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No matter whether you are a landscape design DIY expert or need a little help getting started, there’s always room for improvement. In essence, landscape design is guided by the same principles as interior design. Here’s some tips to get you started this spring.

Plan and Prepare

Make a list of your family’s needs and wants. If you have kids, do you need a separate play space outside? Do you want to do a vegetable garden this summer? Would you like to be able to gather and host events on your patio? One of the best ideas is to do some rough sketches of your yard so you can brainstorm what you might want or need, and where you place it in your yard. This gives you a better idea of how much space you have, and what you might have time and effort for. Marianne Lipanovich, author of the Big Book of Garden Designs says that “these aren’t master plans, just ideas. The one I did for our front-yard overhaul was literally a few lines and a couple of circles, but my husband understood the plan, and we went ahead with formal planning out on the site. You can easily play around with ideas without a lot of time and commitment.”

Start out small

Home and garden television shows make it seem like a complete outdoor makeover can be completed in just three or four days. It’s important to remember that these shows have a work crew of somewhere around 60 people, or more, and your family will not be that fortunate, in most cases. Part of creating a landscape plan is going slowly and enjoying the process. Start out with a small flowerbed. Lipanovich suggests, “Give yourself some time to see how things develop. Plants grow and things fill in, and people forget that. The point is to take time and do it in pieces so you are happy with the final results. If you get into this thing and want to get it done, you’ll take shortcuts and be too sloppy and tired to do it well.”

Focus

Choose a focal point and work around it. You can pick a sculpture or stunning plant; you can place a tree or a series of shrubs. No matter what route you go, “the point is to draw your eye and move it through the landscape,” says Lipanovich.

Scale it right

This is the trickiest part of landscape design, especially for a rookie. This is the principle of making everything looked pulled-together. “You’ll want to repeat some elements, whether it’s a certain plant, a common color, or even a shape, so there’s a sense of cohesion.” Lipanovich adds, “But you also don’t want it to be monotonous, so try adding an occasional element that’s different from the landscape and will stand out.”

Embrace change

Unless you are strongly devoted to making something work, be honest about what you don’t like. It’s easy to be honest about what you do like; the things you decide aren’t for you are harder to admit to. “I find myself over the years discovering that I really liked one thing and that it now no longer reflects me, so I take it out.” However, sometimes changing big landscape pieces like trees can be tricky. Instead of being left with a bare spot where kids and pets can track mud into your house, try filling the gap with annuals or fast-growing groundcovers you won’t feel guilty about ripping out when you decide on what you really want in that spot. As Lipanovich says, “large landscaping features like trees can be hard to move; annuals can be taken out, and small perennials and shrubs can be transplanted if you realize they’re in the wrong spot. But in the meantime, you have something out there.”

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