Landscape Design

Landscape Design

How do you design a landscape?

Although the terms “landscape design” and ” garden design” are often  used synonymously, I’m using the term “landscape design” here to refer to the overall design of the outdoor space.  While I use the term “garden design” to refer to the plant selection and location.

Your garden is best thought of as an extension to your home. Just as your house has rooms and spaces for particular uses you can design your landscape to have particular uses. Some spaces may be utilitarian such as a clothes line while others may be recreational such as a play area or outdoor dining. Your requirements may also change over time as children grow up or you want to expend less energy working in the garden. So try to make spaces that are flexible or multi purpose so they can be adapted to your changing needs.


  • Your finished garden will ultimately only be as good as the landscape design plan that you start with. Because once you start the physical process it’s often difficult and expensive to change what you’ve already done if you have second thoughts. So don’t rush in before you’ve got a well thought out plan, preferably on paper.
  • Often the process of putting it all on paper highlights some problems that are easier to fix while their just lines on paper than if you’ve spent time and moey installing something in the wrong place!
  • Spend some time experiencing the area you’re going to landscape at different times of the day, including morning, midday and evening.
  • Walk around the area and do some 360 degree turns and take note of views you may want to keep and views you want to screen out for privacy or unsightly buildings etc.
  • Make notes about what you want and where you can practically them fit into the space you have.
  • If you want to have an outdoor dining area set out a chair in different locations and have a drink and take note if you need screening for privacy. Bear in mind it’s generally easier to have the dining table near where where  the food and drinks are stored or prepared, because it can be irritating walking back and forth every time you want something from the fridge.
  • If you can walk around the area in the wet season to see if there are areas that are boggy and may need draining or can be utilized for a water feature or water garden.
  • If you’re contemplating having a vegetable garden in a specific location get out a spade and dig at least a spade depth to see what the soil is suitable. Although you can still have a vegetable garden even if the soil is poor by making a raised garden bed and filling it with good soil.
Landscape Design

Using quad paper makes it easy to to make right angles and rectangles. Quad paper is also useful if you want to make your plan to scale.

Consider the following factors in your Landscape Design:

  • Topography – The lie of the land including the slope and surface features.
  • Sun movement – The site orientation to the sun determines where the sun rises and sets at different times of the year and whether you need shade or to keep the most sun possible on the property.
  • Views – Take note of views you may want to frame or screen out.
  • Soil – Is it predominantly sandy, silty or clay based.
  • Climate – The area you live will influence the plants you can grow.
  • Drainage – If you have a wet season.
  • Irrigation – Will you need to irrigate the garden during the dry season. Some areas may have water use restrictions so it may be better to select drought tolerant plants.

If you find the planning job over whelming or too complex and need need help it’s better to spend the money required to get a professional Landscape Architect or Landscape Designer to do a professional plan.

What’s the difference between a Landscape Architect and a Landscape Designer?

Landscape Architects must have a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in landscape architecture from a recognized university and also have to be licensed by the state they offer their services in before they can work on designing landscape projects. Landscape Architect typically work on the larger projects such as parks, commercial centers, resorts, waterfront developments etc. They generally have a wider training than Landscape Designers.

Landscape and Garden Designers typically work on smaller residential projects. While some Landscape Designers have equivalent training to a Landscape Architect they generally do not have a state license, that is required to call them self a Landscape Architect. Landscape Designers may be self taught through experience but most have taken a course at a university, college or by doing some sort of certification program.

You can expect to pay more for a Landscape Architect than a Landscape Designer.

Bear in mind to do any electrical work, wall building or earth-moving construction a licensed landscape contractor is required for the project.

If you’re inexperienced at designing, but want to do some of the work yourself to save money or for the satisfaction, it’s better to take on some of the less skilled laboring work later in the project, such as moving soil, mulch, or planting etc.

So if you’re on a tight budget it’s better to spend money on a good plan that can be separated into stages than can be done over a period of time as funds become available.

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