HomeownerHelpful Info: Outdoor Projects


Landscaping Educational Content

Landscaping adds to the curb appeal of your house and can impact your home’s overall market value. Designing and installing a landscape plan, however, can be a complex process. A landscape architect typically starts by asking about your needs and wants for your outdoor space. They might ask the size of your family and whether you entertain often. They’ll probably also ask what types of plants you like and whether you maintain the yard yourself. That information, along with the size of your yard and the architectural style of your house, will help them get started. Landscape designs often include both hardscapes and softscapes. Hardscaping is made up of permanent structures, like a patio or retaining wall. Softscaping comprises the plants and trees.

Areas for entertaining. Decks and patios are great for entertaining and enjoying time outdoors. If your house is built on a hill, consider terraces. A terraced hill is a creative way to turn an otherwise unusable slope into steps or gardens. Terracing can be done with natural or manufactured stone retaining walls. You can even add features like a patio or seating area to your terrace.

Features. Landscape designs often include a water feature as a focal point. Ponds, waterfalls, and fountains enhance an outdoor space with calming white noise. They bring a lot of character to your yard, especially if they include a bridge, unique sculptures, or some aquatic critters. Boulders are a great visual anchor piece for a lawn or garden. Smaller rocks work well for defining planting beds and walkways.

Lighting. Lighting is an important part of a landscaping plan. Lighting creates a mood with the flip of a switch. It’s also a practical choice, since good lighting means an outdoor gathering can continue after sundown. Landscape lighting can also highlight parts of your house and yard.

An outdoor fireplace makes it easier to enjoy your yard even in the cooler months of the year. Fire features can be custom built or premanufactured. A custom-built fireplace can be tailored to suit your exact vision.

Fire pits. Fire pits are available as wood- or gas-burning options. They’re either built in to a space or portable, and they’re made from a variety of materials, such as concrete, stone, or brick. With no side enclosures, a fire in a fire pit can be enjoyed from any angle.

Fireplaces. A full-scale fireplace with a hearth and chimney is more substantial than a fire pit. A fireplace can give an outdoor entertaining area the coziness of an indoor living space.
As a sturdy, permanent feature, outdoor fireplaces are usually constructed from masonry elements. They’re finished in brick, tile, stone, or concrete.

When you plan softscaping, you’ll need to take several elements into account. Think about the climate in your area, sun exposure, and what type of soil you have. Are winters long and cold? Is your yard mostly shaded? Or do you have a mix of full sun and shade? Will you need to supplement the soil at all? How much time do you want to spend working in the yard? Rely on your landscaping company to help you flesh out your plan. They’ll know the types of plants that will thrive in your yard.

Grass. Grass comes in many varieties. Certain grasses flourish in particular climates and are generally hardier than others. Your landscape designer is a great resource here. They’ll know the best grass type (or combination of types) for your yard.

Trees, shrubs, and flowers. Deciding on specific plants is the fun part of designing a landscape. Your landscape pro will guide you on the best choices and placement of everything. Mixing perennials and annuals will let you have something blooming almost year-round. Give some thought to native species. They are usually lower maintenance than non-native plants because they’re adapted to your area. They’re also a more eco-friendly choice.

Vegetable and herb gardens. Edible gardens are practical and fun, but they can also be pretty to look at. Always plant edible gardens in sunny spots. Consulting with a professional landscaper will help ensure that your garden thrives.

Mulch and ground covers. For unused sections of your yard, consider easy-care options like mulch and native ground covers instead of grass. Mulch helps the soil around plants and trees retain moisture. It also gives plants nutrients and inhibits weed growth. Organic mulch does decompose, so plan on having it replenished at least once a year. Both pine straw and shredded hardwood make excellent mulch. Native plants that work well as ground covers include ferns, low-growing shrubs, and wildflowers.

Water restrictions are a fact of the present and likely the future. As you plan your new landscape, it’s smart to include drought-resistant and native plants. Some plants need more water than others and may die if they aren’t watered regularly.

References. Any reputable landscaping company will be happy to provide you with references. References are important, since they help you determine which firm is right for your project. You might also want to look at some of the company’s jobs in person. Ask to see completed projects as well as works in progress.

Designs. Make sure to get a detailed design and scope of work before the job starts. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Contracts. Sign a contract with the landscaping company before they start working on your yard. Also make sure that the scope of work described in the contract matches the designer’s drawings. Most landscaping firms ask for a down payment of 30 to 50 percent before the start of the project.