Landscape Design Process: Why It’s Worth Your Time and Mistakes to Avoid

I recently learned an interesting fact about landscaping from Rochelle Greayer (author of Cultivating Garden Style). Did you know that landscaping is the only investment in your home that increases in value over time? Landscaping can increase your property value from 6-11% if it’s well-kept. 

mature landscaping

When you invest in a kitchen upgrade, it starts to depreciate as soon as it’s complete because styles change. Mature landscaping, on the other hand, is worth more than it is the day it was installed. That’s why there is real value in making the effort to come up with a landscape design plan in the first place.

In Landscape designs, even more than interior design, are ONE OF A KIND. You can see this when you look at Pinterest or in magazines. There are styles that start to look similar across different homes, but NO TWO landscapes are exactly the same.

How Landscaping is Like Decorating

When we removed our pool I had a very large area to landscape. I wasn’t sure where to begin and I had a lot of questions. I knew that my budget was not big enough to hire a landscape contractor. I started researching and discovered that landscaping is not just about plants. It can be more like decorating than gardening if you treat your outdoor space like a room. 

The best way to show you how designing a beautiful outdoor living space through landscape is just like interior decorating is with a few examples.

  • You need outdoor furniture just like you have in a room. 
  • You have different flooring options, grass, gravel, cement, decking, ground cover and more. 
  • You have fencing and vertical structures like a trellis, an arbor or a pergola instead of the walls of a room. These divide the space just like walls
  • You have string lights, fans and even chandeliers outside just like you have lamps and lighting indoors.
  • You need a focal point in your outdoor spaces, just like you do in a room.

All of these things contribute to your landscape plan and we haven’t even touched on plants yet. 

In fact, landscape design can be more complex than designing an interior because you have to factor in your site. Site analysis is different outside because the spaces might not all be flat. You have to consider things like drainage and the ability to withstand the elements. 

7 Myths About Landscape Design

1.    Landscaping is just about plant selection. As I described above, landscaping is about so much more than just plant materials. It’s about furniture, lighting, outdoor structures like fencing, retaining walls and more.

2.    You have to have a green thumb to have an interesting landscape. I found that my outdoor space looked pretty great without the plants. There are a few ways to include greenery that will survive, even if you don’t have a green thumb (as I do not). 

3.    The first step in landscaping is to visit a nursery. The first step in designing your landscape is to decide what job you want different plants to do. Some with provide the backbones or structure of your landscape, others will provide color and others will give your garden shape and texture.

4.    Landscaping happens all at once. This could be said about ANY part of design. Every part of your home’s design is something that evolves and changes over time. This is true for anyone who really loves design. If you prefer the function of your home over the form, you might be happy to set it up once and never look back. But over time your design will look dated. If you continue to change the space by making small changes over time, it will be more rich and unique to you. 

5.    Your plants should fill up the space the day they are planted. It’s hard because you want the landscaping to look great as soon as you get it planted. I see examples of this every day, including in my own yard. An example is the magnolia tree in my front yard. Magnolia trees when they mature can be 20 feet tall. The previous owners planted a magnolia tree about two feet from the edge of my home. This is WAY too close. You have to consider the mature size of your landscaping when you plant it. 

mature magnolia tree

6.    Lawns should be large square spaces – Think of your lawn like you would a rug. It defines a space, but it doesn’t have to be square.

7.    Every yard needs a lawn – Lawns are water hogs in many regions. You don’t have to have grass to have a lush landscape. 

Questions to Consider Before You Start Designing Your Landscape

Before you sit down to plan your landscape, you have to ask yourself the right questions. Here’s a short list to think about, which will help with the next steps. These questions will help you with a conceptual plan. Your answers can help to narrow down what you want.

  • What Type Of Style Do You Want? Is there a type of plant or style of landscaping that you prefer? Do you want native plants? Do you like a xeriscape style?
  • Do you want plants that require less maintenance
  • Do you want a lot of plants that are evergreen
  • What kind of irrigation system do you have or want
  • Do you want a mix of perennials and annuals?
  • Do you want any outdoor structures like a pergola, greenhouse, fire pit, water features, etc.
  • What type of plants do you want? do you want flowers, vegetables, grasses, shrubs,
  • Do you need space for animals or children?
  • Do you want an outdoor space that can be used as an outdoor living space?

This sounds like a lot to consider, but the success of a landscaping project depends on how much thought you give to it at the beginning. Taking a little bit of time to consider these questions will help you to come up with a master plan.

I practice what I preach so here are my answers to these questions for my own landscape project. This really helped me to clarify the entire project.

  1. I want native plants that are drought tolerant, fast growing and hard to kill (as described by the experts). This is an important thing for me because I want to be able to travel and not worry that my landscaping is going to die.
  2. I want low maintenance landscaping. I don’t have to have to swap out plants annually.
  3. I want mostly evergreen plants so I can enjoy the way it looks year round, since Dallas isn’t typically super cold. I don’t want plants that die off completely during the winter that I have to prune back.
  4. I have a sprinkler system, but I need to add drip irrigation where the pool used to be.
  5. I want mostly perennials. I will use a few annuals for color in pots.
  6. I want an outdoor pergola for shade so I can enjoy the outdoor area year round. For now, I don’t want an outdoor kitchen, but that could change.
  7. I want to have an herb garden, but other than that I don’t want to grow vegetables. I just want a nice mix of evergreen shrubs and ground cover, which a few taller plants for vertical interest.
  8. The landscaping needs to be dog friendly.

It’s worth the time. According to “Landscape maintenance, such as keeping the shrubs trimmed and the flowers blooming, netted home sellers about a 104% ROI, while upgrading their overall landscaping got them about a 100% ROI.”

Before you go, if you want more information on how to choose plants for your landscaping project check out Easy Landscaping Ideas for Beginners.

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