Landscape Design: Seven Tips for beginners
If your garden just needs new plantings or a complete overhaul, reworking the landscape can be overwhelming. We’ve collected seven top tips for beginners wanting to tackle landscape design. Because when it comes to landscape design there are many choices you can make, but it can all be very confusing. But, if you re-frame your thinking and think of your garden as you would a room inside your home, it can make the project easier to process. The same key steps you take inside can also guide your designs outside, too.
Determine Landscaping wants and needs
Start with your needs and wants list. A play space for the kids? Do you want to grow your own vegetables? Need some seating? Would the family make use of a deck and outdoor dining area?
Next do some very rough drawings of the area with thoughts of where you’d like to put things; of course they don’t need to be master plans (they can just be ideas), your landscape design can start with just the basics and stick drawings, lines, symbols and circles. This is the best way to play around with ideas without a lot of time and commitment.
Think About Location
Review the sun, wind and weather patterns. You might want to place an outdoor living space on a certain side of the house, but will the area get the right amount of sun at the time of day you’ll be using it? Get it wrong and you’ll be dining in cool shade or blinded over your morning coffee. And wind whistling around a corner could quickly extinguish fire pit aspirations or day dreaming in the sun on a summers day. Unfortunately, these can be common mistakes in landscape design when you’re starting. We recommend that your design takes into account what the sun and wind do at different times of the day and year.
Sit Down and Enjoy Your Landscape
Live with it and in it for a while. Physically move around your garden, walk the tree line or imaginary pathway, consider what it would be like to have the features on your wants and needs list. Do you have room for the play area? Does it flow? Sit down relax where you think the patio could go, have an outdoor picnic to see where the sun moves during dining time. Even if it means mapping out and getting creative with string lines it is important to experience the area. Coming to quick conclusions about your landscape can lead to choices that don’t work in the long term. When you spend more time outdoors, you’ll see areas you naturally gravitate to and want to be in.
Home and garden television shows provide great inspiration, but they are misleading! They show grand reveals of full outdoor makeovers in just a few days—but often you’ll find they have a team of 20+, which is not the case for most beginner gardeners. Creating a landscape and slowly developing a plan is part of making landscaping an enjoyable rewarding process.
Lead from your master plan, but start small; maybe a vegetable plot, adding natives for privacy, or a general clean and clear to make it a fresh canvas. Sure, it’s great to make the most of weekends and holiday time to get the most impact. And who doesn’t love the quick results of a fully committed working bee? But remember you can chip away at your landscape an hour or two at a time, this way you worry less about filling everything up all at once.
Find a Focal Point
Good garden design has a focal point or a range of focal points, this is an easy concept to put in place when it comes to landscape design for beginners. The focal point could be a sculpture, water feature, or a stunning plant, a tree, or even possibly a local landmark if you have a view of it from most vantage points (and you’re not going to get built out).
Focus on Scale and Pacing
This can be the trickiest principle in landscape design for beginners. Scale and pacing give your landscape a cohesive look. Aim to have variety in shape, size, and colour; tall plants against a building or bordering a flower garden, and pathways to lead the eye through the space. The real skill is finding balance between repetition and new elements. Repetition gives a sense of unity, but remember you don’t want it to be boring. An occasional new elements is best, you don’t want a mish-mash having all different elements throughout.
Be Open to Change
Unless you’re strongly committed to something, be honest about what you like—and what may have just been a trend you got caught up in at the time. Make sure the elements you incorporate reflect your style—it’s okay to try something new, and it is more than ok to reevaluate when something missed the mark. Just like the seasons your tastes and the way you use the space will change over time, kids will grow up, you may entertain less or more, and the time you have to devote to your space will change too.
Final word for beginners: Patience is key to landscape design for beginners. You can always move features or carefully replant them if you realise that maybe you got the wrong spot initially.