of privacy hedges, trees for shade, hiding utility areas, and play areas. Keep in mind the use of the area and the desired usage of the plant material or feature. Find out the best plant to use for your needs. Avoid prickly or poisonous plants in children's areas. Use tall, full, evergreen plants for privacy. Using this advice, your needs can be easily met using plants.
Selection Select healthy plants. Don't buy plants with lesions on the leaves. Don't buy trees with crooked trunks or injuries to the trunk. Look for healthy, white roots. Beware of plants with the roots growing in a dense mat in the pot. Don't buy plant material infested with insects. Avoid problems early in the process.
Even with a small budget, using these factors will help create a beautiful landscape. A little forethought will save money while keeping with accepted design practices.
Lay out beds with garden hoses to see how they will look. Set out plants before installation. Move around to see how they look their best. Loosen the roots when removing from containers. When installing, plan for growth. Don't plant shrubs too close together. Plant level with ground, or at the same depth they were growing in the container. Water well to establish. Budget for mulch. It is important for the health of plants. It protects them and ties the landscape together, creating a nice contrast between the beds and lawn. Don't fertilize immediately, but wait a bit for the plant to get growing again. Monitor your plants to intervene early to control insects and disease.
Lawns require much attention in the South. With a variety of pests including insects, weeds, and diseases, many people opt to have a spraying program that helps prevent problems. To avoid thinning of grass, make sure you use the right grass for your site. Remember bermuda needs full sun, no shade. St. Augustine will take some shade and will grow in sun. Centipede prefers sun, but will take a little shade. Zoysia grows in some shade and sun. Zoysia varieties are some of the most cold-hardy warm-season grasses. Pick the grass right for your site. If you plan on having lots of trees, do not choose bermuda. If you live in a colder area of the state, do not pick St. Augustine or centipede. You are asking for problems. Try to eliminate problems before they are problems. Become proactive in your lawn. Scout and determine needs of your plants, limitations, and treat infestations early for best results. Do not over-feed your lawn, and do not over-water your lawn. Know the requirements of your grass type. Don't kill your grass when it could just as easily be healthy as unhealthy. Over-management kills grass. Remember this for great grass. Great grass is no mistake.
Lawns are a key element to any landscape. Make sure your lawn is installed by a reputable company that knows they types of grasses that do well in our area. Be very careful of planting seed grasses such as fescue and bluegrass in the upper midands and below. Do not plant Bermuda grass in shady or low light areas. Partial shade grasses to consider are certain St. Augustine and Zoysia grasses. Start off right in order to end up with the lawn you need.