You may be interested in a lawn for badminton games, a large sunny area for growing vegetables or a tranquil, small pond. Or you might want to incorporate all three types of design into your outdoor space. Planning and deciding what you want is the first step for any landscape design. As you plan, keep in mind some basic landscaping tips that will apply to any and all plans.
Inventory the Space
Take an inventory of what already exists in the landscape as you begin planning. If you have a large tree for instance, it makes sense to keep such a valuable element and work your landscape plan around the tree. J. Patrick Bowman, a landscape designer for the Washington State Nursery Landscape Association (WSNLA) recommends that the inventory include all the strengths and weaknesses of the current landscape, the climate conditions throughout the space, how much maintenance you want to do and what the budget is as well as the new elements you want to add.
An overall framework, or structure, gives shape to a garden and allows it to form a coherent whole rather than a hodge-podge of separate elements. You'll gain structure in your landscape plan by thoughtfully positioning the major trees, the very large plants (like hedges or huge cacti), large stones or boulders and the man-made structures such as arbors, walkways, statues and garden furniture. Use the structural elements also to subdivide the garden into various functional areas.
Choose Plants Carefully
Once you have amended the garden soil with plenty of nutrients, plant a profusion of plants to bring beauty into the space. Plant an ample number of perennial plants that return year after year and that are suited for your climate. Doing this will reduce maintenance and crowd out unwanted weeds in flower beds. Pick plants that provide interest year-round, such as shrubs and bulbs that flower in the spring as well as some that flower in the fall. Some shrubs have interesting shapes or deep red color that will continue to give visual interest as they poke through the snow in winter.
As Bowman points out on the WSNLA website, your landscape design should invite people to enter the garden and to move from one spot to another. Provide this type of invitation by positioning the man-made elements and the plants in ways that attract people to move easily in the garden. Arbors, for instance, invite people to walk under them and curved paths invite people to see what's around the corner.