The best landscape designs are based on careful planning that consider location, lifestyle and resources to create a useful, beautiful property.

The landscape of a property is composed of two major elements: Hardscapes and Plantscapes. There are a host of sub-elements and even more possible variations. To achieve the absolute best results a landscape should be planned in as much detail as possible, taking into account the orientation of the lot, the house, any other buildings on the property, and how each part of property will be used. The size, growth pattern and life expectancy of plant materials should also be considered.

The best landscape designs divide a property into zones, providing a space for every use and focal points to draw the eye into the zone.


The hardscapes in a landscape are composed of driveways, walkways, patios, decks, porches, fences, pools or fountains and outbuildings, which may include a garden shed, garage, pool house, greenhouse, etc. These elements should be carefully planned to position them for ease of access to the main house or service areas, orientation to the sun and relationship to plantings.

Pavement Options

Intimate gravel patio with rock wall - landscapeTo avoid huge swaths of concrete, consider using alternate materials like aggregate, brick or stained and textured concrete for driveways and walkways. Walkways may also be made from gravel, flagstone, or tiles. Incorporating curves into walkways, patios, pool surrounds and other large areas adds interest and helps to keep the eye moving through the landscape instead of focusing on a large rectangle of pavement.

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Fences are not just to separate one property from another. They can be used in the landscape to separate service areas from “living” areas and to create intimate settings for entertaining or reflection. For example, a low wall could be used around the edge of a patio (as in the image above) to create an intimate seating and dining area while maintaining a view of the larger yard. A lattice wall could be used to mask HVAC units, storage sheds or trash bins.


Outbuildings can be used to protect and organize yard tools, to store pool chemicals, equipment and accessories, to provide a protected place for potting and planting materials. Generally, their function is to keep your landscape neat and organized. Ideally, outbuildings will coordinate (not necessarily match) with the main house in color and style to produce a cohesive look throughout your property.


back yard garden landscape Plantscapes are literally the life of your landscape. They consist of structural elements, like trees, large shrubs and garden areas and of lawns and beds. Plants fall into two classes: perennials, live from year to year as a permanent part of your landscape; annuals and biennials, on the other hand, are replanted each year or two. They grow for one or two seasons and then will need to be replaced unless they reseed themselves.

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Planning your plantscape requires as much care and thought as planning the hardscapes.


trees frame the house landscapeTrees should be planted far enough from buildings, drives and walkways that they do not damage the pavement as they grow, but close enough to provide cooling shade to outdoor living areas. Plantings should be located so as to frame the house and provide unobstructed access to doorways and walks.

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xeric garden landscapeA xeric garden can be a lush and colorful part of the landscape. Garden areas can be provided for growing vegetables, herbs and flowers. Often, herbs, flowers and some vegetables can be grown as borders beneath shrubs as part of your landscape beds. But be aware that many herbs spread quickly and can take over a bed. You may want to grow these plants in containers. Containers are also ideal for small city gardens. Everything from herbs and vegetables to small trees can be grown in them, so you can literally have a landscape almost anywhere, even an apartment deck.

Plantscapes should also be well adapted to your location. Choose plants that are native to your area or have been adapted. This will keep diseases from your plants and will reduce watering requirements. Xeriscaping, using only native plants and those that require little or no supplemental watering, has become very popular in recent years. Xeriscaping does not mean “no maintenance”, however. Plants still need to be monitored for pests, pruned and cared for.

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