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Easy Landscape Design Rules Used by the Experts

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It is easy for our landscape to get away from us throughout the years. Before you know it, it has become a hodge podge of everything we’ve acquired but haven’t had the heart to get rid of. There are rules that landscape designers use to help organize the landscape, preventing chaos and helping to bring beauty and unity to your outdoor refuge.


Let’s touch base on some of the guidelines that the professionals use to bring a landscape together.



Researching Plants, Trees and Flowers


Go by your nearest nursery or Home Depot and get a feel for what trees shrubs and flowers you like. Write them down and ask any of our state certified horticulturalists if these plants would be right for you. Make sure that you have picked the right size plant for the particular space to avoid removal a few years down the road.




Bed Layout



Bed layout is critical when designing your landscape. It is important to make bed lines flow properly, as if things like walkways were an afterthought or driveways were simply put through the landscape afterwards. Avoid hard corners that make maintenance difficult and avoid using angles that look unnatural. Do not bring a bed to an abrupt halt because of a property line. Get with a neighbor if necessary and bring bed onto both properties to create continuity.


Determine the functionality of each part of the yard. Patios, high traffic areas and play areas for the children. Determine where you may want walking paths, archways, wood fences and gates. Structures like gates and fences, not only add depth but can break up patterns, creating unpredictability and making spaces seem larger than they are.







This is critical in a landscape and it is what is responsible for making a landscape flow smoothly. You will want to choose a few plants to carry throughout the whole yard. Too much repetition will give the appearance of a lack of imagination but too little can put an unorganized chaos in motion.


Foundation plants are a great place to start with repetition. Foundation plants are a huge building block in which to build around in a landscape. Groundcovers and grasses are also good for repeating as they are a good focal point and add texture. Repeating plants with different colors like Loropetalum or Goldmound Spirea this makes a statement as well as helping to create focal points.


Find a good tree to repeat throughout the landscape. It doesn’t have to be the only type of tree you plant but it does need to be seen at least 3 times in the yard. You can never go wrong with Japanese maples, as they don’t get too tall or unruly and they are certainly a designer’s best friend.





Mass Plantings and Odd Numbers


Mass plantings help fill spaces and simplify the landscape, making it more visually appealing and it creates a calm, soothing environment. Using odd numbers in plantings will eliminate making it look structure or landscaped, and make it flow better and look more natural.


In themed gardens (Japanese garden, Rock garden…) you do not have to focus on mass plantings but instead, just repetition. Same goes for sitting areas.



Textures and Seasonal Colors


Planting 20 different types of Hollies in the yard sure would make for a boring landscape. You wouldn’t know where one planting started and another ended. This is why using different textures and colors are important. Have your selection of plants bloom in all seasons. Maybe incorporate Azaleas or Day Lilies into your landscape for spring and Gardenias and Rudbeckia for summer.


Colorful plants and flowers draw attention to areas, therefore be selective where you plant them. Do not plant flowers around your air conditioner unless that’s what you want people to see.


There are many factors that help break up plantings. Leaf size, shape and color are important as well as a plant shape and height. Your foundation plant (the plant in the back of a landscape or in the back, against the foundation of the house) is the backdrop for all the other plants, therefore it should be evergreen. Once you have established your foundation plant, you can establish the other plants you want in front of it. Foundation plants should be evergreen but everything in front of them can be deciduous, evergreen or perennial.




Specimen Plants


Specimen plants are usually very showy plants whose primary function is to create a focal point with its brilliant color foliage and by adding height or a different geometry to the area. Specimen plants are also used on corners of structures to soften the transition, eliminating hard edges. Perhaps it is the brilliant foliage and shape of a Lace Leaf Japanese Maple or the conical geometry of an Emerald Arborvitae that brings your island what it is missing. Your specimen plants certainly need to be repeated the landscape.



Structures, Props and Accents


There is much more to a landscape than just trees, flowers and bushes. Rock walls, benches, fountains, ponds, boulders, pergolas and archways are just a few possibilities to help give the finishing touches to your landscape. Twenty percent of a landscape budget can simply go towards boulders and rocks, not to mention how much for lumber for pergolas or archways.

Keep in mind that these are guidelines. They are not laws or even rules but simply some things to help set you in a good direction when creating a design. Make up the rules as you go, as it is your blank canvas to paint, to create a masterpiece of your own.



Other related articles:

Plant Library

Tree Library

Annual Plant Library

Perennial Library

11 Small Plants for Tight Spaces

Drought Tolerant Plants That Are Not Cactus

10 Brilliant Winter Flowering Plants

11 Shade Loving Shrubs

10 Water Loving Plants

7 Best Outdoor Climbing Vines

12 Ornamental Grasses for Landscaping

46 Flowers and Plants That Will Upgrade Your Landscaping

17 Groundcovers For Sun and Shade


Not what you were looking for ? Try posting a question
Posted 2014-11-06T19:03:29+0000  by Ingar_HD_ATL Ingar_HD_ATL
Lots of good, creative ideas!!
Posted 2015-01-22T03:42:51+0000  by Cree
Nice curb appeal in these pics !! i love my hostases and would like to extend them in place of my tiger lilies. But the lilies are hard to pull up, since the root goes down deep. Is there a better way to extracting the lilies out ? I'm afraid that the hostases won't take over on their own. Please advise 😄
Posted 2017-02-11T03:07:25+0000  by ILoveDaisies
Not what you were looking for ? Try posting a question