Making a Landscape Plan

In skimming through the book, The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook, we stumbled upon this concise explanation of how to properly create a landscaping plan for the home, and we just had to share it with our readers. Clearly, landscaping doesn’t have to be a chore or a headache, especially with the right planning. The following passage takes you step by step. Enjoy!

“A garden plan shows you the ups and downs of your property. It puts your ideas on paper, so you can see if they work. Planning clarifies what to highlight and what you should improve. You don’t need to make a professional-quality plan. Even a series of simple sketches can help you realize the garden of your dreams.

  1. Start with a base plan, showing some fundamental data about your lot and your home. Outline the lot on graph paper. Label known dimensions. Using a compass, mark North, South, East, and West. If you can copy the information from a boundary survey or construction plan of your property, it will save you measuring and drawing time.
  2. If there’s no survey, measure the lot’s perimeter with a distance roller, landscaper’s tape measure, or laser-measuring device all available at a hardware store. Note measurements on your sketch. Write distances to the nearest whole number.
  3. Mark location of utility lines, well, and septic system, since these affect the placement of landscape features.
  4. Observe the views from key rooms inside the house and mark their range on the plan.
  5. Indicate with arrows the direction of prevailing winds and the angle of the sun at different times of year.
Making a Landscape Plan
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Make several copies of your plan so you can test different ideas later in the process. On one plan, show existing gardens, trees, large shrubs, outdoor spigots, swing sets, and the like. As you study your site, note on the sketch anything that concerns you or that you may want to change. For instance, if the view of your neighbor’s garage bothers you, write that down on the site survey, so you can improve that when making your final plan.

As you progress on your garden-making journey, jot ideas on fresh copies of the basic plan. For example, do you need privacy? A windbreak? Summer shade? Outline areas where these conditions are desirable, noting what you need. Would you like to let more light onto your property? You may want to move small trees and shrubs, limb some up, take out others, and set out new plants where necessary. Keep in mind the principles of design as you begin to plan.

Dividing the Landscape

The public area is the façade that you show to the world. It includes the house, the entry path, the front door or area visible from the street, the driveway, lampposts, lawn, and foundation or other plantings. Your house is the key element, and any landscaping should enhance it. To show off your house to advantage, look at the house as a series of geometrical shapes (probably squares and rectangles) and balance those masses with trees and shrubs in your plan.

Depending upon the style and shape of your house, the balance can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. In symmetrical balance, objects on one side of a centerline mirror those on the other. Symmetry, used extensively in historical landscapes, gives your property a formal look. Asymmetrical balance looks informal and is harder to achieve. When done successfully, however, it can produce a pleasing, naturalistic effect.

Plan to make the hardscape (the non-plant landscape) elements big enough for comfort. Instead of building a skinny 3-foot-wide entry path, make a 5-foot-wide walkway that accommodates two average-size people walking shoulder to shoulder to the front door. A 3-foot-wide path meandering through a woodland garden behind the house is fine.

In the public area, devise plantings that will blend your house into its surroundings, keeping plants in proportion to the size of the house. In general, trees and shrubs off the corner of the house should stay below two-thirds of the height from the eaves to the ground; while plants near the entrance maintain a lower profile, with a mature height no more than one-quarter of the height from the eaves to the ground. Plants with rounded shapes make a more effective transition from house to surrounding environment than plants with columnar or pyramidal shapes. That’s not to say you can’t use a tall skinny accent shrub in an entry garden, but rounded plants should predominate.

The private area is where you live when you’re outdoors. It’s usually, but not always, in the backyard and includes decks, patios, swimming pools, gazebos, swing sets, sand-boxes, and whatever else suits the leisure needs of your family. Your private area extends the inside of your house outdoors and may incorporate hedges, fences, walls, and shrub borders that make your living space more private. A privacy planting doesn’t have to be tall. It just needs to distract your attention from the space beyond it and give a psychological feeling of enclosure.

The service area contains the utilitarian aspects of your landscape. Items like sheds, garbage cans, and compost bins belong there. Shrubs with edible fruit not integrated into the ornamental landscape belong in the service area, where you can plant them in rows for easy harvesting.”


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