New Hampshire Landscaping Blog


Landscaping Design Basics

Let’s say you’re working on your back yard landscape design. You may think that there aren’t any real “rules” to a good back yard landscape design. After over 30 years of designing landscapes, I can tell you that there are definitely rules to follow for good design. You can look at the blank canvas of your yard and get lost on how to design it so it has form, function and beauty. Look at these following “rules” of landscape garden design and look at the picture. See if you can identify any of the rules in this landscaping project. Back yard landscape design or entire property landscape design, the rules are the same.

A good garden design should not consider just one area of the property, but must view the entire property as a cohesive composition. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

First of all, ALL landscape designs should adhere to the basic design principles of UNITY, BALANCE, INTEREST, RHYTHM AND MOVEMENT.

I’ll start with laying out the initial design, then move on to how to scale the projects proportions for the most pleasing visual impact, and then on to plant selection.

1. HAVE SPECIFIED AREAS OF USE. When we first start out in landscape design class, we use “bubble diagrams” to delineate certain areas such as ‘utility’, ‘outdoor eating’, ‘walkway’, ‘play area’, ‘open space’, etc.

  • This is to ensure that things such as garbage cans don’t end up getting stored on the corner of the patio because we forgot to designate a place for them.

2. CREATE UNITY: Unity can be achieved in many ways. Unity will bring a sense of order to the design. Here are a few examples of creating unity:

  • Repeat the circular lawn shape in a circular patio shape
  • Transition from one design element to another element with ease
  • Use similar materials throughout such as natural stone instead of mixing it up

3. BALANCE: If a design is out of balance, it just won’t feel right. A tiny border garden near the edge of an expansive lawn is an example of being out of balance. Balance can be achieved either symmetrically or asymmetrically.

  • Balance one tall tree with an equal mass of shrubs
  • Use the ‘golden mean rule’ for proportion. A 5’ x 8’ sized raised bed, for example always looks balanced... it’s just one of those weird rules.

4. START WITH THE ‘BONES’ AND THEN PUT ON THE ‘MEAT’: The ‘bones’ of the design is what we need to build everything else off of. In these bones, you will create the RHYTHM and MOVEMENT in the design (although other aspects such as plant choices can assist with rhythm and movement too).

  • The bones will be things such as walkways, patios, retaining wall, trees, the big stuff. Lay these out so that the designated use areas flow with pleasant rhythm and movement. Different shapes can be used here too. When we move seamlessly from the front of the home, along a meandering walk on the side of the home, and come through an arbor and open up onto a patio, there is a sense of movement.

5. INTEREST: Something must always attract our eye in any given view in the landscape or it will be boring.

  • Every view should have a focal point.

6. PLANT CHOICES: As far as design goes, plants should be placed in groups, and balanced with their overall mass. Always place the larger plants first, and build the smaller plant groups around the bones of the design and the larger plants. Plants are the ‘meat’ on the ‘bones’


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backyard landscaping can be very intricate. You all did a great job explaining the design aspect. Cheers
9/4/2020 12:11:26 PM | Reply
This is a phenomenal article that points out some great points on the preparation before installation. Designated areas, plant type, balance are all great things to think about when designing a yard. Balance is the main key if you want the yard to really resonate. If anyone needs help in the Carolinas reach out to us at https://www.charlottebackyardlandscaping.com/
9/1/2020 7:03:58 PM | Reply
Pretty nice post. You did a great job of sharing this important information...
8/31/2020 9:21:53 AM | Reply
Love this blog Tom - we refer to it often for ideas and inspiration for our landscape and gardening service. Many thanksJames.
8/31/2020 6:38:10 AM | Reply
This is a great blog to read, I really like the way you have presented your content. I am planning a landscape design soon and looking for making a perfect lawn area, this article will really help me a lot for planning for my landscaping project.Well, I have visited another site Groundworkslandscaping.co.nz having some wonderful and similar information.
8/21/2020 12:59:22 AM | Reply
Very informative article. It is always helpful to take a step back and look at ones outdoor space as a whole. As you mentioned, certain areas should be designated for walking, driveways, utility, and gardening. The key is to make the landscape design flow from type of space to the next. It would always be wise to consult with a professional landscape designer to ensure that the types of plants and trees put into your landscape will work with your climate. Thank you for the information.
8/17/2020 1:08:21 PM | Reply
Thanks for sharing this post! Our team learned a lot down here in Costa Mesa. Keep up the great work :)
8/17/2020 3:40:52 AM | Reply
Very interesting post on landscaping design. Awesome and step by step explanation. I really appreciate the way you have written and explained. Good work..!!!
7/21/2020 4:03:21 AM | Reply
This was an amazing blog! I found it to be very informative, thank you for sharing.
7/19/2020 12:02:02 AM | Reply
Thank you for composing this great weblog which really can help us with doing and the importance of the topic. I'm pretty much pleased with your good work
7/17/2020 1:02:49 AM | Reply
Great stuff! Thank you for this read. Our team learned a lot and will incorporate what we learned into our daily practices. Keep up the great work. Let us know if we tree surgeons San Mateo can be of any help to you.
7/15/2020 1:00:41 AM | Reply

@Tree Removal San Mateo: I agree with that with this basic design you can actually big foundation to start your own design. Thanks for the read.

7/17/2020 7:52:43 AM | Reply
Phenomenal content. You did a great job analyzing the content and making it engaging and easy to read. I loved the idea of creating unity within your design. It allows for the overall look and feel of the Property to be enhanced when there is a common element bringing it together .Great work!
6/22/2020 11:38:42 PM | Reply
I recently scaled up my landscaping company and stumbled upon this article, enjoyable read, really appreciate you taking the time to lay out some clear rules to give people a better understanding on how to think and approach their own landscape design. In my practice, I've found customers to be a bit all over the place with what they want and when they want it; your article has helped me better understand a concrete answer I can give them in the future, thank you!
6/18/2020 9:22:28 PM | Reply
Loved the bit about starting with the "bones" and then putting the "meat" on. What you have to work with really determines what's possible and what will flow.
6/18/2020 3:39:38 PM | Reply
My friend who deals in landscaping did an experiment with two of the same plants in the same conditions and she would talk harshly and demeaning to one plant and nice to the other. The one that was spoken to harshly didn't grow as much, I thought that was so funny.
6/17/2020 5:08:46 PM | Reply
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