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7 Tips on How to Design Landscaping | State College, PA

If you've never tried your hand at landscaping, the sheer amount of information and choices can be overwhelming. From selecting the right plants to understanding the nuances of soil pH, it may all seem like a daunting task.

But fear not! We've compiled a list of seven essential how to design landscaping tips to help you embark on your landscaping project with confidence.

Key Takeaways

  • Designing your dream landscape starts with understanding your terrain and applying key design principles.

  • Working in stages allows for a more manageable and budget-friendly approach to achieving your outdoor sanctuary.

  • For a truly professional-looking landscape, consider hiring expert landscape designers to bring your vision to life.

Tip#1 Dream Big

A blank notepad, green shovel, and green pen on the grass

When you're just starting out with your landscaping project, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options and ideas out there. However, this is precisely the time to let your imagination take the reins. Forget about budget constraints or practical limitations for a moment. This is your opportunity to dream big and jot down all your desires for your outdoor space.

Create your landscape wishlist

Start by creating a comprehensive wishlist. If you've always wanted a koi pond as a focal point in your front yard, write it down. If you've been dreaming of a garden filled with native plants and ornamental grasses, add it to the list. The idea is to capture all your wants and needs on paper, without worrying about feasibility at this stage.

Think about the landscape features that have always caught your eye. Do you love the idea of water features like fountains or small waterfalls? Or perhaps you're enamored with specific landscape designs that incorporate vertical edges and horizontal space to create unity. Write these down as well, as they'll serve as inspiration for your project.

Plants, trees, and shrubs

Consider the types of plants that you want to see in your outdoor space. Do you want tall plants that provide significant enclosure, or are you more interested in ground cover and smaller plants that offer visual weight without overwhelming the space? Make a list of these as well, and if possible, visit a garden center to get a tangible sense of your options.

Remember, this is your dream list. Whether you want to focus on creating a natural feel with open spaces, or you're more interested in a formal garden with well-defined bed lines, now is the time to let your creativity run wild. You can always refine these ideas later when you start to consider budget and practicality, but for now, the sky's the limit.

Tip#2 Know Your Terrain

Scientist measuring the pH of a soil sample

Before diving jumping into the design of your outdoor space, it's essential to have a thorough understanding of your terrain. This foundational knowledge will guide your landscape design plans so that your dream garden thrives in its natural environment.

The sun's path and wind patterns

One of the first things to consider is the sun's path across your outdoor space. Knowing where the sun rises and sets can significantly impact your landscape design.

For example, if your garden receives a lot of afternoon sun, you might want to consider installing a covered patio to provide shade. Alternatively, you could plant trees that offer significant enclosure and visual weight, creating natural shade as they grow.

Wind is another crucial factor to consider. If your location is particularly windy, some elements of your dream garden might not be practical. For instance, a fire pit could be hazardous in a windy area. Instead, you might focus on creating windbreaks using shrubs or tall plants, which can also add visual weight and significant enclosure to your landscape.

Hardiness zones and soil pH

Knowing your area's hardiness zone is vital for choosing the right plants for your garden. Native plants are often a good choice, as they're well-suited to the local climate and soil conditions.

Additionally, knowing the soil pH can help you select plants that will thrive. For example, some flowers and shrubs prefer acidic soil, while others need a more alkaline environment.

Tip#3 Get Acquainted with Your Yard

A garden with lots of trees providing shade so not much direct sunlight touches it

Before you can transform your yard into a personal oasis, you need to get to know it intimately. Spending quality time in your outdoor space will not only help you appreciate its unique features but also guide you in making informed decisions during the planning process.


Start by taking a leisurely walk around your yard at different times of the day. Observe how the light changes, how the shadows fall, and which areas naturally capture your attention. This will give you a sense of the yard's various forms and how they interact with each other. You might discover that a particular corner bathed in the afternoon sun would be the perfect spot for a cozy reading nook.

Apply your knowledge

Once you've observed your yard's natural elements, it's time to apply this knowledge to your landscape design plan. For example, if you've identified a sunny spot that you'd love to spend time in, consider placing a bench there.

Or, if a specific area has a beautiful vertical edge due to a slope, think about how you can incorporate that into your design, perhaps with a cascading water feature.

Tip#4 Pick Out the Furniture

Rattan furniture for a wooden patio

After immersing yourself in your outdoor space, you've likely started to envision how you'd like to use it. One of the key elements that will influence your enjoyment of the yard is the furniture you choose.

Furniture provides comfort and it also plays a significant role in your overall landscape design. The size and style of the furniture you choose will directly impact the flow and functionality of your outdoor space.

For example, oversized furniture might crowd a small patio, making it feel cramped rather than cozy. On the other hand, small pieces might look lost in a large yard, failing to create a significant enclosure or focal point.

Think about your furniture's practical application too. How will it fit into your existing or planned landscape design elements? If you've identified a cozy corner for reading, a single comfortable chair and a small table might suffice. If you're planning to host gatherings, you might need a larger seating arrangement, perhaps even an outdoor dining set.

Always keep the size relationship between your furniture and the available space in mind.

Tip#5 Work in Stages

A landscape plan focused on the pool area and immediate surrounding

Embarking on a landscape project can be both exciting and daunting. While it's tempting to want everything done at once, a more practical approach is to work in stages. This not only eases the financial burden but also allows for a more thoughtful and organic development of your outdoor space.

Begin with a manageable project that will make a noticeable impact. For example, you could start by focusing on one plant bed or installing a simple patio. These are elements that can stand alone but also serve as a part of the larger landscape design you're aiming for.

Reevaluate as you go

One of the benefits of working in stages is the opportunity to reevaluate your landscape plans as you go along. You might find that some items on your initial wishlist aren't as crucial as you first thought. Conversely, spending time in your evolving outdoor space might highlight new elements you hadn't considered but now find essential.

Working in stages allows you to spread the cost over time. You can start with less expensive elements like planting trees or adding ground cover and save up for more significant projects like water features or hiring a landscape contractor for more complex tasks.

Tip#6 Determine the Focal Point of Your Garden

An English garden design with a water fountain as the focal point

What is the purpose of your outdoor space? Knowing this can help you decide on a focal point for your landscape design. If you love entertaining, perhaps a fully-equipped outdoor kitchen should be the focus. If you have children, a play space might take center stage.

Your time spent in the yard will also help you decide on the types of plants and flowers you'd like to include. If you're drawn to a specific area, consider what landscape plants would enhance that spot. Native plants are often a good choice, as they're well-adapted to local conditions. But you can also think about adding ornamental grasses or flower beds to create a focal point.

Tip#7 Be Flexible

A simple, informal garden design with inexpensive tables and chairs, ready for entertaining

Embarking on a landscaping project is a dynamic process, and flexibility can be your greatest asset. As you progress, you may encounter challenges that require you to adapt your original plans. Whether it's budget constraints or unforeseen logistical issues, being flexible allows you to find alternative solutions without compromising the quality of your outdoor space.

Budget-friendly alternatives

One of the most common hurdles in any landscape project is budget. You might have your heart set on specific water features or a particular style of garden design, only to find out they're out of your financial reach. This is where your flexibility can shine.

For instance, instead of a costly stone fountain, consider a more budget-friendly but equally captivating bird bath or a DIY water feature.

The art of substitution

Being flexible also means being open to substitutions, especially when it comes to plant combinations or specific landscape elements. If a particular type of plant is too expensive or not available, look for similar species that offer the same visual weight or color but are more budget-friendly or easier to maintain.

Capture attention with creativity

You don't need expensive items to capture attention in your landscape. Sometimes, a well-placed garden ornament or a unique arrangement of plants can serve as a focal point. Use your creativity to make less expensive elements look premium.

Remember, it's perfectly fine to make gradual changes to your landscape. If you can't afford to do everything at once, prioritize elements that offer the most immediate impact and plan to add the rest later.

Take Your Landscaping to the Next Level with Landscape II

You've got the tips, now get the expertise to make it all happen. While these guidelines are a great starting point, Landscape II offers professional services to elevate your project from a dream to a stunning reality. We offer a full range of services and can help you with anything from design to installation. Or we can do it all for you.

Reach out to us today and let's turn your landscaping ideas into an outdoor sanctuary you'll love.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you design and plan a landscape?

Designing and planning a landscape involves a multi-step process that starts with understanding your terrain and ends with implementing your vision. Key steps include site analysis, setting objectives, sketching preliminary designs on graph paper, and choosing the right plants and elements.

It's a blend of art and science, where landscape design principles guide your creativity.

What are the 7 principles of landscape design?

The seven principles of landscape design are balance, proportion, focal points, unity, sequence, rhythm, and repetition. These principles serve as the backbone of any well-designed outdoor space, helping to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing environment.

What are the design steps in landscape?

The design steps in landscape typically involve initial site analysis, setting your objectives, creating a wish list of elements you'd like to include, and then drafting preliminary designs. Tracing paper can be useful for overlaying different elements.

Once the design is finalized, the next steps include selecting plants and materials, and finally, implementation.

What is landscape design strategy?

Landscape design strategy refers to the overarching approach or plan used to guide the design process. It often involves setting long-term goals, like creating an English garden or focusing on native plants, and then applying the golden ratio or other design principles to achieve a balanced and harmonious layout.


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