Landscaping is a delightful combination of art and practicality. Following proper design principles you can create a scene that is both beautiful to look at and serves your purposes well. Professional landscape designers begin that process by considering the space available and dividing it into ‘activity zones’.
An activity zone is an area that serves a specific purpose – a garden for flowers or vegetables, a yard for walking on, a pond for beauty, a patio for relaxing to look at them all. Those areas, and several more like walkways, fences and sheds are all part of the landscape and each needs to be considered in relation to the whole.
In order to create a whole that is pleasant to the eye and functional, you’ll need to sketch out different designs – or use software to assist you.
In each area you’ll want to think about which kind of flowers and other plants will grow best in your zone. You’ll need to consider whether to create a multi-leveled step garden with the tallest in back, the next in the middle, the shortest in front. That works well, for example, in a rectangular garden with one side against the wall of your house. Or, maybe you want a circular garden that allows viewing from every side.
You’ll want to consider areas for sheds to hold tools, the lawnmower, etc. Those areas will typically need to be flattened. Walkways, too, will need to be stepped or leveled, as will any patio unless it’s raised.
You’ll want to play in your imagination – on paper or on the computer – with various positions for trees of different species. Do you want shade trees for sitting under or fruit trees for growing your own apples, cherries and other fruit?
You’ll need to drill down into some details about pruning practices, in order to keep your home safe from windblown branches and to keep your trees healthy. You’ll want to consider the proper time of year to transplant flowers and shrubs, in order to keep the garden under control.
If you have pets or young children – or if you just want to separate off an area for esthetic purposes – you’ll need to consider fencing. That can be in the form of ordinary chain link, or you may want something a little more stylish in the form of wrought iron, redwood or brick.
You should consider how much time and effort you want to put into maintenance after you’ve established your garden. Some plants require a considerable amount of care or will need to be replanted year after year. Annuals, for example, are plants or flowers that experience their entire life cycle in one year – hence the name. But that means re-doing the effort every year.
You should take into account the amount of sunshine vs shade for your various areas. That will have an impact on the type of plants you choose. Similarly, the amount of water available from rainfall versus the need to water will influence your choice. Some plants are very sun or drought tolerant, others do better in partial shade with perpetually moist soil.
So, above all, you’ll need to consider your particular geography, climate and specific conditions. That will determine how long your growing season is, what mix of evergreen, deciduous or fruit producing trees you want, and a host of other variables.
But you don’t need a degree in landscape design to get started and produce satisfying results. Start simple and add or re-do as your knowledge and experience grows. Expect a few failures. You’ll soon discover that your efforts are bearing fruit as your landscape design skills flower.