Tips and Tricks from Landscape Designers

These landscape designers' tips can help you turn your boring backyard into a spectacular outdoor retreat.

Fire and Water

Not only does fire encourages conversation, but it creates intimacy and an ambiance for the area. It's certainly used for warmth and elongates the amount of time you can spend outdoors, but it's also aesthetically beautiful from a light standpoint.

Planting on Slopes

When planting on a slope, use drought-tolerant plants because they're on an angle and get a lot more sunlight. Some examples of plants that landscape designer Scott Cohen uses on slopes are hibiscus, canna lily 'Tropicana', and lantana.

In the Shade

While most people may think a solid cover is the best choice for outdoors, it actually traps in more heat. While open shade bars give you 50 percent less covering, they allow more of the heat to escape, creating a more comfortable outdoor experience.

Outdoor Fireplaces

Fireplaces are the cornerstone of any party, creating a very social vibe. There are lots of different kits and systems to use when building one. In addition, there are self-contained unit that don't require flutes, making it easier to install and not as restricting.

Koi Ponds

Heard of infinity pools? Well, how about an infinity pond? In one of Cohen's designs, he incorporated an infinity-edge koi pond. Not only it is a truly unique look, but koi make great pets. They're very colorful and great for kids because they'll come up to the top of the water when you feed them.

Countertops for Outdoor Kitchens

Landscape designer Lois Mancuso suggests using granite, instead of marble or other surfaces, for outdoors. Not only can you put hot surfaces on it without damaging, but it requires little maintenance. If it does need to be refinished, it can be easily polished to look like new.

Unique Outdoor Furniture

Though your backyard is an open space, you can create a room without putting up a wall by adding outdoor furniture, water features or plants and pots. In terms of outdoor furniture, it's good to stay away from iron, which is heavy, difficult to move and quick to rust. Instead, try aluminum, which is easy to move around and withstands the elements. In addition, most manufacturers are using more weather-resistant fabrics on their outdoor furniture.

The Perfect Patio

A patio is usually at a minimum of 12 to14 feet wide, but if the patio gets too large it will create more heat than you want because of all the concrete. Make sure to keep stone and concrete patios at a minimum to reduce the heat.

Cooling Plants

Plants transpire, which means they evaporate moisture, so having them on a pergola is like an organic air conditioner. They can help cool an area by as much as 15 degrees. Plus, they add color and texture to your outdoor space.

Plants for Small Yards

If you're working in a small yard, stay away from using a lot of color. While a few colors create a beautiful landscape, too much color can close in the space, making it feel even smaller. It's best to stick with different shades of green to enlarge the space and creating a relaxing feel.