Start With a Plan
To begin the design process, you need a base plan of your property, drawn to scale. This should accurately plot the location of all pertinent features (property lines, vegetation, grade changes, stone walls, structures, overhead and below-ground wires, etc.). If you have a property survey, it will help in plotting many of these elements; however, you will still need to confirm utility locations with the relevant authorities.
You can plot your own plan using two 100’ measuring tapes. Position the first tape a foot or two out from the back wall of your house, parallel to the house, and walk the width of the yard. At this tape’s midway mark, position the second tape at a right angle and walk the depth of your lot. You can now plot existing features using these two tapes as reference points. For example, if you want to plot the location of a large oak tree, travel the length of the tape to the point where you are even with the tree and note the distance. Turn at a 90° angle towards the tree and again measure the distance. Mark the tree’s location on your plan. Be thorough, as this analysis is a cornerstone of good design.
When measuring your property, make note of various opportunities and constraints that will influence your design. An opportunity, for example, may be an old stone wall that provides shelter and a special micro-climate for growing unusual plants. However, an area with several large trees that cast a lot of shade, or a low area that provides a damp breeding ground for unwelcome mosquitoes may be constraints.
Successful garden design is, in large part, measured by the receptiveness of those who view it. Invite your household members to share their ideas. It’s also advisable to seek input from abutting neighbors, as opportunities may exist to share landscaping beyond your property or to use part of their property for construction access.
Select a style
Unlike a botanical garden that may comprise several distinct garden types, a home garden benefits from having one consistent theme throughout. This is influenced by your neighborhood, the style of your house and, of course, your preferences. Garden styles can vary widely, from cottage casual, to Victorian formal, to contemporary minimalism, to name a few.