While landscaping choices are largely a matter of personal preference, having a cohesive plan in place can add value as well as eye appeal to the largest investment most of us will ever make, our homes and the property on which they sit.

There are many styles of landscaping from formal to casual. Formal landscaping usually incorporates symmetry to a large degree and requires maintenance that is arduous enough to leave to the rich and famous and their extensive gardening staffs. Go for design styles that accommodate asymmetry and which that make it easier to replace or swap out individual elements (due to plant death or disease for example) without compromising overall design.


The key to a successful landscape design is creating focal points and areas of interest. The dimensions and topography of the lawn or garden determines the size and nature of these points. Homes surrounded by wide expanses of lawn can go large—a huge oak tree makes a striking centerpiece to the surrounding landscaping. Smaller gardens and yards may need nothing more elaborate than an ornate garden bench, birdbath or small statue to do the trick. Exercise restraint; a focal point shouldn’t overwhelm the entire garden, it should complement and enhance overall visual appeal.

Pergolas are another yard or garden feature which can be a focal point as well as functional outdoor living space.

Covered pergolas tend to trap heat; open designs encourage airflow although they do little to protect in inclement weather. Covered pergolas and patio spaces can utilize plants as a form of natural air conditioning. Plants evaporate moisture and can cool these areas as much as 15 degrees F. They also add texture and natural color to patio and pergola areas.
A variety of shapes and sizes in flower beds, borders and walkways add to overall visual impact. Don’t overdo any one shape, having every flower bed shaped like a circle or a kidney quickly becomes boring. It is advisable to allow one particular shape or size to dominate, while adjacent areas work as contrast to the central feature. Don’t get too carried away on varying geometries, stick to a few and maximize their ability to work together visually.

Plantings close to the house should soften architectural lines and hide faults, but should never overwhelm the structure. You don’t want to completely lose the house to the greenery, it is usually best to stick to a few strategically placed shrubs in most cases.

A garden or yard should not be static. There should be a sense of movement within the environment. This can mean enticing birds to fly in with feeding stations and bird baths, or placing a few hummingbird feeders around the area. Don’t overlook the power of flowers and berry bushes to naturally lure in the birds. Ornamental grasses that sway in the breeze also help create a sense of vibrancy and motion.

Don’t be afraid to swap landscape features out every so often. There is nothing wrong with removing or replacing shrubbery, flower beds and small trees. If your deck is well past its prime, consider demolishing it and re purposing the space.

It is important to understand the growth rates and maintenance requirements of plants and shrubs. If you love to garden and have time to tend to the upkeep of fast growing specimens, definitely include them in your overall plan. Otherwise make it your business to know the mature size of the plants you introduce to your yard or garden and be sure to space plants far enough apart to thwart insect infestation and the growth of fungus. Fill in any visual gaps between your perennial plants with annual plantings.

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