Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Trees, Shrubs, & Vines

Landscaping 101 (page 3 of 5)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Getting to Know Your Yard

Get acquainted with your yard by walking its perimeter all the way to the edges of the property. While you walk, keep looking back at your house. Is there a spot, somewhere toward the rear or to the side of the yard, where the view of your house is particularly pleasant? Would this be the best place for a small, freestanding deck or patio, just right for a couple of chairs? Or is there a spot beneath a group of mature trees at the back of the yard that you discover to be delightfully shady?

Conventional wisdom has it that outdoor eating areas should be located as close to the house as possible, but a big picnic table under that far-off leafy canopy just might be the nicest place to enjoy a meal. It's worth considering.

The next step is putting mock-ups of the various elements into position using the stakes, string, and sheets. Any rectilinear feature, such as a deck, patio, swimming pool, or sandbox, can be outlined using the stakes and string. Simply pound the stakes a few inches into the ground, and tie the string around the stake to show the outline. Curved areas, such as lawns and planting beds, are easily outlined using a long garden hose (or several hoses connected together). Adjust the curves in the hose until the shape is pleasing from all angles, including from the window inside the house where it will most often be viewed.

To a person with little or no involvement in your landscaping design process, this mocked-up backyard may appear a motley mess. Where someone else sees only a sheet hanging from a line, you see a brick and latticework fence. That garden hose, lying in a curve on the ground, isn't just lying there, it's marking the boundaries of a lush green lawn. And with the help of a little more imagination, those four stakes over there in the shade of the tree are easily transformed into a sandbox where a child contentedly plays. The best part of this exercise is the three-dimensional quality it gives your emerging plan, something almost impossible to achieve with only pencil and paper, which happens to be the next step.

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