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Landscape Design 101 | State College, PA

A garden with natural stone landscaping

You step into your backyard, coffee in hand, and take a long look around. The garden that once brought you joy now seems outdated, or perhaps it never quite lived up to your vision in the first place. You've toyed with the idea of hiring landscape designers or even landscape architects, but the sheer number of choices and decisions to make has left you feeling overwhelmed. You wonder, "Where do I even begin?"

Well, you're in the right place. This guide is full of tips to help you in reclaiming your outdoor space. If you're a homeowner looking to breathe new life into an old garden, we're here to guide you through the essentials of professional landscape design. By the end, you'll be well-equipped to collaborate with landscape design experts to transform your garden into the sanctuary you've always dreamed of!

Key Takeaways

  • Before you start any landscaping project, it's crucial to understand your yard's microclimate, decide on a theme, and consider who will use the space. This ensures that your design is both functional and beautiful.

  • The seven major principles of landscape design, including unity, balance, and variety, are essential for creating an aesthetically pleasing and cohesive outdoor space. These principles can help you bring your landscape design ideas to life.

  • While DIY may be tempting, consulting with professional designers ensures that every aspect of your project is executed to perfection. Their expertise can make the difference between a good garden and a great one.

Factors to Discuss with Your Landscape Designer

Before you embark on the transformative journey of landscape and garden design, it's essential to lay a solid foundation. A well-thought-out plan can be the difference between a garden that merely exists and one that thrives.

Here are some key considerations to discuss with your landscape designer that will help guide you through the planning phase.

Know your yard's microclimate

The first step in any successful landscaping project is understanding your yard's microclimate. Is your garden bathed in sunlight throughout the day, or does it lie in the shadow of tall trees or buildings? Knowing whether your yard experiences full sun, partial shade, shade, or deep shade will significantly influence your plant selection.

For example, sun-loving plants like roses and lavender will struggle quite a bit in a shady environment, while ferns and hostas prefer less direct light.

Who will use the yard?

Your outdoor space should be a reflection of your lifestyle. Will it serve as a sanctuary for adults, a playground for children, or perhaps a haven for pets? Maybe you envision hosting weekend barbecues or setting up an outdoor kitchen.

The activities you plan to do in the space will dictate the features and basic elements you'll need in your landscape plan, whether it's a sturdy lawn, a fire pit, or a dining area.

What kind of plants do you need?

The flora you choose sets the tone for your outdoor space. Are you looking to grow your own produce? Would a fruit and vegetable garden be a welcome idea, or are you more interested in creating a visually stunning array of ornamental plants? Perhaps you want to add aromatic herbs like lavender or rosemary to elevate the sensory experience.

Your choices here will not only affect the look and feel of your garden but also its functionality.

Think about the future

Sustainability should also be one focus of your design plan. Do you want a garden that's easy to maintain and resource-efficient? Opting for a sustainable design, such as choosing drought-tolerant plants or installing a water-efficient irrigation system can save both time and resources in the long run.

Make these decisions early to ensure a garden that's both beautiful and sustainable.

Decide on a theme

A cohesive theme can tie all the elements of your landscape design together. Whether you're drawn to the tranquility of an Oriental Garden, the formality of an English garden, or the vibrant colors of a tropical paradise, having a landscape design theme can guide your plant and material selections and make the design process more straightforward.

Common Themes for Outdoor Spaces

Now that you've considered the essential elements for planning your landscape design, it's time to let your creativity shine. Choosing a theme can be an exciting yet daunting task, but it's a crucial step that will guide the rest of your design choices.

We've curated a list of popular landscape design themes that not only look stunning but also offer their own unique benefits to help you make a choice through the myriad of options available.


A Japanese garden design with wood bridge and water feature

Drawing inspiration from Eastern philosophy, this landscape design is all about balance, harmony, and tranquility. Think koi ponds, stone lanterns, and intricate bridges. This theme often incorporates water features, rock formations, and strategically placed plants like bonsai and bamboo to create a serene sanctuary.


An Irish woodland garden

If you're looking for a low-maintenance, natural setting, the Woodland landscape design theme might be for you. This style mimics a forest floor, complete with native plants, meandering pathways, and perhaps even a babbling brook.

It's an excellent choice for those who want their garden to feel like an extension of the natural environment.


An English garden in bloom with quaint cottage in the background

The quintessential English Garden is characterized by lush, overflowing flower beds, intricate pathways, and ornate fencing. This theme often features a mix of perennials and annuals, creating a colorful and dynamic space that changes with the seasons.


A formal spring garden filled with colorful tulips and a stone pathway

For those who appreciate structure and order, the formal landscape design theme offers geometric shapes, symmetrical plantings, and a well-defined layout. This style often incorporates architectural features like columns, statues, and meticulously trimmed hedges to create a sense of grandeur.


An informal garden footpath between colorful blooms

The informal theme offers a more relaxed, organic feel. Plant beds are less structured, and curves replace straight lines, giving the space a more spontaneous feel. This style is perfect for those who want their garden to feel like a natural escape without the rigidity of a formal design.


Luxurious house with pool and tropical garden

If you're dreaming of a vacation getaway, the Tropical theme brings the exotic to your doorstep. Think vibrant colors, large leafy plants, and even the occasional palm tree. This landscape design theme is all about creating a lush, paradise-like environment.


A desert garden filled with succulents, bougainvillea, and other arid perennial plants

For those living in drought-prone areas, the desert landscape design theme offers a sustainable, water-efficient solution. This minimalistic style focuses on hardy plants like succulents and cacti, interspersed with rock formations and sandy pathways.

The 7 Major Principles of Landscape Design

After exploring various themes and considering key factors, you might feel ready to start. But don't underestimate the power of good design principles. They can take your project from good to great, making your garden both beautiful and functional. These principles are the backbone of any standout landscape, which is useful for both beginners and pros.


Less is often more. A clutter-free space allows individual elements to stand out, making your garden easier to navigate and appreciate. Simplicity doesn't mean a lack of creativity; it's about making thoughtful choices that contribute to a cohesive design.


Unity in landscape design refers to the harmonious integration of various elements. Whether it's a consistent color scheme, repeated plant types, or architectural features, unity brings a sense of cohesiveness that makes your outdoor space feel like a well-orchestrated masterpiece.


Achieving balance in your garden involves creating a sense of equilibrium. This doesn't necessarily mean a symmetrical layout; it's about distributing visual weight in a way that feels stable and pleasing to the eye.


While unity and balance are crucial, variety adds the spice to your design. Incorporating different shapes, sizes, and colors can add interest and depth, preventing your garden from feeling monotonous.


Every great design has focal points that capture attention. Whether it's a striking water feature, a majestic tree, or a cozy outdoor fireplace, these elements serve as visual anchors that add drama and interest.


Scale and proportion ensure that all elements in your garden are in harmony with each other and the property itself. From the size of your plant beds to the height of your trees, keeping things in proportion creates a more balanced and visually pleasing environment.


The principle of sequence involves creating smooth transitions between different elements, guiding the eye from one point to another. This can be achieved through gradual changes in size, color, or texture, ensuring that your garden offers a dynamic yet harmonious experience.

Why Trust Landscape Designers Over DIY?

You've read the guide, you're brimming with ideas, and your green thumb is itching to get started. But let's pause for a moment. While the DIY route may seem tempting, there's a world of difference between amateur enthusiasm and professional expertise.

Hiring professional landscapers ensures that every aspect of your project is executed to perfection. From understanding the nuances of plant material and shade patterns to creating a cohesive design phase, a landscape architect brings a level of skill that's hard to match.

So why take a gamble on your outdoor sanctuary? Trust the experts (that's us!) to bring your vision to life. If your property is in Pennsylvania, particularly the State College municipality, we'd love to ensure your garden is not just another project but a long-lasting extension of your home.

Turn Your Visions into Reality

Ready to turn your landscape design dreams into reality? Trust Landscape II, where professional expertise meets personalized service.

Contact us today for a garden that's as functional as it is stunning!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is in landscape design?

Landscape design is a comprehensive approach to planning and creating outdoor spaces that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. It involves various elements such as garden design, plant selection, and architectural features.

A well-executed landscape design considers factors like the property's microclimate, shade patterns, and environmental conditions. It also takes into account the needs and preferences of the homeowners, whether it's creating a front yard with curb appeal or a backyard oasis for dining and relaxation.

From modern designs to more traditional landscapes, professional landscape design incorporates a range of ideas and techniques to create a harmonious and sustainable outdoor environment.

What are the 7 principles of landscape design?

The 7 major principles of landscape design serve as the foundation for creating outdoor spaces that are both functional and visually appealing. These principles are:

Simplicity: A straightforward design often makes the most impact, allowing individual elements to shine without overwhelming the space.

Unity: This principle focuses on creating a cohesive look by using consistent colors, plants, and architectural features throughout the yard.

Balance: Whether symmetrical or asymmetrical, balance ensures that the visual weight of the landscape is evenly distributed, contributing to its overall curb appeal.

Variety: Introducing different shapes, sizes, and colors adds interest and depth to the landscape, preventing monotony.

Emphasis: Focal points, whether they're trees, shrubs, or architectural features, draw attention and add drama to the space.

Scale/Proportion: All elements should be in harmony with each other and the property itself, from the size of plant beds to the height of trees.

Sequence: This involves creating smooth transitions between different elements, guiding the eye through the landscape in a harmonious manner.

What is the use of landscape design?

Landscape design serves multiple purposes, both functional and aesthetic. On a functional level, a well-planned landscape can improve property value, enhance curb appeal, and even reduce maintenance needs. It allows homeowners to make the most of their outdoor space, whether it's a front yard, backyard, or even a small balcony. A thoughtfully designed planting plan can also address specific needs like privacy, shade, or new construction requirements.

On the aesthetic side, landscape design is an art form that allows you to create an outdoor sanctuary tailored to your personal style. Whether you're drawn to modern architecture or prefer a more traditional garden, landscape design helps you bring your ideas to life. It offers a structured approach to selecting plants, trees, and shrubs and arranging them in a way that is visually pleasing and environmentally sustainable.

What is landscape design process?

The landscape design process begins with an initial consultation to discuss landscape design ideas, needs, and site conditions. This is followed by the creation of a preliminary design, which includes a planting plan and any structural elements like pathways or water features.

After finalizing the design, the construction phase commences, involving land preparation and planting. The process is a collaborative effort between homeowners and designers, aimed at creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing outdoor space.


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