Landscape Design (10 Tips for Designing a Beautiful Garden)
After many years of gardening, and making lots of mistakes, I have learned a few tried-and-true “rules” that help to make a successful landscape design.
I hate to use the word “rules”, since most of the time I think rules are made to be broken. But in this case, doing these simple steps has always worked out well for me, so I do actually follow them.
Click Next to find my secrets to designing a successful landscape.
Have a Plan
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I think most gardeners have experienced the issue with not having a plan…you go to the nursery and buy a whole bunch of beautiful plants…and then don’t have a good place to put them. To be honest, this scenario happens to me sometimes even when I do have a plan 🙂
However, it is much easier to create a cohesive landscape that looks put together if you have planned it out ahead of time.
You don’t need to have fancy drawings like the ones above, but a to-scale outline of your yard is helpful so you know how much space you have to work with.
Keep reading to find out the major elements you need to include in your plan to create a successful landscape design.
Structures (like decks, patios, gazebos, outdoor kitchens, etc.) are the bones of the garden. They add interest to your yard and shape the way the garden looks.
They are also much easier to put in before you have planted a lot of plants, so make sure you include structures in your plan from the beginning.
Plan For Trees
Trees are another element of your landscape that will shape how the yard looks. Once they get bigger, they will create shade, and may dictate the types of plants or grass that will grow under them.
In your plan, make sure to take into account the mature size of the trees and how long they take to grow. It will help to determine what you can plant around them.
Garden “rooms” break up the yard into sections and help to add the element of surprise by preventing visitors from seeing all of your landscape at one time.
That also helps to create some privacy and the feeling of a secret garden.
These rooms don’t have to be physical structures (like a gazebo or deck), a curved garden bed or a few bushes that define an area will work as well.
Paths give your visitors a defined walkway in your landscape, and help lead your visitors through your garden rooms.
Obviously, they are also functional, making it easier to roll wheelbarrows and wagons through your yard.
You Might Also Like: Garden Path Ideas To Create A Beautiful Walkway
Include Some Curves
Unless you are creating a very formal garden, curves make the most natural looking garden beds.
They can also add interest to the structural areas of your landscape.
As an added benefit, if your lawn is next to the garden bed, it is so much easier to mow along a curved edge.
Add Gates and Arbors
Gates and arbors are really easy ways to create the look of a “room”. They provide a defined entry way that everyone recognizes.
You Might Also Like: Creative Garden Gate Ideas
Arbors create a built-in focal point by creating a frame. And gates add some mystery by partially obstructing the view behind them.
Create Focal Points
Just like in your home, focal points are important in your garden design as well. They draw attention to themselves and add some pizzazz to the landscape.
Focal points can be anything that catch your eye, like a statue and interesting fence design. (You can find more ways to add art to your garden HERE).
A show-stopping plant like this Japanese peony will also do the trick (find out more about this peony and other shade-loving bushes HERE).
Lighting is an often forgotten part of designing a successful landscape. It is what adds drama to your yard after dark and makes sure your focal points are highlighted.
Having to hook up electrical wires prevents a lot of people from planning this portion of their landscape, but it really isn’t as hard as you think.
Find out more from our landscape lighting series HERE.
Pick The Right Plants
Last but not definitely not least is to pick the right plants.
A lot goes into this part of the planning such as where you live, how much sun your yard gets, what type of soil you have and how much maintenance you want to do.
You can learn more about picking the right plants HERE.
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Have comments or questions about secrets to successful landscape design? Tell us in the comments below.
This post was originally published on March 3, 2017 but was updated with new content on November 20, 2021.
Please look up our product line for arbors, structures,trellises and gate http://www.achla.com
When you first start the plan for a garden what is the best scale to use… feet to inches. This will be my first design have been thinking about it for a year now
Hi Richard…Ideally, 1 foot to 1 inch gives lots of room for details but if it’s a big area, you may need to go to something smaller just to keep the drawing size manageable. I usually figure out the scale based on the paper size I’m using, eg. 24″ wide paper will be big enough for a 96′ wide yard at 1/4″ scale, 48′ wide yard at 1/2″ scale etc. Then go with the biggest one that will fit on the page 🙂 Good luck with your garden plan!
Thank you so much for this interesting article. ! So helpful!
Appreciating the time and effort you put into your website and in-depth information you offer. You’ve really covered up almost all the possible info that every gardener should follow and the explanation was definitely helpful. Worth sharing! Please do continue sharing updates! Thanks a lot!
I like how you said that structures add interest to our yard and help shape a garden. In my opinion, it can be really effective to include smaller structures as well such as a stone bench. You could even have it engraved with a meaningful quote or a memorial for a loved one to make it more personalized.
Thanks for the suggestions, Eileen!
It’s awesome that you talked about how to create the best garden. Recently, my wife and I decided to build our home from the ground up, and we’re planning our outdoor space design. We’ve always wanted a garden, so we’ll be sure to follow your tips to create one! Thanks for the advice on adding stone paths to our landscape project.
Love this post! Some great content here and good ideas on how to turn your current backyard into your dream backyard. I recently started my own landscaping company and follow all of the above listed guidelines when working with a client. Hope to see more similar posts!
I agree that pathwork is essential to good landscaping design. I need to get a landscaper to help out with my garden. I want it to have a clear path through it.
Thanks for the post on landscape design! I’m a big fan of adding gates and arbors to gardens – they’re really easy ways to create the look of a “room”. They provide a defined entry way that everyone recognizes.
Love this! So much information that I needed! Hopefully on my way to my successful secret garden! Thank you for creating this easy to follow page.
Thanks, Teri! I’m happy you found it helpful.