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What is Landscape Design?
In modern terms, landscape design is the art or profession of modifying, arranging, and organizing elements of an outdoor area in order to achieve a specific aesthetic or practical purpose. Landscape design consists of different elements that include terrain conditions, various structural factors, and of course, vegetation.
Plants and Vegetation
One of the most important elements in a well-designed landscape is vegetation. Any vegetation in a landscape design is referred to as softscape. Softscape includes all plants, trees, grass and anything else that is alive in a landscape. Obviously, there are a wide variety of plants to choose from. A well-designed landscape will include plants that are appropriate as well as needed for the area to work in harmony.
Plants also act as one of the main design elements and serve as the main aesthetic component of any yard or outdoor space. They add fluidity and softness to an area. Plants also add color and variety. They can also be used to delineate areas. For example, hedges and trees can serve as guidelines for plot lines and corners. They can also separate spaces in a yard such as entertainment spaces, lounging areas, and even the pool. Plants are a vital component of any landscape design and are there to finish and complete the look.
Land and Terrain
Another natural element in landscape design is the actual land, also known as the terrain. The terrain is a very important consideration when planning a design as it will determine many aspects of the design itself. The type of terrain will determine which plants can be used and ultimately the type of design that can be applied.
Certain terrains can have limitations. For example, mountainous and sloping terrains are a bit more difficult to plant on and maintain. Certain plants can adapt to hilly terrain and therefore should be used in this situation. The amount of land available for landscaping will also determine the design.
Larger landscapes will be able to accommodate more elements, while smaller land areas will need landscape designs that are smaller and more compact. The land will also determine the proper balance between the softscape areas and hardscape areas of the landscape design.
The physical structures placed into a landscape design are referred to as hardscapes. The hardscape plays an important role in any design. While plants add aesthetic values to a landscape, structures add livability. Common structures in landscape designs include pavements and walkways, patio areas, and pools. Other examples include an outdoor kitchen and dining space.
You can also have structures that add to the overall aesthetic quality of a landscape. Pergolas add height, shape, and a cozy sitting area to any outdoor space. Gazebos add livable, shaded space. Walls can define areas as well. Other structures that can be found in a landscape include tables and chairs and other patio furniture. All of these add to the overall feel of the design and have the ability to transform outdoor landscaping into living spaces rather than just a piece of land.
6 Items to Consider When Designing Your Space
1. Intended Use
When planning a landscape design, consider how the area will mostly be used. If you intend for the area to be used primarily for vegetation, make sure to plan accordingly. Alternatively, if the area will mostly be used for an entertaining and outdoor living area, accommodate it with enough hardscape to make that possible. Either way, it’s important to plan the overall area according to its intended use. Otherwise, you could end up with a design that doesn’t satisfy your needs.
2. Existing Environmental Conditions
The existing conditions of the area will determine which elements that can be applied to the actual landscape. For example, your climate zone will help you determine which plants can be used. Plants that don’t require much water should be used in places that are susceptible to drought. Also, areas that have weather that’s not suitable for spending much time outdoors can maximize plants that can be enjoyed even from inside the house.
3. People vs. Pets
For those who own pets, consider having a landscape design that will provide enough room for them to run around or play. Large open spaces can often incorporate an area just for pets. Also, having designated areas for plants will help prevent pets from running through them.
For those who don’t have pets but plan to do a lot of entertaining in their outdoor space, make sure to incorporate open spaces that can comfortably accommodate your guests. Otherwise, the landscape will feel closed in and small.
Aside from the weather, the soil is one of the biggest determinants of which species of plants can thrive in your landscape. You should make sure that your soil is in good condition and is well maintained. Having good soil is the first step to having lush and beautiful softscapes. “Blank,” or unplanted soil can be used to achieve a certain effect. It’s a good contrast against the greenery of plants, and it also provides contrast against the hardness of structures made of stone and rock.
5. Personal Style
There are many ways to design a beautiful landscape, and it ultimately depends on your personal style. One of the most popular landscape designs is a Zen garden. The Zen style often features more hardscape than softscape, along with straight lines, and organized plants.
Another example of a popular landscape style is tropical. This style incorporates tropical plants such as palm trees and bamboo with other tropical elements such as a tiki hut and tiki torches.
Victorian and English gardens are also a popular style that is typically filled with roses and a large fountain. In the end, it’s your personal style that matters when coming up with a landscape design.
6. Hiring a Professional Landscaper
Consider hiring a professional, especially if you don’t have tons of landscaping experience. It will save you time and money in the long run because it prevents mistakes and eliminates future issues. Professional landscapers are able to create designs that match your personal style, and they know exactly the types of plants and structures that are appropriate for your local land conditions and climate.
Hiring a professional landscaper will make it so that you don’t need to worry about the overall process. In the end, all you will need to do is enjoy the end result of a well-designed and well-installed landscape.
5 Steps to Successful Landscaping
This is probably the most fun part of landscaping. Planning your landscape should be strategic and at the same time creative. Most of those who look into landscaping already have an idea of how they’d like an area to look after some work. It’ll help to get ideas from landscaping books and professionals. This is the part where you visualize and write down specifics for your landscape project including designs, particular plants, trees, and other flora to be used, other design elements such as paving and stones, and of course, the budget.
Most people think about money first when they’re thinking of a landscaping project. A budget is extremely important in any project. A budget allows you to keep the project expenses under control, but it also allows you to see what parts of the landscaping cost more and which ones cost less. A budget will allow you to see what parts of the landscaping you can adjust or take back a bit in order to stay within your means. While budgeting money, make sure you also budget for time. Make a realistic estimation of how long a project will take and plan accordingly.
After planning and budgeting, it’s time to get a solid list of what should be done and dealt with first, second, and so forth. Most, if not all, projects have to start with the demolition of surfaces and structures that will be unnecessary in the new landscape. The next things that will need to be prioritized will be all the other logistics including grading for proper drainage, excavation in case of pool installation, running of utility lines, and a few others. Proper prioritization will ensure that your landscape is installed properly, decreasing the probability of issues surfacing later on.
This step is the next fun thing to do. After all the grunt work, the installation of the landscape design is the next step. This includes building and walls or perimeters that are necessary for the design and the construction of hardscapes such as decks or patios. The installation of pathways and other surfaces will be next, as well as the installation of other outdoor elements including kitchens and fire pits. Indeed, landscaping is more than just planting, but the planting is what essentially adds the flare and ties together the overall look of the landscape.
When all has been said and done, and the testing of the systems has been successful, the only thing that’s left to do is enjoy your landscape and keep up with the maintenance. You can either deal with the upkeep yourself or hire a company to do the work. Depending on the size of the landscaped area, you might want to consider professional landscaping maintenance in order to do the upkeep properly. Proper maintenance will ensure that your landscape set up will last longer for you to enjoy and take pride in.
Landscaping Contractor Costs
Factors That Impact Costs
There are a few factors that impact contractor costs in different ways, but the most obvious one would be the amount of labor the landscaping project needs. Any project that will require more manpower to accomplish all just translates into a dollar amount. Another factor that impacts cost is the size and condition of the land itself. Any properties that need more extensive work before installation will, of course, cost more in the long run that one that’s already set up better. Other factors include the design itself and the features that are included in the design. Any design that includes specialized kitchens or patios will also add to the cost. The types of materials and plants that are used and depending on where those are sourced from will also affect the overall cost.
Popular Projects and their Costs
One sample of a popular landscaping project is a patio. Most landscaped entertaining spaces include paved areas that can accommodate tables and chairs. Others might include grassy and planted areas. For an entertaining patio with an outdoor fireplace and raised beds, the prices can be as high as $20k to upwards of $45k depending on the size of the area and the pavers used.
Another popular project is a backyard pool. Pools can be expensive depending on the design, the style, and the size. For an average-sized pool with custom decking and landscaped, paved, and planted areas, the prices can go up to $100k and beyond with additional upgrades.
An example of a higher-end landscape project would be a resort-style luxury backyard. For well over $1 million, you can have a large pool designed as you’d like with the style you might normally see in a 4 or 5-star resort. The trimmings may hike up that price or tone it down depending on the design.
As with any project, additional costs may arise from time to time. An example of an unforeseen additional cost may include extensive repair work, re-sloping certain areas, and even removing tree stumps. If you decide to maintain certain aspects of a specific landscape that ends up needing more repairs than expected, you’ll have more cost in your hands at the end.
The cost of material delivery can also fluctuate depending on the types of materials and how far they come from. Construction mistakes can also lead to additional costs, as well as planning mistakes. Another additional might be the employment of personnel such as architects, designers, or even land surveyors if necessary.
Compliance in residences that have HOA schedules can cost you installment times which can also lead to additional costs. Other things that can add up the costs are additional features that have been incorporated into the design outside of the original plan. This often happens as clients realize their desire for other design elements as they see the project progress.
It’s important to stay on course with the budget all along the way because you never know when uncontrollable costs will occur.
Your yard is one of the first things people see as they drive up to your home or drive by it, so why not have it looking in tip-top shape? No matter if it is a small yard or big yard, there are many types of designs that can add warmth, elegance, a pop of color, and a welcoming atmosphere to the property.
Not every design suits every yard, so it is best to consult with various landscaping companies or do some thorough independent research on functional designs that will work best.
Types of Landscaping Designs
There are many different styles of landscaping designs to choose from, some of which are more suitable for either small yards or big yards. That being said, there is a perfect design out there for everyone that can make the yard a beautiful and personalized space.
Channel the Land of the Rising Sun or bring the serene Zen gardens to your yard. This design is commonly seen in backyards rather than front because the backyard is often quieter than the front yard, if that is a concern of yours. The Oriental design typically features a koi pond or small pond that gives off the peaceful sound of water, raked sand or rock areas, mini bridge, lanterns, and various bamboo plants or leafy green trees. For colors, gold, fiery red, and rich yellow are typical shades featured in an oriental garden. Your landscaper can help organize your yard when it comes to where the sand or rocks should go and where to place bamboo plants. After the landscaper has completed the yard, try adding in some Buddha statues around the yard. The overall goal of an oriental yard is for it to be a peaceful place that is for relaxing and experiencing a Zen environment.
An English garden typically features rows of lush lavender, cobblestone paths, purple alliums, and a rose garden. These things all contribute to the beauty that an English garden is, and one of the reasons why it is a popular request for **landscaping companies**. Typical English gardens have an abundance of foliage, whether it be plants or flowers and this creates a lush look. So, plant lots of various flowers and vines to make the garden full looking. Some characteristics of English gardens are also herb gardens, perennial borders, and mixed borders. Your landscaper can help decide which flower colors to choose and where to place things like borders or vines. A great idea for an English garden is making room for a tea party spot so you can have tea in the middle of your garden while enjoying the beautiful view.
Fairy gardens are becoming popular choices for yards, and landscapers can help you create the perfect fairy garden by helping you decide where to place certain miniatures. Fairy gardens feature mini fairies, mushrooms, tree stumps, wooden benches, and trees that are placed around the garden to create a feeling of magic. Try planting sunflowers or wildflowers around the yard so that you can nestle the miniatures in them to create your own little fairy world. This is a fun design to do with younger children who perhaps believe in fairies and can have fun placing them in the garden or finding them.
An organic garden is one that grows healthy, chemical-free plants, vegetables, and herbs. This is quickly becoming a popular design idea that landscapers can help out with. In order to design a successful organic garden, it is important to create a sunny, spacious space that your plants can spread out in. Consult with a landscaper to build wooden containers or a window box for what you wish to plant, and even consult about using the right soil so that your plants, vegetables, and herbs grow in the proper environment. An organic garden design is not only great for the environment, but it also allows you to eat fresh food out of the garden daily.
If you want a clearly-structured and symmetrically-planted garden, then a formal garden is for you. It is a garden that has a classic feel with geometrical shaped bushes and trees. A landscaper can create this look for you by shaping the foliage and even planting white cypress pine to add some elegance. There are also various kinds of ornaments, statues, or fountains that you can place around the formal garden to add to extra classic flair.
Renovating the front and backyard is a great way to spruce up any outdoor space, whether it be for entertaining, relaxing, or to sell your house. No matter if you just want to renovate one part of the yard or the entire piece of it, there are so many unique landscaping ideas to choose from.
Backyard vs. Front Yard Landscaping
The backyard is an oasis that family and friends gather in to enjoy time together. Some landscaping ideas to consider are a fire pit in the middle of the backyard that you can roast marshmallows or roast hotdogs over on a cool summer night.
An outdoor kitchen is another great landscaping idea that can be easily installed. Having an outdoor kitchen space is ideal for those summer nights where you can cook pizzas in a pizza oven or roast vegetables on the grill.
The next landscaping idea for the backyard is a comfortable and cozy patio. Situating a patio amongst a lush garden or beside a pool is the perfect place, and if you are looking for the extra shade, you may want to have a pergola installed.
A pergola is a structure that is built to protect you from the sun or rain, and it has a solid roof with insulated sides. So, whether you are sipping hot tea in the winter or iced tea in the summer outside, a pergola can keep you comfortable.
Another great landscaping idea for the backyard is adding a stone pathway across the yard; this creates an appealing and mysterious look to the yard. Not only that, kids and pets will have a fun time stepping across the stone pathway.
Consult with your landscaper to find the perfect stone or a specific shape that will complement your yard the best; stone is also a fairly inexpensive addition to any yard.
The Front Yard
The front yard is the first thing people see when they drive by or come up to your home. Therefore, it should have curb appeal, a welcoming entry, and be nicely groomed. Try adding flowers around the bed of a tree to add a pop of color to the front yard or some stone leading to the front door.
Your landscaper can help you find unique trees and different plants like boxwood or grasses to pair together to create an eye-catching front yard. Lining the driveway with pretty perennials or neatly trimmed hedges creates an attractive entry driveway.
Curb appeal can further be added by installing a curved brick retaining wall around the entrance way leading up to the front door. This is a welcoming idea that will have guests feeling the warmth of your home even before they step through the door.
Speak with your landscaper about the best plants or bushes to plant around the retaining wall, as you don’t want them to be too large and overgrow against the wall.
There are so many great landscaping ideas for the back and front yard to choose from to make your home feel even more special and cozy. Every yard is different so finding the right plants, flowers, statues, or decorations for it might take some time, but in the end, you will be left with a beautiful yard for entertaining, gardening, eating meals, and enjoying some quality alone time with a good book.
Landscape Pitfalls – 5 Mistakes to Avoid
Landscaping can prove to be a challenge to many who want to tackle it without the experience. It takes sufficient planning and budgeting to do it correctly. Many people take landscaping lightly and go into it blindly, only to find themselves troubled with landscaping issues later. Here we’ve listed a few things to avoid when installing a landscape design. You must avoid these planting mistakes as much as possible to limit issues later on.
1. Planting too close together
We all know the basics of what plants need to survive: sunlight and water. However, plants also need space to thrive. Space requirements vary depending on the plant, but for plants to survive and thrive, they shouldn’t have to compete with other plants for nutrients in the ground. The best way to achieve this is by providing plants with ample space between each other. You also want plants to be able to spread out once established. Landscaping just doesn’t look right when plants are too close together.
2. Planting on a steep slope
While it may be possible to do and while some plants can survive on a slope, it will prove to be difficult to maintain plants on a steep slope. For one, mowing on a steep slope is an almost impossible task to do, let alone having to trim, edge, and perform other landscaping duties. Watering on a steep slope and keeping water from just cascading down can be challenging as well. More importantly, planting on steep slopes can cause erosion that might endanger your home.
3. Planting too close to your property line
This can become a serious legal issue if not handled correctly. Typically, property lines are delineated by fences or even shrubs. But encroaching into another property with your landscaping can be a violation of property rights. If you plant too close to the property line, there’s a good chance that your plants will end up growing into another property—an easy case for a legal suit should the other property owners decide to pursue it. Of course, different states and local areas have different laws, so if you’re not exactly up for reading property law, just don’t plant anything near the property line.
4. Planting in incorrect light
Although a given, you’ll be surprised at how many people fall into this easy trap. We understand that landscaping is a tedious job, and sometimes it may just feel better to finish a project even though it means working through the night. However, without proper lighting, you’ll end up missing and making too many errors. You also won’t get the real picture of how plants look together in the daylight. It’s better to work in the day when there’s light rather than make mistakes you’ll have to redo later on.
5. Planting tree roots too deep
This is a simple matter of survival. If you’ve spent hundreds on a tree and plant it too deep, it’s likely that your tree will die, and you’ll just waste your money. Plants need oxygen for cell metabolism, and when trees are planted too deep, the roots struggle to obtain the needed oxygen in order to survive.
Softscape, Hardscape, Xeriscape – What’s the Difference?
In landscaping, softscape refers to all horticultural aspects of your yard that are living. This simply includes all the varieties of plants, trees, shrubberies and anything else that’s alive in your landscape. This also includes grass and even weedy plants that have grown into the area. The purpose of the softscape is literally to soften the look of the landscape. The softscape is meant to bring life into the design. A simple addition of plants to any area, indoor or outdoor, can provide a huge difference in the overall look and feel of the area. A landscaped area that is lacking in softscape will prove to be completely unbalanced. Incorporating just the right amount of softscape in a design can be the difference between a landscape that’s enjoyable and one that’s not.
Opposite of the softscape, the hardscape is everything that’s inanimate in a landscaped area. This includes any and all paved areas, walls, and other structures such as patios and decks. Anything that is not alive in landscaping is considered hardscape. Typical materials for hardscape includes stone, concrete, bricks, etc.
The hardscape also plays an equally important role in landscaping as most of it serves functional purposes. For example, pavers are used for walking on. Walls are used to divide and separate outdoor areas. Patios and decks are used for entertaining. It’s important to have the right amount of hardscape that’s needed for whatever the purpose of the landscaped area is.
Too much hardscape may not leave enough room for the softscape to flourish, and not enough hardscape may prove too difficult for the landscape to provide functional use.
The term xeriscape literally means “dry landscape.” The purpose of it is to eliminate the need for excessive irrigation and was designed mainly for areas that experience drought regularly. One practice in xeriscape landscaping involves the use of typical desert plants such as cactus and succulents.
Since these plants thrive in the dry environment naturally, it makes sense to put them in landscaping where there isn’t enough water to go around. Another typical practice in xeriscape landscaping is the reduction of lawn grass. Grass requires a tremendous amount of watering or rain in order to survive and be supple. Many people opt to use turf grass in their landscaping to eliminate the hassle of watering and mowing.
However, for those looking for a more natural option, there are xeriscape grass seeds that are more drought-resistant than regular grass. For those who are living in non-desert areas but still wish to practice xeriscape landscaping, it may mean something completely different. You don’t necessarily have to use desert plants in your landscape.
Xeriscape landscaping can simply mean applying measures that will help in the conservation of water. You can group plants together that have the same water requirements to eliminate waste or opting to use plants that are native to the area since they are well adapted to the typical climate and will need less maintenance in general.
Planting trees in the front or backyard can really compliment the entire yard and add beauty to the home for years to come. That being said, not every tree is designed to thrive in every kind of climate or look beautiful in every kind of yard. Certain types of trees are more suitable for a yard than others, so before planting, do some research on trees designed to grow in the climate you are living in and which ones will add the most pizzazz to your yard.
If you are a homeowner who does not like to do major clean-ups of leaves, then stay away from the messy Magnolia or the Sweet Gum tree that is next to impossible to rake up.
Take a look at the list below of the various trees that are suited to each climate, and that can instantly spruce up the curb appeal in the front or add shadiness in the back.
Which Trees are Best for Landscaping?
If you are living in a cold climate that experiences bone-chilling winters, then it may be a good idea to plant winter hardy trees that can withstand temperatures that dip below 0 degrees. There are luckily many different trees that can survive during those cold months of the year, such as Evergreen trees. These trees are tough and thrive in acidic soil with full sun. So, if you live in a cold but sunny area, then this tree may be perfect for you. Due to their thick foliage, these trees make great hedges and privacy shields when planted near one another.
If the Evergreen is not for you, then perhaps the Juniper tree that has a sparkling blue color amongst the snowy background and love full sun locations. Or, the American Beech Tree which can beauty up any large yard with its golden yellow tint. Be mindful with this tree that it does best in wide spaces because it can grow up to sixty feet wide – so if you have a big property or farm than this will thrive there more than on a tiny lot.
If you reside in a more moderate climate and don’t experience temperatures in the negative often or at all, then there are so many trees to choose from. The Pacific Dogwood tree is a beautiful, white, flowering tree that can be grown in full sun or little shade as long as it receives ample watering. Avoid planting the Pacific dogwood in a very shady area, like in the backyard someplace because it can wilt if the leaves remain wet for too long and do not get the chance to dry out from the sun. The Pacific Dogwood compliments almost any front yard and is typically seen in British Columbia, Canada or central California.
Living in the temperate climate, slightly similar to a moderate climate, requires trees that can withstand the non-extreme weather. Two of the best trees for a temperate climate are the White Oak and the Sycamore tree. The White Oak is a majestic-looking tree that is a durable addition to any front or backyard. The White Oak requires partial shade to full sun, so it should thrive any place you plant it. The Sycamore tree is another beautiful tree that can add a lot of shade to your home if that is what you are looking for. This tree grows best in a large or small space and prefers a lot of sunlight.
If you live in a tropical climate, then you may want to plant some fruit trees that not only look beautiful while they blossom, but will give you fruit for breakfast in the mornings. Some trees that grow best in a tropical climate are the Passion Fruit tree that requires a strong fence for the vines of it to grow on, the Guava tree that reaps delicious fruit and loves the sun, and the Pomegranate tree that thrives in the sun and reaps a berry-like fruit.
It is important before planting any tree that you research the climate you are living in and what trees thrive in it and which ones do not. You do not want to go to all the work to plant a tree that is not suited to your climate and have it die. Trees make beautiful additions to any yard, and they are something that you and your family can enjoy for many years as they grow and blossom.
In general, some beautiful trees that are common choices of landscapers in North America are the Sugar Maple, Red Oak, Silver Maple, Weeping Willow, and the Magnolia. These trees are attractive staples in most yards of a moderate climate.
Hiring a Landscape Professional vs. DIY
When it comes to the simple planting of trees and flowers, doing it yourself is a rather easy and doable task. Before beginning any task, ask yourself how big the job is – the key to a successful yard is knowing if the job is too big for you to handle and one that needs a professional’s help. Here is the breakdown of jobs that are more suitable for a professional and ones that can easily be done by the homeowner.
- If you want to plant flowers or build small flower boxes, then this job can easily be a DIY job. All you need is a good pair of gloves, soil, and some garden tools to get the job done. If you are wanting to line a pathway to the front door, try some boxwood or small shrubs that add texture and symmetry.
- If you desire to have built-in lights in the garden or yard, then you will want to seek a professional’s help. Hardwiring is not something that should be a DIY project if you are not experienced, plus you want the job done right. A professional landscaper can install garden or yard lights accurately for you, and it is a fairly inexpensive job to have them do.
- When it comes to remodeling a large space, hiring a landscaper is a good idea. Not only will they probably be able to get the job done a lot quicker than you will because of their equipment and team available, but they can also provide you with great remodeling ideas and even find the lowest prices for materials through their connections.
- If you are an avid gardener or yard-up-keeper, then doing small DIY projects may be more beneficial to you. When there is no time constraint on your project, then that makes it an enjoyable DIY activity.
- Installing pools or outdoor kitchens are complex jobs that should be handled by a professional landscaper. A landscaper can work with a pool contractor and ensure that the pool is installed safely and is designed to suit your yard. With an outdoor kitchen, it is better to leave the gas lines, electricity, and water issues to the professional so that it is installed correctly and safely.
- Building an outdoor fire pit is something that can easily be a DIY project. A fire pit is a great addition to a backyard because the family can gather around it in the summertime and roast marshmallows around it. An outdoor fire pit can easily be constructed by a beginner and elaborately constructed by an experienced individual.
There are pros and cons to doing a job yourself or hiring a professional landscaper to take over. When it comes down to it, the job must be done correctly and safely. Before getting started on any project, ask yourself if you think you will be able to complete the project accurately or if you think a professional could get it done quicker and safer. There is nothing better than standing back and admiring one’s one work, but a landscaper has certain skills that the regular homeowner does not, making them a better worker for more complex jobs.