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10 Steps to a Perfect Garden Landscape

A perfect garden should look good and make you feel good and do the same for visitors. They should be relaxing, easy to move around in and not take all your time to keep looking good. Not too much to ask.

Gardens can be broadly described as being either formal or informal, but most gardens are a mix of these basic styles.

Landscape design has a structured formality associated with it, yet, good landscape design should be transparent to a visitor. A visitor shouldn't say, "Wow, what a great landscape design!" Instead, a visitor should say or at least think "This feels good to be here. I wish I could just stay here and relax."

But besides these obvious garden design considerations there are 10 basic things that your landscape design should include to give you an enjoyable outdoor space.


Make pathways wide enough for easy walking. Not every path needs to be wide, but for those that will handle a little bit of traffic, paths should be at least wide enough for 2 people to walk side-by-side. If your landscape has different elevations, make sure steps are easy without causing a sweat to climb. Steps should have no more rise than 6". The run or the distance between steps should equal something close to being 26" minus 2 time the height. For example if the height of the step equals 5", the run would equal 16" (26-2x5=16"). If the run of steps has more than 10 steps, include a landing every 4th or 5th step. The landing should be at least as deep as the path is wide.


If your patio or deck will be used for dining, make sure it's big enough to accommodate not only seating and dining, but mingling as well. Think about how many people you'll be having over for dinner on a somewhat regular basis. Plan at least 4 sq. ft. for each of those people. Leave 3' of breathing space around each piece of furniture on the patio to that people can easily move about without bumping into things.


Avoid hardscape materials that may become slippery when wet. Make sure these materials provide secure footing under all conditions. Hard surfaces should be slightly sloped to keep water from pooling.


If your ideal design has any overhead structures, roofs, etc, make sure they are at least 7' above the ground. If things will be growing underneath, add an additional 5" — 18". It's better safe than sorry, and in time as the landscape matures, plants will begin to fill in and you'll be glad you added that extra height.


When planning which plants go where, remember that they will grow. Most gardeners plant with an eye for what looks good now when setting out plants, forgetting how large the plant will be in 5 years. It's better to plant permanent plants where they can be comfortable and then fill in that grow space with filler type plants that will be short lived or can be easily moved later.


Keep tall plants well away from walkways and patio edges. Especially avoid prickly plants from these same areas.


Flowering plants go through a natural cycle of budding, blooming, and fading. Keep in mind when selecting plants that flower, what these plants will look like not in bloom. Not all plants have blooms, yet offer plenty of reasons for including them in the plan. Fall is a special time when many show-piece plants come into their own with brilliant late season color from changing leaf colors. Winter should also be considered in the plan so that you have a few specimens that add an interesting flavor to the overall gray background associated with the cooler months.


Grass should almost always be considered as a cohesive element to the landscape. Lawns have a high maintenance factor, but there's nothing else quite as inviting as an expanse of soft green you can walk across. Think of it as a special element that should be used sparingly. It provides a pleasing balance to garden beds.


Use plants to create additional comfort to your landscaped rooms. Shade and wind breaks are important considerations as are living privacy screens. Trees can be tastefully used even in the smallest landscape.


Plan for the future. Items that can't be installed during the initial installation should be planned so that it might be installed sometime down the road when money isn't so tight, or that you end up staying longer in the home than you originally planned. Pre-planning for future expansion will save you both time and money. Make sure new plants won't grow into big problems for you and your neighbors. Will your new landscape block a neighbors favorite view? Will mature plants block your view of oncoming traffic as you back out of the drive?

The most important qualities of a well planned landscape are comfort and usability. The above tips should be fundamental considerations when working on any plan. The sooner they are implemented into your plan, the better off you'll be.