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’


Plan Now – Enjoy Soon

Plan Now – Enjoy Soon

No matter the size of your project, consider having a plan done. Read on for details.

Read More >
Shoreline Improvements and DES Permitting

Shoreline Improvements and DES Permitting

If you are planning any project within 250’ of the lake, you must be sure you get any necessary per...

Read More >

Backyard Landscaping

Have you been dreaming of the perfect backyard landscaping? You're not alone. My idea of the per...

Read More >
Our 5 Biggest Requests from Customers

Our 5 Biggest Requests from Customers

Ever wonder what the 5 most asked questions or needs are in landscaping? Here's our top 5!

Read More >
Earliest Spring Blooming Flowers

Earliest Spring Blooming Flowers

Why not incorporate some of the earliest spring blooming flowers into your landscape? By doing this,...

Read More >
Spring Cleanup

Spring Cleanup

Every garden deserves a good spring cleanup. Have you had professional landscaping installed?  How a...

Read More >


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
Thanks for all the info, this is very helpful and a good read for homeowners out there!
6/17/2020 4:30:04 PM | Reply
The article has genuinely piqued my interest. It has all the basics which make me easily under stable, most helpful to those who are looking for the landscaping design.
6/12/2020 7:34:04 AM | Reply
We are really impressed that you put together good and useful information on landscaping We will defiantly be using some of your tips . We are so grateful. I will definitely recommend this blog post to my customers! Thanks a lot for taking the time to write this!
6/10/2020 10:05:27 AM | Reply
This is helpful for some one who is starting out their business. Thanks!
6/8/2020 9:10:29 PM | Reply
Fantastic article, you've made some great points on how to design a wonderful garden. Thank you!
5/28/2020 7:04:09 AM | Reply
Fantastic blog, you've made some really good points on how to design a great garden. Thanks!
5/28/2020 7:02:18 AM | Reply
Great article. I've recently moved into this business mainly focusing on desert climate landscaping so I'll make sure to implement these basics to create a positive clientele base!
5/18/2020 10:15:42 AM | Reply
This is a great blog. Landscape construction needs careful analysis of the property and the soil. It is very important to know what kinds of native trees, plants and shrubs to grow in the yard. As you said, a proper balance should be maintained for the best results.
5/6/2020 7:10:47 AM | Reply
Wow, this is so insightful. I just opened my landscaping company in Florida, and I will be sure to recommend your blog to any customers wanting to gain more knowledge. Thanks!
5/4/2020 6:45:09 AM | Reply
I agree! There are so many factors that go into a good landscaping job, and there are some rules to follow! Unity, balance, interest, rhythm, and movement. Landscaping must adhere to these principles to be professional! Thanks for the read.
4/26/2020 11:49:17 AM | Reply
Thank you for clarifying how to begin. It can really be overwhelming when you have an entire project from scratch! Definitely a great article I will reference. Gonna read more of your stuff.
4/16/2020 1:44:06 PM | Reply
Page 1 of 3 FirstPrevious [1]23 Last

Post a Comment

Search Blog

Subscribe to Blog