I have been so blessed to have two careers that I am passionate about—design and cooking.
I had originally planned to be a Landscape Architect, but when I got into college I went on a culinary detour. Years of cooking for humans and dogs (I’ll share the full story one day) was a lot of fun. The crazy thing is this that—years later—life circled me back to landscape design. I guess you could say that landscape design is my first passion but second career.
I love that I can also combine my love of food in landscaping for my family and my clients! I am so grateful that my career(s) do not feel like “work” for me. It is a true blessing to do what I do, and I love to pass along my passion to my clients through my work and design. Now that I’m almost a decade into my second career, I want to share my favorite and what I believe are the most important aspects to designing a successful landscape.
My Top 5 Landscape Design Factors
Budget - Function - Texture - Materials - Finishing details
1. When it comes to budget, think of your landscape as an investment in your home and quality of life.
After all, this is the view out your window and possibly the screening from your neighbor. Landscaping can increase the value of your home. This can be a place to relax, enjoy family time and create memories, or an additional living space to enjoy a meal, cook and read a book.
Figuring your budget is probably the most important aspect, whether you are DIY-ing it or working with a professional. I have found that the budget is the most difficult to come up with, because most people do not realize how much landscaping can cost. When a budget is set from the beginning, it will help the design stage be successful and realistic.
Some things to keep in mind: will the design be a master plan for the whole property? If so, do you want everything to be installed at once or do you want to complete in phases? This can help you decide if you want to spend a couple thousand vs. tens of thousands. Are you planning to hire an architect or design professional? This fee will need to be included in your budget. Is the project a remodel or new construction home? Do you have irrigation? If not, how do you plan to water and maintain the landscape? You want to consider maintaining your investment; keep in mind plants are living things you have to keep them alive. Even low maintenance landscapes require some maintaining in order to thrive.
How to figure your budget… a good starting point is 10% of the value of your property/home. As you begin to answer some of the above questions, then you can start subtracting down to get to a more reasonable number. If you are wanting a master plan of your property, which will ensure the whole property is addressed, using 10% of the value of your home may not be enough (If you are wanting a pool or a large amount of hardscaping, you will need to figure more than 10% of your home value).
A Good Landscaping Tip: Hire a professional to get a full master plan completed, then work with them and a landscape contractor to develop a plan to execute the installation in a way that works with your budget, sets the phases, and will help you be successful in your investment. In the long run, this will be less stress for you as a homeowner.
2. When you picture your dream landscape, what are the focal points? The functions of each area?
Take a minute, close your eyes and picture your dream landscape… Think about the why behind the beautiful design. Are you envisioning curb appeal, solving a problem area, or is this going to be an extension to your home? These are your landscape goals and they will help you form the best design. Share these goals with the landscape professional you work with.
Some function examples: Foundation planting can change the look to your home without changing the house form or color. It is neat to see what a few accent plants or trees can add to the curb appeal. When extending the living space, what is the main function for the space? This will be key in design….do you need a larger area for dining or just for relaxing? Will there need to be room for an outdoor kitchen? If you are solving a problem, is it as simple as needing a walkway to get from point A to B or as involved as needing a grading or drainage solution for an area that holds water. While listing your “functions,” think about locations on your property that would fit that function. For example, do you have a focal point of your yard that you want to see when you are sitting outside? This goes along with light patterns from sun and shading from tree canopies- they will help you figure out plant and hardscape placement.
3. You don’t want your property to be one note. Create textures and layers in the landscaping.
Take a walk around your area and look at the natural landscape. Notice plant leaves, flower color and placement. If you notice, nature has a pretty neat way of incorporating many textures and layers of green with a few pops of color dependent on the season.
In order to give your property a more natural feel, think of incorporating different textures with plants. Mix it up!
Each type of leaf has its own texture, color and style. It is important to incorporate different varieties to get a good mix of textures. This will create visual interest as well. Think using small leaves next to large leaves. Spiky leaves against soft edged leaves. Mix up your varieties to include different leaf types, different shades of green or other colors- this can also give the appearance of different textures. Using different flowering shrubs can help give different looks and textures for every season of the year. With foundation planting, it is good to layer. Tier plants highest against house to lowest towards the street, add taller accents framing shrubs, and remember height considerations for windows. In formal gardens the layering can reverse. Example: if boxwoods are bordering a bed of groundcover.
Layering can be applied all over your landscaping. Remember what you saw in nature- nothing is really one height.
4. The materials you use will give a lasting impression.
When selecting materials, keep several things in mind: What is the up-keep? Will I have to replace often (ie. pine straw vs. mulch)? Will this material serve a purpose or is it just an aesthetic component of the landscape? Consider using reclaimed items or look into more environmentally friendly options. Do you want your walkways to be permeable, or possibly mix hardscape with turf or dwarf mondo grass? Or, do you want to line your walkway or bedlines with recycled glass, use rammed earth as seating walls or accent dividers between rooms? Do you want a fire or water component? If so, those materials will need to complement the other materials you are planning to use.
Whether you are a DIYer or hiring a professional, educate yourself on materials you would like to use and where they are sourced. Try to source local if you can. There are many local options in our area! If you want recommendations, I have them.
5. Bring it to life with finishing details
One of my favorite parts of my job is working with the finishing details – this is what completes bringing the landscaping to life and makes the space livable! The finishing details can be as simple as accents or take up a portion of the budget for furniture. Especially when expanding your living space, you will need places to relax or dine. If you don’t add in the finishing details you are basically left with an empty shell.
You wouldn’t redo an interior room or build a house and not furnish it, right?
Whether you are using existing pieces or starting fresh, when picking out furniture, go for the best quality you can fit in your budget. In the long run it will pay off. Keep in mind you will get longer wear out of pieces that are in a covered area than out in the open. Make sure outdoor fabric is used. When picking out furniture think about function and space. Using accent pieces such as a small water feature, art, bird feeders and potted plants can help tie the whole space together. The finishing details are what help create the WOW factor of your dream landscape!
I hope these tips can help you get in the spirt of designing your dream landscape!
We are just about to Spring, which is a great time to start getting your plan together. But remember, the great thing about designing your landscape is that the design can be created anytime of the year - the seasons determine the best time to complete the installation.
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