Starting a Landscaping Project

Here's how to create a plan, choose plants, set a budget and hire contractors.

Trellis Covered Patio

Good landscaping increases your property's value as it boosts curb appeal and solves problems ranging from ugly views and lack of privacy to poor drainage and nondescript plantings. By developing a smart, long-term landscape plan, you can transform a drab, dysfunctional yard into a space that enhances and complements your home's architecture and becomes a place where you love to hang out.

Even if gardening is your secret passion, a professional landscape designer may see solutions you never dreamed of and help you avoid costly mistakes. To smooth the way for such a major undertaking, it helps to assess your property's strengths and weaknesses, think about the ways you envision using your yard, and understand the steps involved in the landscape design process.

Amazing Landscapes

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Tuscan-Inspired Yard

From

Jeff Allen

Resort-Style Retreat

Japanese-Inspired Garden

Natural Beauty Landscape

Exquisite Family-Friendly Backyard

Outdoor Party Garden

Romantic Backyard Getaway

Lush Garden Sanctuary

Jamie Rector

Relaxing Ocean-Side Terrace

Dramatic Desert Design

Entertaining Landscape

Hilltop Retreat

Mediterranean-Inspired Garden

Outdoor Living Room

Fun, Kid-Friendly Backyard

Setting Goals

The reasons for updating your yard range from the practical to the indulgent. Improving curb appeal, privacy and functionality are usually high on the list. You might also have safety issues to address such as a pool fence, firescaping or erosion.

"A detailed understanding of your goals and likes and dislikes are needed from the onset of the design process," says Risa Edelstein, president of the Ecological Landscaping Association, based in Arlington, Mass.

She emphasizes that developing a master plan is essential. That doesn't mean planning every detail to the nth degree. A master plan is more about broad strokes, a theme, a look, a feeling you want to evoke. Thinking through the entire landscape design, from hardscapes (man-made solid surfaces) to plants, helps you focus your goals in the beginning and provides a touchstone for decisions down the line so you don't end up with a mishmash of hardscapes, colors and awkward proportions.

Start by figuring out what you like or dislike, what you need versus what you want, by downloading and filling out our Landscaping Priorities Questionnaire. To figure out what you need, fill out our Landscape Site Analysis Worksheet.

Next Up

Landscaping: What to Consider

From your home's architecture to zoning laws, keep these basics in mind when planning your project.

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