Starting a Landscaping Project

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

Trellis Covered Patio

By: Laura Fisher Kaiser
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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

This beautiful Italian-inspired landscape mirrors the distinct Tuscan style of the home. Olive trees, lavender and a variety of grasses add Italian flair to this landscape design. Design by Jeff Allen

From: Jeff Allen

Resort-Style Retreat

With a luxurious vine-covered privacy wall, a wooden pergola and an outdoor shower, this outdoor space provides a relaxing, resort-like atmosphere. Design by Christopher J. Grubb

Japanese-Inspired Garden

This exotic landscape captures the energy of an authentic Japanese garden with a tatami room, a sunken dining area and a dry riverbed of crushed quartz and large quartz boulders cut into the decking. Design by Jamie Durie

Natural Beauty Landscape

This charming entryway features both a comfortable seating area and a breathtaking wildlife habitat, created by the mix of plant materials at the base of the steps. The plants were selected based on their color and low-maintenance nature, while flowers and fruits were chosen specifically to attract birds and butterflies. Design by Barbara Paul

Exquisite Family-Friendly Backyard

This luxurious backyard features a full-size outdoor kitchen with built-in seating and a dramatic raised pool area. A large lawn creates the ideal entertaining space and includes an in-ground trampoline. Design by Christopher J. Grubb

Outdoor Party Garden

An entertainer's dream, this garden and patio features elegant outdoor lighting that extends the use of the space into the evening hours, creating the perfect setting for parties any time of day. Design by Bob Hursthouse

Romantic Backyard Getaway

This smooth cedar entry gate opens to a luxurious pergola garden and spa that features accent and path lighting to create an intimate backyard setting. Design by Bob Hursthouse

Lush Garden Sanctuary

A herringbone pathway leads to a subdued outdoor dining room surrounded by lush plantings in this beautiful backyard. Design by Jamie Durie

Photo By: Jamie Rector

Relaxing Ocean-Side Terrace

Three stories above the beach, this coastal terrace features a low-maintenance landscape design with potted plants and a grass bed made for relaxing ocean-side naps -- without the sand. Design by Pamela Berstler

Dramatic Desert Design

This cool desert garden features a low carved stone table and walls that provide convenient seating without blocking the view. Design by Morgan Holt

Entertaining Landscape

An ideal space for entertaining, this landscape design features a raised formal dining area underneath a custom wooden pergola, an outdoor fireplace and a breathtaking kidney-shaped pool with a soothing raised spa. Design by Mitch Kalamian

Hilltop Retreat

This breathtaking hilltop landscape features a disappearing-edge pool and a hand-made wrought iron dome that creates interesting shadows while providing the perfect place to enjoy the mountain view. Design by Scott Cohen

Mediterranean-Inspired Garden

An exquisite fountain, constructed of glass tiles and featuring a precast centerpiece, provides a dramatic focal point for this Mediterranean-style garden.

Outdoor Living Room

Offering indoor comforts outside, this luxurious landscape design features an outdoor living room with a comfortable seating area centered around a beautiful stone fireplace. Design by Kerry Burt

Fun, Kid-Friendly Backyard

This picturesque backyard, with a large lawn and playhouse, provides the perfect setting for children. The nearby patio serves as an outdoor dining area and a convenient space for keeping an eye on the little ones. Design by Bob Hursthouse

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.

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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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