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How to Design Landscape Layout | State College, PA

Planning your dream outdoor space? Knowing how to design landscape layout is the first step toward turning that dream into reality. This comprehensive guide will walk you through every crucial aspect of landscape design, ensuring you create a stunning, functional, and sustainable environment.

Key Takeaway

  • A successful landscape design involves meticulous planning, from understanding your yard's microclimate to defining your landscape goals.

  • Utilizing various tools and resources, such as specialized software, can make the planning process more efficient and less prone to errors.

  • For complex landscape designs, hiring professionals like Landscape II can save you time and costly mistakes, as we offer comprehensive services from design to installation.

Take a Deep Look at Your Yard

The foundation of any successful landscape design lies in a thorough understanding of the yard itself. In this initial phase, we'll explore key considerations that will inform your landscape plans.

Check the soil and microclimate

A garden landscape for an apartment complex

Understanding your yard goes beyond just knowing its dimensions. You must also know everything about it. Utilize tools like the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to pinpoint the types of plants that will flourish in your specific climate.

Take note of your yard's microclimate as well, which can vary based on sun and shade exposure. (Microclimate refers to the specific climate conditions within a smaller area of your yard, which can differ from the general climate of your region.) This will help you make educated choices when you visit the garden center for landscape plants.

Decide what stays and what goes

Before embarking on your new landscaping endeavor, it's crucial to take stock of what's already in your yard. Existing features, whether they're trees, water features, or structures like gazebos, can either be obstacles or assets in your landscape design.

Consider whether these elements combine well with your overall concept and design ideas. For instance, a mature tree in the front yard could serve as a natural focal point, while an outdated fire pit might need to be removed or updated.

Deciding what to keep and what to remove will influence your landscape plan and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Define your landscape goals

The purpose of your outdoor space should be at the forefront of your landscape design elements. Are you envisioning a front yard that stops passersby in their tracks? Do you want a play area for kids, a vegetable garden, or a more formal garden for entertaining?

Clearly defining your objectives will serve as the compass for your landscape design plans.

Consider your budget

Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or planning to hire a professional landscape designer, being realistic about your budget is crucial.

Factor in the costs of materials from the garden center, labor, and ongoing maintenance. Knowing your financial boundaries will help you make choices that are both aesthetically pleasing and economically viable.

Accommodate all users

Your yard isn't just for you unless it's off-limits to anyone else. It's a communal space that may need to serve multiple purposes. Do you need a sturdy, open area for pets? Or perhaps a shaded alcove with comfortable seating for guests?

Considering the needs of all potential users—be it children, pets, or guests—will ensure your outdoor space is versatile and functional.

Landscape Themes and Styles

A country cottage garden landscape

The architecture of your home can serve as a starting point for selecting a theme or style for your landscape. Your chosen theme will not only influence your plant material but also guide your overall design ideas. Here are some popular landscape themes to consider:

  • Naturalistic garden: This theme focuses on native plants and aims to create a natural feel. It's low-maintenance and eco-friendly, perfect for those who want their outdoor space to blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment.

  • Formal garden: Characterized by symmetrical layouts, topiaries, and well-defined flower beds, a formal garden brings a sense of elegance and order. It often features focal points like statues or water features.

  • Cottage garden: Overflowing with flowers, shrubs, and herbs, this style is whimsical and colorful. It's ideal for those who love spending time in the garden and don't mind a bit of organized chaos.

  • Zen garden: Inspired by Japanese design, this theme is all about tranquility and balance. It often includes elements like sand, rocks, and minimalistic plantings.

  • Tropical oasis: Think lush foliage, bright flowers, and perhaps a water feature or two. This theme aims to create a vacation-like feel right in your backyard.

  • Modern minimalist: Clean lines, geometric shapes, and a limited color palette define this style. It's perfect for those who appreciate simplicity and modern design elements.

  • Edible garden: This theme incorporates vegetable beds, fruit trees, and herb gardens into the landscape, making your yard not just beautiful but also functional.

Plant Selection

Plant nursery shop overflowing with plant selections

Plant selection is a critical aspect of landscape design. It's important that your choices align with your landscape theme, local climate, and personal preferences.

Native vs. exotic plants

  • Native plants: These are plants that naturally occur in your region and are well-adapted to the local soil and climate conditions. They are generally easier to maintain, require less water, and are beneficial for local wildlife. Native plants often fit well with naturalistic or eco-friendly landscape themes.

  • Exotic plants: While they can be more challenging to care for, exotic plants offer unique visual weight and can be the focal point in your landscape. They are ideal for themes like Tropical Oasis or Formal Gardens but may require special soil amendments, more frequent watering, and protection from local pests or weather conditions.

Seasonal planning

To maintain visual interest throughout the year, you should also try to select a variety of plants that offer different colors, textures, and blooming times. Here are some tips:

  • Spring bloomers: Choose plants like tulips, daffodils, or cherry blossoms that provide a burst of color in the spring.

  • Summer foliage: Consider shrubs and trees with interesting leaves or flowers that will be at their peak in the summer, such as hydrangeas or crepe myrtles.

  • Fall colors: Trees like maples or oaks can provide stunning autumnal colors. Perennials like chrysanthemums can also add fall hues.

  • Winter interest: Don't forget about the colder months. Evergreens, winter berries, and ornamental grasses can add texture and color to a winter landscape.

Hardscape Elements

A garden with plenty of hardscaping made of natural stone, such as steps, retaining wall, and planters

Hardscape elements are the non-living features that add both functionality and aesthetic value to your landscape. From walkways to patios, these elements serve as the backbone of your landscape design plan, providing structure and form.

  • Walkways: These guide movement through your landscape, leading visitors from one area to another. Materials can range from gravel to pavers, and the style can be winding or straight, depending on your design theme.

  • Fire pits: A fire pit serves as a focal point for social gatherings and adds warmth to your outdoor space. It can be a simple, rustic style or a more elaborate, gas-fueled design.

  • Retaining walls: These can be both functional and decorative, helping to prevent erosion while also providing opportunities for elevated garden beds or dramatic landscape features.

  • Outdoor lighting: Outdoor lighting serves a dual purpose in your landscape: it's both functional and mood-setting. Attention to detail is crucial when planning your lighting scheme. For instance, pathway lighting is essential for safety, guiding people along walkways and stairs. Solar-powered or low-voltage LED lights are popular choices for this need. Beyond functionality, ambient lighting, such as lanterns or string lights, provides a soft glow ideal for relaxation or social gatherings. Spotlighting takes it a step further by highlighting specific features in your landscape, like a water feature or a standout plant, adding an extra layer of drama and focus to your outdoor space.

Water Features

Ornamental garden with water feature

Water features can serve as a dominant feature in your landscape, offering both visual appeal and a soothing auditory experience.

  • Fountains: These can range from simple, standalone features to elaborate, multi-tiered designs that become the centerpiece of your garden.

  • Ponds and water gardens: These can house fish and aquatic plants, offering a tranquil setting for relaxation.

  • Streams and waterfalls: These can be integrated into the landscape to provide movement and sound, enhancing the overall sensory experience.

Pitfalls to Sidestep in Landscape Design

When designing your landscape, it's easy to overlook certain aspects that could lead to costly mistakes. For instance, failing to consider underground utilities can result in a disrupted project and additional expenses.

Another frequent mistake is the improper selection of plants. For example, opting for flora that thrives in full sun when your yard is largely shaded is a recipe for disappointment. Not only will the plants struggle to survive, but you'll also waste valuable time and resources trying to maintain them.

Tools and Resources

Various software and apps can assist you in visualizing your landscape design. These tools allow you to create functional diagrams and visual representations, making the planning process more efficient and less prone to errors. They can be particularly useful for determining the placement of individual plants, trees, and other elements in your landscape.

Of course, these are not a replacement for a professional who can advise you best on what your specific landscape needs and how you can best implement those changes you want.

The Pros and Cons of DIY vs. Professional Help

While taking on a landscaping project yourself can be rewarding, it's essential to weigh the complexities of your landscape design plans. If your project involves intricate elements, hiring landscape designers and architects to oversee the project is a wise investment.

Professionals can help you avoid costly mistakes and ensure that your landscape is both beautiful and functional. Look for landscape design professionals near you so you could easily check for reviews from former clients and see their work personally.

Your Dream Landscape Awaits: Let Landscape II Be Your Guide

Whether you're in the brainstorming phase or ready to break ground, Landscape II has you covered. We offer a comprehensive range of services, from design and consultation to installation. And our all-inclusive packages are tailored to meet your specific needs so that your dream landscape becomes a reality.

Don't just dream it—build it with Landscape II. Contact us today to explore how we can assist you in every step of your landscaping journey.


Achieving the landscape of your dreams is a multi-faceted endeavor that requires careful planning and a deep understanding of your yard's unique characteristics. Utilizing specialized tools and resources can streamline the planning process, helping you visualize your design and avoid common pitfalls.

For those facing complex landscape challenges, professional guidance is invaluable. Landscape II offers a comprehensive range of services, from design and consultation to installation, ensuring that your dream landscape becomes a reality while saving you time and costly mistakes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make a landscape layout?

Creating a landscape layout starts with understanding your outdoor space, from its dimensions to its sun conditions. You'll need to create a base map that outlines existing features and structures. From there, you can begin to draft your landscape plans, incorporating elements like plants, water features, and pathways. Tools like graph paper or specialized software can help you visualize your design.

What are the 7 principles of landscape design?

The seven principles of landscape design are unity, balance, contrast, rhythm, proportion, focal points, and simplicity. These basic elements serve as the backbone of your landscape designs, which guide you in creating an aesthetically pleasing and functional outdoor space.

Each principle plays a role in how individual plants, structures, and other elements come together as a cohesive whole.

What are the techniques of landscape design?

Techniques in landscape design include layering plant material, creating functional diagrams, and using color and texture to add visual interest. These techniques help you implement the principles of landscape design in a practical way.

For example, layering involves placing smaller plants in front of larger ones to create depth, while functional diagrams help you plan the layout of elements like gas lines and water features.

What is design concept in landscape design?

The design concept in landscape design is the overarching theme or style that guides your landscaping project. It's the big picture idea that influences your choice of plants, structures, and materials. Your design concept could be as simple as a color scheme or as complex as recreating a specific historical garden design. It serves as the foundation upon which all other design decisions are made.

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