I worked with landscape designer David Munsey III of Better Lawns and Gardens on my backyard project to make sure the layout and pool were perfect and that my yard was layered with fabulous color all year long. Here are 12 things David and I think are important to keep in mind when planning your landscape design.
1. Know your Zone
Know your Zone. Consult the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, the standard for gardeners and growers to determine which plants are most likely to thrive at any location in the United States. You don’t want to waste your money on a warm-weather plant in a colder climate or vice versa.
2. Think Locally
Consider plants that are native to your area. You’ll have an automatic win with flowers, shrubs, and trees that are already abundant in your area. For example, in the South we know that azaleas are going to thrive in most yards and often hydrangeas too!
3. Pay Attention to Pathways
If you’re creating new beds and plantings, be sure to pay attention to where you already have paths in your yard and stay away from planting there—or add stones or walkways through those beds. If kids or pets (or husbands) are used to walking a certain path, let them continue. Otherwise you’ll likely have some smashed plants before everyone is retrained.
4. Keep Height in Mind
Keep height in mind as you plant. You don’t want to cover up your gorgeous front window with a tree or shrub that’s going to be tall one day. You should consider the growth rate and ultimate size of the plant (height and width), not its size today. And remember that a mix of heights (some lower and others taller) is most interesting.
5. Use Easy Annuals
When you’re planting new bushes, shrubs, and trees, be sure to fill in the gaps or create an accent in the front of beds with easy annuals. They’ll offer color and life while your long-term plants are putting down roots. Some of our favorites for spring and summer in the South are impatiens, petunias, begonias, and vinca.
6. Consider Architecture
Consider the architecture of your home when developing a landscape plan. For example, if you have a Colonial home like I do, consider evergreen shrubs and more formal plantings. If you have a cottage home, go more casual and natural. My home is a 1960s Colonial with a bit of Hollywood glam out back, so lots of shaped boxwoods and gorgeous hydrangeas were our top choice for this design.
7. What's Your Gardening Style?
Do you prefer low maintenance or do you like to get out and work your green thumb? That will help you decide on the right plants and beds.
8. Make the good times last!
Layer in plants that will offer up color all year long. There is nothing more exciting than to see my ‘New Dawn’ roses bloom in April, followed by hydrangeas in May, then my azaleas and hydrangea trees in June and July. And my gorgeous pink begonias last from April to September. It’s like a symphony of color for months in a row.
9. Use Planters
Use planted containers in your landscape design. They further enhance seasonal or year-round interest. You can establish an evergreen plant in a container to thrive all year in the South and change up the accent color around the base. If you enjoy cooking, plant some vegetables or herbs in a planter or within the landscape so you can walk right out the back door and have access to fresh ingredients.
10. Know the sun!
All plants require different amounts of light to thrive. It is important to know how much sun all the areas of your landscape receive as you embark on creating your landscape design and selecting your plant varieties.
11. Design the Hardscape
Hardscape (meaning the decking or patio material) is a key element to any successful landscape. If an outdoor patio or pool deck is part of your design, weigh your options. Natural stone, concrete pavers, wood decking, or even porcelain tile all have their place in a specific design. Your landscape professional or hardscape supplier can help you decide.
12. Color matters!
Consider the palette of your hardscape materials when planning the overall style of your landscape. Natural colors may work better in some landscapes, while bold colors or black and white (like we chose) work better for others. Don't be afraid to blend colors to fit your style.