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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Thank you for this post. Found it very informative.Slip and Fall/Trip and Fall
11/4/2020 7:52:30 AM | Reply
Great info in this article! I recently got into the landscaping business and it's always good to learn more tips about the industry. Thanks again! Really informative stuff I would have never thought of.
11/3/2020 11:28:45 PM | Reply
"Unity will bring a sense of order to the design", this is the crux of landscaping. A worth reading blog. Thanks for providing such vital details in a precise manner.
10/23/2020 8:02:19 AM | Reply
Landscaping, however, goes far beyond the monetary benefits. You will have health benefits, emotional benefits, environmental benefits and a happier home for you and your family
10/23/2020 2:40:54 AM | Reply
Unity, Balance, Interest, Rhythm, Movement - such a great framework to explain the key design principles of landscape construction. Thank you for sharing this!
10/18/2020 8:25:28 PM | Reply
Fantastic work on this, my landscapers are always looking for more solid content to stay up to date on. Thanks again!
10/18/2020 2:54:43 PM | Reply
It's all about balance! I tell my design team this all the time and they always focus on balance and symmetry when designing a new landscape! Thank you!
10/18/2020 2:53:28 PM | Reply
Here is complete guide on the landscaping design. In order to get better information and guidance can be taken from this blog specifically. It plays a vital role in taking us through. It can be really great for people like me who are looking for grabbing more knowledge about.
10/15/2020 1:28:49 AM | Reply
Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog
10/12/2020 6:31:12 AM | Reply
Very helpful framework for starting a project, thanks for the article!
10/11/2020 9:01:03 AM | Reply
Hit the nail on the head with this one. Super informative. Thank you!
10/9/2020 9:56:18 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..!
10/9/2020 6:37:15 AM | Reply
Great article! Planning is a must and I've made mistakes and had to do lots of extra work because I didn't think about usage of certain areas. Your article will be a referring back site for me. Thanks so much.
10/8/2020 10:56:26 AM | Reply
This is some great info and I hope to help educate my clients with this information. There is so much out there and this is really simple to explain. Thanks for sharing!
9/28/2020 3:12:01 PM | Reply
Thoughtful landscape design is the key to creating an outdoor oasis. Thanks for some ideas and tips. I Appreciate
9/28/2020 3:16:47 AM | Reply
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