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How to Bring Great Landscaping to Your Home
If you want the outside of your home to draw eyes and become the envy of the neighborhood, then landscaping is the way to go. It increases your curb appeal, therefore going a long way toward increasing your home’s value. It can also enhance your yard’s appearance while helping you deal with problems like a lack of privacy or areas with bad drainage.
Landscaping refers to alterations to the physical appearance and infrastructure of outdoor spaces. This might mean making your gardening hobby easier by installing solutions for problems such as water control, irrigation, flower beds, and containers. Alternatively, you might prioritize turning your yard into a place where you want to spend your time.
Additionally, landscaping is an amazing investment for those thinking of selling their home in the future. Beautiful landscaping is estimated to speed a home’s sale by about six weeks. Investing 5 percent of your home’s overall value into landscaping can offer a return on investment of up to 150 percent. That’s more than almost any indoor remodel! Even a single tree over 25 feet tall can shade your lawn while helping to cut down on your heating and cooling costs by up to 10 percent.
What is Landscaping and How to Get Started
Ponds, sculptures, and flower beds tend to come to mind first when we think of landscaping. Nonetheless, landscaping encompasses hardscapes such as patios, retainer walls, boundary fences, and pathways. Landscaping can also incorporate larger plants, including trees, lawns, and shrubbery.
Like interior design, landscaping seeks to create a coherent feel or theme for your outdoor space, so landscaping professionals will often take into account the look of your furniture and outdoor living decorations. Landscaping is most often done by professionals, but a homeowner or hobbyist can also handle a few minor landscaping projects.
Landscaping Versus Gardening
Landscaping and gardening both focus on cultivating and maintaining enjoyable and functional outdoor spaces. Whether it’s to enhance natural beauty, to grow food, or to add curb appeal while making the outdoors functional and enjoyable, landscaping and gardening often go hand in hand.
Landscaping sets itself apart from gardening, because it focuses on design and working with all aspects of the outdoor space. It can be easy to think of landscaping as the framework and architectural aspects of the outdoor parts of your property, and gardening as the act of growing and caring for the individual plants that might be part of this larger plan.
If you’re hoping to exercise your green thumb and grow a gorgeous garden, then your landscaping plan can help you create the perfect spaces for your garden, such as raised beds and systems for rainwater collection.
To Get Started, Know Why You Are Landscaping
There are many reasons to landscape, including safety concerns, functionality, making play spaces for children, and integrating your property with the theme and feel of your home. These reasons dictate your priorities and what you’re willing to pay for.
Make a List of Needs and Wants
Begin with making a list of the things that your landscaping project needs.
Do you need a space for an outdoor grill? Is there a sink-hole in the ground that needs to be filled and covered? Do you need a space for the kids to play outside? Are you needing to build flower beds for gardening? Needs can even go as far as wanting to introduce shade and privacy to your property when your lawn is too sunny or open.
Additionally, you should consider the practical side of landscaping. This might include:
- Considerations for future development, such as plans for after the kids grow out of play structures.
- An estimate of how many people you generally entertain in your outdoor space at a time.
- Thoughts about what the space will look like and offer in the different seasons.
- Research on zoning and homeowners association rules and regulations.
Next, brainstorm ideas for what you want your outdoor space to look and feel like. Knowing the theme, look, feel, and purpose of your intended space will help you communicate well with your landscaper. It can be helpful to come to the table with possible sketches, plant varieties that you love, and lawn decorations and fixtures that you really enjoy.
Your landscape designer may not be able to accommodate all of your requests due to restrictions on space, zoning, climate, budget, or other considerations. However, your wish list will give them an idea of what you’re looking for so that they can design something that fits you and your home.
Perform a Site Analysis
A site analysis discusses the realistic features and factors of a landscaping project. This often includes:
- Looking at the property footprint.
- Making a list of features, such as plants, hardscapes, infrastructure, utility lines, and fences.
- Considering the topography, soil type, hydrozones, and drainage.
- Taking stock of the site lines and views.
- Noting hazards or safety concerns.
- Evaluating the property for areas of sun and shade, wind, and planting zones.
Develop a Landscaping Plan
Having a plan for your landscaping can help you make tough decisions that have to do with altering your property and spending money. Landscaping is a financial investment in your home as well as a lifestyle investment to better your living space. It’s best to think everything through and do it right the first time.
Consider Your Timing
Landscape professionals recommend getting your professional evaluations done in the fall, working through the design process in the winter, and beginning to work on the landscaping projects in the spring. This schedule gives you time to think everything over.
Timelines may differ depending on where you live and what climate and scheduling considerations you are dealing with. For example, you may have to take into account a delayed landscaping phase if you live in an area with late frosts.
Your timeline may also incorporate the duration until your plant structures and other features mature. Planted trees may not offer you the shade that you desire for a few years, and a privacy fence will give you much quicker results when it comes to blocking off your yard from view then planting small shrubbery that will need to grow in for another year.
Basic Landscaping Terms and Common Rules of Green Thumb
- Building Limitations: These are the codes and regulations for developing your property. Sometimes there are limitations on sheds and greenhouses or water-use restrictions. On other occasions, a homeowners’ association will outlaw the use of certain materials.
- Drainage: Drainage refers to where your water runoff goes, and whether rain pools in particular parts of your yard. Bad drainage could cause problems with the soil, with your home’s foundation, and with insects and pests in your yard.
- Footprint: Your property’s footprint is a visual representation of the dimensions and shape of your property.
- Hardscapes: Hardscapes refer to manmade solid surfaces and structures on your property.
Do Your Hardscaping First
It’s best to design and take care of any hardscaping you’re going to do, such as building paths and sidewalks, redoing the driveway, or putting together a patio, before starting your planting. Hardscaping often requires construction, which may compact the soil or damage new turf and plants. Once the hardscaping is done, you can begin fixing your soil and planting.
Cultivate Healthy Soil
Adding organic matter to your soil will make it fertile so that it encourages new growth in your plants and begins a healthy lifecycle in your yard. Good soil additions include shredded pine bark, mushroom compost, and leaf mold, among others.
Don’t Forget the Side Yard
While side-yards are small and often overlooked, they can easily be dressed up to improve the appearance of your home. Many people keep garbage bins and other utilities in the side yard. These areas can become more attractive and look more intentional if you pave the area under the garbage cans. For example, you can install a pathway that leads to a backyard living space through the side yard or create a gardening nook with tools (chainsaws, leaf blowers, weed eaters etc) and necessities for quick yard maintenance.
Pick Your Plants Intentionally
Pick Plants That Will Enjoy Your Yard
It’s important to know about the breed of trees that you’re putting into the ground and how much they will grow when they mature. It’s also important to think about what plants will work well in your property’s environment. This includes soil type, the weather patterns and amount of sun you get at your home, and whether you can supply enough water for the pants to keep them happy.
Healthy-looking and well-maintained plants are going to make a better impression than sickly plants that don’t look at home in the environment created for them. Keep in might what kind of plants thrive where you live and aim to please those.
When to Choose Annuals or Perennials
Another consideration for when you’re picking plants has to do with whether or not the plants you want are annuals or perennials. Using too many annuals is considered somewhat wasteful, as these are plants that are alive for only one season and do not return year after year. This also makes them more high-maintenance, since you will need to continue planting them or another variety each year.
Your landscaping will be more low-maintenance if you opt for perennials throughout your permanent flowerbeds. You can then use annuals in less permanent spaces such as planters, window boxes, hanging baskets on the patio, and other places where it is less necessary to dig them up and replace them every year.
Let Your Plants and Flowers Follow Your Theme
The last major consideration for picking plants has to do with whether or not the plants can help your landscape design develop a theme that is pleasing to the eye.
Too many different kinds of plants, distributed without a clear pattern, can be disorienting and confusing. Instead, repetition is very useful when picking and placing plants. While everything doesn’t have to be symmetrical by any means, using the same variety of plants or a thematic array of complementary colors and shapes can help lend coherence and an overall compositional beauty to your landscape.
Tips for Greening Your Landscape
Environmental responsibility can start with the framework of your landscaping by using sustainably-sourced plants and materials, and eco-friendly gardening options. Planning eco-measures right into your landscape will make it much easier to continue implementing these sustainability procedures in the long run.
- Find and plant trees, flowers, and shrubs native to your region, as opposed to foreign grasses and plants that are difficult to maintain, or plants that may be an invasive species in your yard.
- If you’re willing to have a few small animals in your yard, use plants such as barrier hedges to create habitats for creatures.
- The use of hardscapes as opposed to turf for outdoor gathering spaces can greatly reduce water usage across your yard.
- Use environmentally friendly materials such as permeable pavers for your landscapes.
- Recycle biodegradable materials such as newspapers and paper bags into layers of garden mulch.
- Reduce or avoid chemicals altogether. According to the EPA, water runoff from our yards is the cause of 70 percent of America’s water pollution.
- Use a reel mower or leave your clippings on the ground for your grass to break down when mowing the lawn.
If you’re thinking about resale value, it’s a good idea to keep your outdoor materials as low-maintenance as you can. According a recent survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), 92 percent of Americans want a yard that is low maintenance.
If you’re looking to lower the maintenance of your landscape decisions from the get-go, you’ll want to pay attention to the plants that you put in your beds. Make sure you know how big your trees should be when they mature. Are they going to drop too many leaves or demand a lot more water than your climate has to offer? Will your shrubbery need to be pruned every season or just once a year?
You can also invest in lower-maintenance hardscape materials, such as brick, stone, and composite, which don’t require painting or sealing, as opposed to wood or other materials that will need resealing and will break down more quickly.
It’s important to be honest with yourself and your landscape designer about how much time you think you’ll be willing and able to put into maintaining your landscape. Honesty will help you make the right decisions for your landscaping renovations.
When to Do It Yourself and When to Hire an Expert
Hiring a landscape professional can save you time and money. Landscape professionals know what to look and plan for when surveying your property. This means that they can save you from making expensive and unnecessary mistakes. They may also be able to propose solutions that you wouldn’t even think of.
Landscaping is a big project that takes time and a strong back. If you aren’t able to allocate the time for it, a single small landscape project could take you all summer to complete. Hiring professionals gives you more time to enjoy your landscaped yard during nice weather.
Every DIY project will have hidden costs when it comes down to the scope of the overall project. It will certainly cost you time and effort. It is also likely be your own vehicle that will incur wear and tear from lugging heavy materials from the supplier, and chances are you won’t be getting the same deals and options regarding supplies that an industry professional would.
It’s also a good rule to hire landscapers when you can’t afford to make a mistake. Professionals will be able to advise you and expertly install all aspects of your landscaping plan so that it’s done right the first time. Mistakes can set you back even more than you would have saved by doing it yourself. Make sure you have a flexible budget if you plan to do it yourself.
Consulting with a landscape professional may cost you money, but it can save you in the long-run from making massive budgeting mistakes. Landscapers can help you stay on budget by being honest with you about the real cost of some of your construction plans and guiding you away from expensive projects.
Professional landscapers are particularly important when:
- You are unfamiliar with gardening and picking plants.
- You are uncomfortable planning or designing your outdoor space.
- Your landscaping requires major hardscape construction, such as decks, patios, and porches.
- You need advice on permits and regulations.
- Your landscaping includes lighting, electrical work, and wiring.
- You’re adding in a water feature, pool, or spa.
- You’re installing an in-ground, automatic sprinkler system.
Landscape professionals can be called landscape architects, designers, or contractors. These different groups perform different jobs using different sets of skills, though you will often find that they have overlapping tasks and services.
- Landscape Architects: These professionals have a degree in landscape architecture and have passed a national examination to obtain their license.
- Landscape Designers: Landscape designers may not have a formal education, but they will often make sure that their work is accredited by professional associations. Designers most often work on small-scale and residential projects.
- Landscape Contractors: Contractors bring to life the plans and vision of the design, putting together both the hardscape and botanical elements of the landscaping project. Landscape contractors may also be willing to do routine maintenance on landscape features, depending on their business scope.
If your landscaping plans include building hardscapes and structures, you will probably be dealing with heavy materials like paving stones, flagstones, and concrete. You might also need to handle a few power tools and heavy duty equipment.
When you are doing a project like this by yourself, you are the one who will have to dig the holes, carry the stones, and place them. For many people, this is a physical difficulty, especially for those who are trying to fit these DIY projects in between already exhausting jobs.
If you’re doing a lot of manual labor by yourself, be careful and know your limits. Take generous breaks when you need them and drink plenty of water.
What Costs Can You Expect?
When collecting data from homeowners across America, HomeAdvisor found that the average cost of a landscaping installation was around $3,300.
Landscape design services tend to be on the lower side of this figure at around $50 to $150 per hour, while landscape architecture services are on the higher range at around $70 to $150 per hour. Some features and services can add additional costs, such as hydro-seeding a lawn and inground features.
Landscaping Ideas for Your Home
Front Yard Ideas
Front Planters Make for a Grand Entrance
Pick out different kinds of plants to surround your foundation and hide the blockiness of your home. Think about the plants in terms of texture and shape so that you have a harmonious variation that is beautiful and intriguing to look at. For instance, you can plant upright plants such as taller grasses in a bed next to shorter, rounder, or low-growing plants.
Driveway stonework and lamps can make a polished first impression for those that have long driveways or a lot of property surrounding their homes. While the idea of a gate may sound uninviting, a driveway gate can often feel more welcoming to visitors turning off the main road than a naked or unmarked drive.
If you’re not interested in the gated look, you can make a welcoming impression with driveway plantings and ground lighting.
Use walkways to lead your guests through the pathways you would prefer them to take. If your main door is on the side and not the front door, then make the path to the side your most prominent pathway.
You can also use walkways to lead guests through your landscaping and points of interest around your property. This doesn’t just mean large properties either. Smaller yards can also benefit from a walkway that leads guests to a shaded bench or a play area for the kids.
Outdoor Entertaining Spaces
For those who entertain frequently, it can make a lot of sense to create your backyard into a comfortable outdoor room. This often requires building well-planned hardscapes that match the architecture of the rest of the house.
Terraces and decks take your outdoor game up a notch, and they can be further augmented for entertaining with built-ins such as seat walls and outdoor sinks.
Fire Pits and Outdoor Fireplaces
Fire pits allow you to enjoy your outdoor space even when it’s cooler out than would normally be comfortable. Fire pits and outdoor fireplaces tend to be a hit when you’re entertaining, as you’ll find your guests will want to sit around a fire when it’s cool outside.
The most common water features are ornamental ponds and splash pools. However, spas and swimming pools are also desirable for those who like to play outside. Landscaping additions such as swimming pools should be done to satisfy your own lifestyle and outdoor goals, however, because pools on average incur a loss on investment.
An Outdoor Shelter
Garden arbors, pergolas, and gazebos all provide outdoor shelter that allows for some type of roof and seating.
Arbors are simply frameworks, sometimes wooden and sometimes made of metal, that act as trellises to support vines that would eventually cover the framework and provide shelter.
Pergolas and gazebos are decorative outdoor settings with man-made roofs. Pergolas often have column supports and a roof, while gazebos are frequently geometrically shaped with a pinnacle roof and bench seating.
Play structures include swing sets, jungle gyms, and treehouses to keep small children entertained and give them an outdoor space to use their energy and stay creatively engaged.
Where you put the play structure is an important concern during the landscaping process. Parents will most often want the play structure to be in easy view from the house so that they are able to look out of accessible windows to keep an eye on the children.
It’s also important for the play structure to be placed in the shade in very sunny climates or in an area with soft ground in the case of mishaps.
Dressed-Up Garden Shed
Garden sheds offer important storage for all the tools, pot and planters, and devices that keep your landscape looking beautiful. A drab garden shed, however, can dull down a beautiful landscape and be an eyesore on your property.
Maintenance to the garden shed is often overlooked since homeowners aren’t living inside of it and they’re not constantly concerned with it being comfortable and safe. However, a good garden shed can integrate beautifully with the surrounding landscape, as well as the home’s architecture, to create a polished effect that tells your guests how much you love your garden and everything that goes into it.
Putting a little thought into planting around the garden shed, giving it a path so that it is welcome in the landscape, and decorating it with window shutters, complementary colors, and wind chimes will allow this storage unit to occupy a place of pride in your landscape.
Add an Island
We often think of putting plants at the borders of our property and along the perimeters. But plants don’t just have to outline the yard, they can create a great effect by occupying a full space within the yard as well.
Garden islands redirect the flow of traffic around your yard and can give even the squarest yards a rounder and more natural appearance. You can use your island to plant taller grasses or shrubbery, and even a fewer smaller trees to give your landscaping a little height. Garden islands are also a way to break up your lawn or cut down on some of your water-guzzling grasses.
Install Multi-Use Posts
Most of the time, we think of growing our plants from the ground up, so it can be a constant struggle in our landscaping plans to add height and vertical points of interest. This is where installing posts around your yard can help. Posts have many uses to brighten the landscape and add an extra dimension.
Hanging or positioning planters on posts is a great way to keep your yard from looking too bottom-heavy. If you tend to have very moist soil, planters are a great opportunity for you to experiment with the kind of plants that need a drier soil or more drainage. Suspended planters allow you to have more control over the amount of water in the soil, making this an opportunity to diversify your garden.
Posts are also great supports for lanterns to keep your outdoor spaces lit. Furthermore, marvelous effects can be achieved by hanging overhead string lights from tall posts to give your yard a fantastic glow.
DIY landscaping ideas
Greenhouses allow you to nurture plants at a different humidity, light, and heat level from your normal outside environment. These are great for growing tropical plants, citrus fruits, orchids, and other plants that may not normally grow well in your area.
Greenhouses can be made in all shapes and sizes, and are a fairly straightforward project for someone handy with a few power tools.
DIY Garden Arbor
Garden arbors can add height to your landscape as well as a difference in shape that can look natural and integrated with surrounding plants. This is because once an arbor is installed, vine-like plants are generally trained to grow around it. These can be anything from grapevines to flowers like wisteria and clematis, or succulents like the string of pearls.
The only problem is in most cases garden arbors can be very expensive to purchase whole. However, if you have some handy know-how and are comfortable with a drill and saw, the garden arbor can make for a very successful DIY project to enhance the natural beauty of your landscape.
Repurposing Older Objects
A can of monochrome spray paint can hide all kinds of sins when it comes to our old and beloved objects. Your yard is another part of your home, making it a place that a spruced-up sentimental object might be welcome.
Beautiful lawn ornaments have been made with old bicycles that are spray painted over and rigged to carry flowers in a front basket holder. And while even modern bikes can lend themselves to this rustic vintage effect, other objects can fit the bill as well, such as repurposed birdhouses, old wagons from childhood, and even repainted old gardening equipment.
Sometimes a beautifully landscaped yard may feel overly manicured and less inviting to sit in and enjoy. Repurposed objects, dressed up with paint and flowers with apt positioning, can add a rustic lived-in dimension to a yard that might have otherwise felt stiflingly perfect.
Just be careful not to use this technique too much. It’s easy for a yard to start to feel cluttered when too many old objects are around.
Small Yard Landscaping
While landscaping might feel limited in small yards, there are many gardening options that can open a space up and make the yard perfect for relaxing.
Layered container gardens can minimize the space taken up by vegetable gardens, and trellises can add dimension to the landscape in small spaces. For those craving a water feature, small patio fountains can fit the bill, adding in the sound of trickling water.
If you have a small backyard space, you can combine relaxation spaces with planting spaces, either by using hardscapes with container planters or by forming parts of the lawn and garden into relaxation spaces.
Urban Landscaping Ideas
Urban landscaping revolves around adding touches of green to a primarily hardscaped environment. Many urban settings, such as townhomes, condominiums, apartments, and lofts, have access to outdoor spaces like decks, patios, or balconies.
Container gardens and potted plants can help to add nature to these spaces as well as make them functional for herb and vegetable gardens. Just remember, when it comes to urban landscaping, anything with drainage can hold plant life.
Outdoor string lights can also help to make urban spaces feel welcome for gatherings while bonsai trees can add points of interest and fascinating shapes to your space.
Eco-Friendly Landscaping Ideas
In 2011, the ASLA reported that “When it comes to the landscape elements, efficiency and sustainability reign supreme.” The same is even truer today. Efficiency and sustainability measures keep your yard low maintenance by conserving natural resources and using environmentally friendly materials and measures.
Eco-landscaping measures save you money on irrigation in the long-run with rain-water collection and a willingness to leave behind the traditional high-maintenance lawn for grasses more natural to each home’s local settings.
Eco-friendly measures don’t only help the environment, they also help to save you money on utility costs, including water and energy. Eco-friendly measures are also necessary in some cities and counties which have strict water usage policies and other forms of planting restrictions.
Recently, new innovations have come out to help reduce a home’s carbon and water footprint without requiring a lot of sacrifices when it comes to the relaxation space.
Installing Automatic Irrigation Systems
Automatic irrigation systems that run on a timer and are installed in the yard are more efficient when it comes to delivering water than using a hose or manual sprinkler. When properly set up, these irrigation systems can significantly reduce water usage while encouraging your plants to develop deeper and stronger root systems.
The timer option makes these watering systems a good choice for people who don’t have a lot of time to spend maintaining their yards or who can only water their lawns on specific days due to water restrictions.
Synthetic Turf or Artificial Grass
While the idea of synthetic turf may seem alien, it is actually a growing trend, particularly in Southern California, where frequent droughts force residents to lower their water footprint.
Synthetic turf does not require watering but still offers a lawn-like feel that will cushion a child’s fall and make a nice space to relax. It is also less prone to pet destruction from running and other pet behaviors.
Xeriscaping refers to landscaping in order to reduce water use. It is often used in dry climates where city water restrictions might prohibit the use of traditional turfs and lawn grasses. However, the utility of xeriscaping can be expanded to all climates.
One of the main ideas behind xeriscaping is the use of native and local plant breeds which require little or no extra irrigation to thrive. Traditional xeriscaping, as it is practiced in the dry climate of Colorado, uses succulents, ornamental grasses that don’t require much water, and rock gardens in addition to other native plants.
This doesn’t mean that you need to forego flowers altogether when xeriscaping. Instead, take inspiration from the wildflowers that grow in the open spaces near where you live. For instance, flowers like poppies don’t mind rocky gardens, dry or well-drained soil, and cool air, making them more appropriate for an alpine setting than daffodils, which require a lot of water.
Xeriscaping gets rid of monocultures like turf grass and encourages biodiversity by welcoming in more interesting local varieties of grasses.
Make a Rain Garden
Rain gardens, also known as downspout gardens, are irrigated by collected rainfall. These are often landscaped into a shallow depression where your home’s water runoff can collect and irrigate any water-hungry plants that you have.
You can also make a system of rain barrels to collect rainfall which can be used to water and further irrigate plants.
Trapping water-runoff away from storm drains and reducing chemical use in the yard can help to stop the water pollution that comes from stormwater runoff at the source.
Your reason for wanting to landscape probably has a lot to do with your personal relationship with your outdoor property. You might want to correct some safety issues, learn how to garden, or make it a nicer place to spend your time and have people over.
Landscaping renovations can be easy if you have a plan, ask a professional, and opt for low-maintenance features. This is a fun time to allow your outdoor space reflect your sense of style and creativity. Take your time to do your research and explore your options so that you can create the landscape that’s most pleasing to you and fits your priorities.