The Sensible Gardener

The right plant in the right location with the right conditions

Landscaping tips

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A nice looking rock in a Japanese style garden

Detail of a Japanese design

Knowing what to do and what not to do is a big plus. Just a few landscaping tips can make a big difference. You would not believe the number of people I’ve heard say “If only I had known from the start, I would have done things differently”. And once a yard has been landscaped, you can imagine how difficult it can be to change things.

Basic landscaping tips

So this page contains some basic landscaping tips that may help you do things right the first time:

  • Bear in mind that your yard will not look its best for the first few years. During that time, your trees and bushes will seem too far apart, they won’t bear as many flowers and berries, and they just won’t look as full as they will when they have more maturity. So patience is in order. In the meantime, you can use perennials, such as flowers and grasses, to fill in the gaps.
  • Larger trees must be planted far apart so their branches don’t fight for space. Otherwise, their shape won’t be as nice.
  • Trees and bushes should not be planted too close to one another either. When you buy them at the nursery, their mature size is usually indicated, so use this information to calculate the distance between each tree or bush. Two bushes that grow to be six feet wide should be planted approximately six feet apart. Together, they will occupy twelve feet of space once mature.
  • Trees and bushes should also not be planted too close to objects, such as walls and fences. A bush that grows to be six feet wide should be planted approximately three feet away from an object.
  • Smaller plants, like shrubs and flowers, should not be spread out, but rather grouped in clusters. Groups of two or three are good.
  • Too many different plants, shapes and colors don’t mix well together. Choose a limited number of plants, shapes and colors that you like and stay with them.
  • Mixing plants, shapes and colors is good, but it must be done with moderation. Grouping always comes before mixing. And when mixing colors, consider choosing complementary colors.
  • Use your landscaping to hide things that you don’t want to see. Use small trees or bushes to hide the underside of your porch or the foundations of your house, use vines to hide bad looking bricks or pipes.
  • Use your landscaping to draw attention to what you do want to see. Put a nice flower bed under your bow window or a couple of bright Burning Bushes behind your patio to attract the eyes and light up the place.
  • Create vistas from inside and outside your home. For most people, the most important view is the one they have while standing in front of their home’s main entrance. The landscaping should offer the best view from that location. But let’s not stop there. If there’s a big window in your living room that looks onto your yard, landscape the yard so as to create a nice view from inside as well. If you plan to have a patio and water garden in your yard, stand at their intended location as you try to imagine the surrounding landscape.
  • Last but not least of the landscaping tips: Think of what you will be doing on your yard. If you want a private corner, design a green alcove with bushes. If you want lots of sun, then don’t have too many big trees. If you don’t like working in the yard all the time, design a low maintenance yard. If the winter gets very cold where you live, consider landscaping with native or hardy plants, so you don’t have to bother with winter protection.

Some of these landscaping tips are apparent in the following image, which represents a porch landscaped to hide its underside, but still let some light go through, so as not to completely block out the basement windows. Small, slender conifers can be used for this purpose. Japanese Yews would be a good choice, because they don’t need as much sunlight as other conifers. What’s more, they grow slowly and can be trimmed. Other smaller bushes and perennials were placed in the front.

How these tips can be applied

The next image shows once again how those landscaping tips can be applied.

Landscaping tips can change your landscaping plan

Landscaping tips can change your landscaping plan

  1. A cluster of trees and bushes is used to hide the driveway and offer a nice view to people coming in through the front door. Note that this arrangement was designed to give a nice view from inside the house as well. A limited number of plants were used in groups of two or three. And consider this very practical landscaping tip: if you don’t want birds to leave souvenirs on your car, don’t plant trees that will eventually shoot branches above it. You could, on the other hand, plant a medium size tree that will shoot branches above your front door. It will provide some protection from the rain and sun.
  2. A small hedge is used to prevent people from walking across the lawn. Not a bad idea.
  3. Various bushes, ferns and perennials are used to hide the foundations and bring the eyes up to the nice windows and the living room inside.
  4. A small rock garden was placed in this dark spot, where the big trees cast their shadow most of the day. Many plants that require less sun can be used in an Alpine type garden.
  5. Large trees were placed far away from the house and far apart enough so as to have enough room to grow well.
  6. A small landscaped patio and pond have been placed in front of a large window, so the plants and pond can be enjoyed from the inside and the outside.
  7. Stepping stones were used for this secondary entrance. A smaller path leads to the patio.
  8. A cluster of trees and perennials finish off this little garden alcove. The trees in front of the window were chosen to leave the view from inside partially open.

Applying these landscaping tips is just a question of planning. You just need to think and plan before you grab the shovel. You may also want to give a look at the design rules. It will help you design a professional looking landscaping plan.

Have you given enough consideration to what you really want to achieve? If not, go to our Lawn and garden decor page.

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3 Comments

  1. I appreciate the tips on landscaping. I agree that it is important to ensure that you have the big picture in mind, it is easy to get frustrated with the initial look of the landscape because the trees and bushes are small. My mom is looking to do some landscaping in her yard, I will be sure to share these big tips with her.

  2. Great article! We also use hedges in our front yard strategically to make sure people don’t walk through our manicured landscape. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I appreciate you talking about the importance of making sure you keep bushes and trees away form walls when working on landscaping. It makes sense that doing this can help them grow nicely and add beauty to your yard. Personally, I would want to make sure I take the time to make appropriate plans and consult with a contractor so the job is done right and make use of all my space and materials properly.

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