The planning and design stage of the landscaping provides you with the opportunity to consider and prepare for every aspect of your future landscape’s use. Consider what you would like to achieve with your landscape. For example, will you need a play area for children and pets? Would you like to have a vegetable garden? Also consider the natural attributes (or problem areas) of your property. Are there extremely sunny or shady areas? Are there very wet or dry areas? If so, choose plants that will thrive in these locations. Take stock of your existing yard from both inside and outside your home. What do you see when you look out your windows? What would you like to see? Do you have a great view to showcase or maybe an eyesore you’d like to screen out? Could you use a little more privacy? Also, think about what you’d like your landscape to do for you. Do you need climate control? More cool shade in summer or warm direct sun on cold winter mornings? Would you like to block or redirect wind? Where could you use a patio or sidewalk? Our weather is amazing; make this outdoor living space work for you.

Principles of Design

There are several basic principles of design to consider when planning the landscape Along with the ones listed below, remember the importance of simplicity and harmony in designing.

Balance – Balance can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical is a more formal style of design with materials on one side mirrored on the other. Asymmetrical balance can be achieved by using different elements to create a more informal equilibrium. This may require using a group of smaller shrubs to counterbalance a large tree on the opposite side.

Unity – Group plants to achieve a unifying effect in the landscape (usually in groups of 3, 5 or 7). Plants can be grouped according to color, texture, or form. However, some variety in color, plant material, hardscaping textures, etc., add interest to the landscape.

Rhythm – Repetition of elements (colors, textures, plant form) in the landscape provides a feeling of continuity and helps lead the eye through the landscape.

Accent – Accent is also referred to as dominance. Balance and rhythm can help lead the eye through the design to the focal point (accent). Examples of focal points may be a building, large tree or bed of bright flowers in front of a row of green shrubs.

Measure and map your property. Next sketch from a street or property line then work from corner to corner, measuring and sketching around the entire perimeter. Map each existing feature of your landscape, including fences, sidewalks and driveways, pools, patios and planting beds. Use simple symbols like circles or “x” marks to represent trees and shrubs. Locate each element by measuring from a corner along a wall of your house, then out at a 90-degree angle. Your completed survey will provide a valuable bird’s-eye view of your property―the first step in designing a new water-wise landscape. When thoughtfully designed, drought-tolerant landscapes can create the effect of windows, curtains and shades in your outdoor spaces. Landscape designers often use the shape and mass of plants to direct or redirect views, enhancing what you see when you look out, as well as keeping others from seeing into your home or yard.

Vegetation can either showcase a stunning scene or screen out objectionable sights such as garbage cans or maintenance areas. Layers of plants offer the best insulation against eyesores, although even a veil of leaves can help make an unsightly view look better.

If privacy is a priority, use landscaping to transform a bare yard into a cozy secret garden. Lacy foliage provides a subtle curtain of separation; dense hedges offer almost complete seclusion. Vegetation can also create buffers against pedestrian traffic and environmental intrusions. Tall hedges define property lines and reinforce fences, while low plantings are often enough to create an effective psychological barrier.

Deciduous trees should be placed on the south, east and west sides of the building to take advantage of the potential benefits of summer shade and winter sun to heat or cool the building. Evergreens are good insulators but limit sunlight, so try to plant them on the North side of the building. In order to protect the home from cold, use trees and shrubs as insulators or windbreaks along the building

Source USU Extension Publications: Water-wise Landscapes, Water-wise Landscape Designs