Have you been dreaming of re-designing your yard or garden but aren’t sure where to start?

Landscaping can be a daunting process because it’s hard to know precisely where to begin building a nice backyard.

Beautiful landscaping requires making a serious amount of decision making as well as being able to adapt to changes and challenges. But it requires more about knowing precisely what you want than worrying about the tiny details.

Here are a few tips to get you started transforming your yard from a boring outdoor space into the garden you’ve always dreamed of.

Step #1 Determine What You Want to Do in Your Space

The way you want to use your yard plays the largest role in the way you decide to organize it.

Do you want to use part of the yard for vegetable gardening? What about a play area for children or grandchildren? Are you hoping to showcase some of your favorite flowers? Have you had your eye on any water features?

You don’t need to create a master plan, you just need to identify the ways you envision yourself using the space to plan around those key functions.

To understand whether and how you can fit everything in one space, draw a sketch of the yard and begin to figure out where you want to place things. Use a pencil and play around with the ideas, and you’ll soon see a more concrete plan coming together.

Don’t forget to create this plan for both your front yard and your backyard. You might be surprised at the utility a front yard has beyond simple curb appeal.

Step #2 Identify a Focal Point (or Focal Points)

Whether you’re looking at Catherine the Great’s famous gardens or your own neighbor has inspired garden envy, you’ve probably noticed one overarching theme in beautiful landscaping and garden design: every good garden or yard has a focal point (or a series of focal points).

Here are some common focal points:

  • Gazebos
  • Sheds
  • Water features
  • Trees
  • Statues
  • Small gardens or flower beds
  • Boulders
  • Central table
  • A work of art
  • A favorite shrub, bush, or plant

These focal points draw the eye directly to something beautiful while creating symmetry, which promotes balance and peacefulness in the yard.

Don’t worry about identifying one individual focal point or placing it perfectly to create symmetry. While this works in many gardens, focal points can also be used to achieve what is called “asymmetrical balance”, which is softer than symmetry and creates harmony even in the face of chaos.

Asymmetrical balance can be achieved by changing shape, form, color, texture of lines to create a clean look that doesn’t look as though it’s been drawn by a ruler.

Here’s an example:

You can use hedges planted in a parallel fashion to create a symmetrical focal point for a pathway in your yard. It is clean, balanced, and distinctively beautiful.

Alternatively, you can use shrubs to balance otherwise horizontal lines and create a more natural yet still manicured look by planting them in swirls or squiggles like those found in the garden of a French chateau.

One Focal Point or Two?

You’re not explicitly limited to one focal point. However, the way you choose to proceed should depend on the size and style of your garden.

The general rule in creating focal points is “less is more”. Crowding an area with objects is a good way to create confusion and chaos.

If you’re hoping to showcase more than one part of your yard, create subtle and almost hidden ways to highlight other areas. For example, you won’t find a Greek statue in the direct center of the yard and another set off to the right. Rather, the second one might be hidden in an alcove or around a bend in the path creating a second focal point that adds interest even when the viewer isn’t gazing towards the wider garden.

Step #3 Think About Hardscaping

Half the battle in creating a plan for beautiful landscaping isn’t in the aesthetic but in aligning your vision for the garden with the practicalities of the yard.

Hardscaping fixes issues like uneven lawns, soil erosion, and privacy concerns while adding aesthetic appeal to the yard. These features can also extend your living space and the usability of your yard in addition to reducing the maintenance required.

Some of the most common hardscaping additions include:

  • Walkways
  • Patios
  • Decks
  • Gazebos
  • Columns
  • Ponds
  • Fire pits and barbecues
  • Outdoor lighting
  • Fountains and statues

Most of these additions are made from concrete, brick, stone.

When adding hardscaping, you’ll need to be mindful of nature’s plans for the space.

For example, if you’ve had your eye on a particular spot to add an outdoor fireplace as a focal point of the yard, you’ll need to figure out what the wind is like in that area. If the wind rips around the corner of your home and straight into the area you’ve picked out for the fireplace, you’ll find it difficult to build a fire there.

Step #4 Balance Your Hardscaping and Softscaping

Beautiful landscaping depends on finding the right balance between your hard features, like buildings, walls, and other inanimate objects, and the softscaping features like trees, flower beds, and other living aspects of your garden.

While there’s no precise balance that wins every time, it’s often a good idea to avoid creating large hardscaping in a small yard or vice versa. A large gazebo taking up the better part of the yard will drown out flower beds or other features.

Follow These Steps to Beautiful Landscaping

Beautiful landscaping isn’t hard to achieve. It requires a simple balance between knowing what you want to do with your space and identifying a direct and balanced plan to achieve it.

Are you waiting to get started on your next landscaping project? What’s stopping you? Share your stories in the comments below.

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