Landscape Design

All homeowners deserve a landscape that brings them pleasure and serves their needs. However large or small the yard or property, the life style you enjoy inside your home can be extended to the environment outside your door. Thoughtful planning can yield a practical and enjoyable living space that only the outdoors can offer, whether you want to sunbathe, swim, play croquet or tennis, barbecue, work, dine in the shade, or just relax in a hammock.

Don’t overlook the fact that a good landscape also increases the value of the property. The most important function of a landscape, however, is what it does for the people who live or visit there. The landscaped yard or garden should be a sanctuary, a place to discard worries and live with nature. It is in this landscape that you can putter, rest, eat, play, or just sit quietly contemplating the pleasures of the scene around you.

The advantages of having a beautiful landscape may seem obvious, but consider also the advantages of creating the landscape yourself. If you have ever thought about landscaping your yard, probably your first reaction was that you would need to call in the professionals and spend a great deal of money. The premise of this book is that landscaping is not mysterious. Anyone can learn to design a new landscape or improve an existing one, and can do it for far less money than hiring a professional.

Having decided you can do the landscaping yourself, you need to define just what it encompasses. A landscape is simply an outdoor environment, whether designed by nature or by people. The art of landscaping is the art of purposefully changing the natural features that exist out-of-doors, with the intention of making the environment more attractive or functional. Added features usually include plantings, as well as rock, wood, and other natural or man-made materials.

Landscaping may be considered a living sculpture, a work of art that changes with the seasons and grows with the years. Discard any notions about the right, or perfect, or ultimate landscape. The landscape should be distinctly your own, and there are as many possibilities as there are people and yards. One of the traditions of Western civilization is the notion that your home is your castle and an expression of yourself. Most people want their homes and landscapes to have the colors, fragrances, furnishings, and spaces in which they feel comfortable.

In eighteenth-century England, landscaping was thought to be a form of art equal to painting, literature, music, and drama. Like these other arts, it was considered a unique mode of artistic expression. In formulating a landscape, you have the opportunity to express your own ideas and to put together a pleasing and suitable environment.

The Successful Landscape

The first hurdle in any project is getting started, and a big step toward jumping that hurdle is having confidence in yourself. One purpose of this site is to provide all the needed information so that you will develop confidence in your ability to create a successful landscape.

The key to a good landscape is design, as distinguished from mere decoration. To decorate is to put things into the environment without a purpose in mind. There is no real intent, no plan, no essential connection to you, the creator. When you design a landscape, you know why you are putting this plant here and that walkway there. A designed landscape is one that has been thought through, whose choices are conscious and intentional. Your landscape is an entire stage show, directed to please one audience: you.

Since a successful landscape does what you want it to, the place to start is with yourself. What do you like? What effects please you and make you feel good?

Think of a place you have been that you really loved. Perhaps it was your grandmother’s garden, or a particular place in a park, or the deck or patio of a friend. Wherever it was, the special quality that you liked made you want to be there. The nature of those special places — the qualities they contained and the feelings you had when you were there — are all elements of landscaping. You will make a successful landscape to the extent that you can re-create these effects.

But most of us do not have an idea of how to create these effects. To help develop an understanding of why certain effects are appealing, begin a scrapbook or a file of ideas that appeal to you. Fill it with notes made from memory, pictures from books and magazines, photographs of gardens passed on the street, clippings from newspapers — any and all sources. The point is to assess all the landscaping ideas that are pleasing to you. The clearer you are about what you like, the easier it will be for you to create those qualities in your own landscape.