Deciding What Plans You Need

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You wouldn't think of building a house by gathering up some lumber, concrete, and roofing materials and then making the house up as you went along. First you need a plan to direct the course of the work and ensure a satisfactory outcome. Landscaping is no different. In fact, the landscape, especially the sustainable landscape, is complex, and it demands a great deal of thought if you want to end up with something that works well and looks good.

When most people think of a landscape design, they imagine a set of plan drawings showing where everything is going to be located — the trees and shrubs, the patio, the paths, and all the rest. When you hire someone to design your landscaping for you, this is one of the things you get for your money. Plan drawings are handy to have, and they can be a great tool if you're doing your own design. But it's entirely possible to develop a great design without ever drawing a plan. Take a minute to consider two equally valid approaches to design:

  • Sticking to the bubble diagram/field design approach: If you have a small-scale plan in mind (for instance, you want to change some plantings in the back flower beds and switch your lawn to a more sustainable meadow) or if you have a fairly clear vision for some more major changes, drawing detailed plans may not be necessary. You may need only to sketch a bubble diagram and spend some time outside marking off the edges of beds with a garden hose or rope or staking out the location of a new patio with wood stakes and builder's twine. This marking and staking is referred to as field design. (Check out the next section to find out more about bubble diagrams and field design.) This hands-on approach helps you experiment with designs until you find the one that's best.
  • Drawing full-blown landscape plans: If you'll be laying out an entirely new landscape, with paving, retaining walls, outdoor rooms of various kinds, and lots of details, draw it all to scale using the techniques and plans I describe throughout this chapter. Include the concept plan, a simpler version of the detailed landscape plan a professional landscape architect might develop for you. A detailed concept plan helps you make sure everything in your new landscape fits and works well together, and it provides a clear roadmap for installing your own landscaping.


Be sure you do all the designing you need to in order to have a well-planned landscape that takes all the issues of function, appearance, cost, legality, and environmental suitability into account. What counts in the end is not the quality of the pretty pictures you draw but the quality of your thinking and planning.

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Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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