Top 5 Landscaping Themes for Your Yard

Anyone planning to design a new landscape for their yard understands how challenging it can be to get started and how challenging it can be to create a consistent look.  With so many options available to you, it just might make your job a whole lot easier if you decide to stick to one of our top 5 landscaping themes for your yard.

Landscape Themes Vary

We know that themes vary widely, and only our imagination can limit our vision. However, you shouldn’t worry so much about the challenges of picking a theme because once you’ve finally decided on it, all the great ideas will flow naturally.

You should also be aware that while choosing a theme may help you decide on certain elements that you want to incorporate into your landscape, it isn’t necessary to select a specific theme and adhere strictly to it. You can always create your landscape the way you envision it. 

Choosing a theme simply helps you make decisions and helps keep the look of your property more consistent.  We’ve all seen the properties that are just a jumble of plants and beds with no real order or theme.  This can detract from your yard’s value and be very visually distracting.

Add Your Own Personality

A beautiful landscape is an excellent addition to your already beautiful home infrastructure. With a theme, a personality will be added to the garden as it sets the property’s tone.

Here we have a carefully crafted list of the top 5 most popular themes that will help you envision the future landscape of your dreams.

1. Mediterranean style

If you love the styles of Greece, Italy, and Spain and if you have wanted to move to these places but can’t, why not decide to bring these countries right to your backyard? You can create a landscaped garden that resembles a lot of the places mentioned, and the theme that is perfect for that is the Mediterranean style.

Mediterranean-style gardens scream elegance. Landscapes in this theme are inspired by combining laid-back softscapes with formal accents. Some of the Mediterranean garden’s popular features are the tiered fountains, bocce ball courts, Roman columns, herb gardens, and terra cotta pots and colors.

The most common softscapes used in this theme are plants that provide vibrance, texture, and structure. You can pick out citrus trees alongside cypress trees and ornamental grasses for your Mediterranean property.

The people in the Mediterranean love to socialize, dine outdoors, and do gardening. With that, bocce ball courts are prevalent in this style. This is an Italian game that can be traced back to the Roman Empire.

Rome is well known for its majestic Trevi fountain, which has inspired many landscapes in European courtyards to have tiered fountains of their own. These tiered fountains are usually situated mid-yard and become the center of attention with their carvings and statues.

With Italian and French people preparing such scrumptious meals, it is not surprising that they grow herb gardens in their backyards. In the past, the people near the Mediterranean use to grow herbs for culinary purposes and medicinal reasons.

With the greenery from the softscapes and the terra cotta colors’ warmth, this theme will surely make you feel like you live in the Mediterranean regions.

2. Tropical style

Many of us dream of tropical beaches when we think of vacations.  If your climate will allow it, why not bring the vacation to your yard? Tropical-themed backyards will make you feel like it’s summer all year long.

A tropical-themed landscape’s fundamental elements are foliage, vibrant colors, and any form of water feature.  A beautiful pond surrounded by colorful blooms and lush greenery sounds about right.

Be aware that you need to keep your climate at the top of your mind when considering this garden theme.  It does you no good to dream tropical if you live in Zone 5.

Lush foliage is the most popular feature of a tropical garden. Large leaves of many beautiful and healthy-looking shades of green, along with contrasting textures of both large-leafed and long-stemmed plants.

It is crucial to break up the lush green foliage with bright shots of color by using large bloomed flowering plants.  Fill the area with plants of varying heights to create that lush, full tropical feel.

You can pick out palm trees to provide shade in your garden. There are many tropical garden plants to choose from to achieve the rainforest or jungle-themed look that you desire.

You can start with planting caladiums as they are vibrantly colorful and will add a pop of color to your lush and lavish greenery. Hostas are also a great option as they are colorful and are, most importantly, considered to be hardy plants thus making it a perfect and safe choice for a tropical garden in colder areas. Cold hardy plants with broad and lush leaves can give you a tropical garden look even if you are on the fringes of an area considered semi-tropical.

Should you wish to have plants native to tropical regions and your climate won’t support them, you can pick out garden plants that can be wintered indoors. Plumeria, cannas, colocasia, and lilies are some examples. You can simply return them to your garden in spring.

It is also essential to remember that colors should be kept vibrant. Bright yellows, oranges, and reds should be used as accents to your garden as they resemble the tropical birds in rain forests. You should pick out Japanese and Siberian iris plants, which have slender leaves with flowers that highly resemble butterflies.

It is also vital to add water elements in a tropical-themed garden. Depending on your property’s size and layout, you may want to consider a pool, pond, waterfall, or even a fountain.  The sound of flowing water will spread relaxation throughout your garden.

3. Japanese Zen Style

The Japanese love to meditate so much that they bring meditation to their backyard. Nothing else says calm better than a Japanese zen-inspired garden. Since it focuses on minimalist designs, it is arguably the most straightforward garden style to maintain

.Japanese zen gardens are designed for peaceful thinking. They are traditional gardens from Buddhist, Taoist, and Shinto philosophies and beliefs that can provide a spiritual haven for those who wish to visit.

You can add a Karetaki, or dry waterfalls, to your garden to create a Japanese zen look. A Karetaki can be created by designing and arranging stones, gravel, and sand to symbolize a waterfall but without the water.

 To build on the waterfall idea, you can incorporate a dry stream bed at the end of the dry waterfalls. A layer of white sand or gravel can create the dry stream. This is called Karenagare, which means raked sand.

Kogetsudai can be placed in your Japanese zen garden. This is gravel shaped into cones that represent the mountains of Japan.

 Rock sculptures, or Karensusai, are also important in a Japanese zen garden. Rocks can symbolize the five elements: metal, water, wood, fire, and earth.

Reisho rocks can be used to symbolize the firmness of metal.

Taido are tall rocks that stand for wood and are often designed and arranged with reishoi.

Earth can be symbolized by kikyakui rocks, which are turned onto their sides on the ground.

Flat shintai rocks will represent flowing water.

Shigyo rocks symbolize fire.

To create a contrasting effect to the gray tones of the earlier mentioned features, moss and evergreens can be added to create a pop of green color. Japanese maple trees and azaleas are great accents also.

It is important to pick perspective and focal points in Japanese zen gardens. Be aware of where you will view your garden from and what elements your vision will be drawn to.  Plan ahead and create sitting areas in just the right spots to place your guests at the absolute perfect location to view and enjoy your Zen creation.

4. Italian style

Italian-themed landscapes are loosely based on the Renaissance to blend drama and elegance. Italian landscaping features classic and theatrical elements. Symmetry and order are essential characters in an Italian-themed garden. They are termed “formal” gardens and have heavily influenced the French-themed landscaping style.

You can use heavy iron gates to create a dramatic entrance.  This will provide a formal, structured look and give you much-needed privacy and security.

Upon entering your garden, noticing a citrus scent will engrain the memory of your Italian garden on your guests’ olfactory memory, ensuring that they will envision your masterpiece every time that they catch that scent. The smell of sweet oranges, lemons, and grapefruit can add a wonderful fragrance to the air.

Italian-themed gardens heavily follow geometric and linear styles. Everything must be planned out, from the rows and columns of bushes down to the placement of statues and other hardscapes.  Ars topiaria (topiary) is an essential element of Italian gardens. This is the art of cutting plants such as shrubs and hedges to create precise shapes. They can turn it into classic shapes or even animals to use as decoration in the garden.

It is best to use yews, cypress, and boxwood plants for pruning because they are well suited to shearing and will last for a very long time if cared for properly. Through ars topiaria, the garden can be divided into symmetrical areas, private rooms, and even mazes that lead to secret gardens.

Another vital element is the pergola. This is a space designed for relaxation while being at least partially shaded from the harmful rays of the sun.  Climbing and blooming plants can make for a stunning sun shade that will also provide a soothing fragrance. You can choose to plant roses or evergreen ivy with lavender also.

While the typical Italian gardens are traditionally not surrounded by four walls because they are in open countrysides, you can undoubtedly make a very similar design work within the confines of your own yard. 

Remember to use strategically placed romantic and classic statues in your garden to provide focal points and intriguing corners. You may also add water elements such as stone pools, fountains, and elegant canals. This water element will create a calm vibe to soften the heavy symmetry.

5. Xeriscape Style

Xeriscape landscaping has been gaining popularity nowadays. This type of landscaping is used in places where water conservation must be followed, such as drought-susceptible states and countries. Because of climate change, a lot of households have switched to xeriscaping.

An essential element in this landscape theme is using less lawn grass. Lawn grasses don’t do well in arid climates without supplemental irrigation, making them ill-suited for xeriscaping.

Instead of having a lawn, you can create walkways made of stone and rocks. Native plants must also be used since they are already used to the local climate and have already adapted to the environment, thus needing less water than foreign plants.

Rock walls and terraces make great ways to break up a landscape comprised of mostly dry-loving plants.  Rocks are very eco-friendly as they look beautiful all year round, regardless of the precipitation.  The rock walls are great spaces for growing plants as the rocks will trap moisture in their crevices.

 Over time, these plants will grow and spill over the rock surfaces. This will form an artistic look and create a beautiful, flowing rock garden. Thyme, campanula, and lamium are some of the many plants that can thrive in rock gardens.

Succulents are also a great addition to your plant collection in your xeriscape-style garden. They require very little water and do not mind being under the hot sun.

It is best to place them in terra cotta pots for better moisture retention. However, clay and ceramic pots work well too. Putting them in containers will allow you to redecorate easily.

Mediterranean plants can also be included in your list of plants to collect as they enjoy plenty of sun and love being in sandy soils. Not only do they look pretty, but Mediterranean plants also provide other practical purposes, such as for your culinary needs. Thyme, rosemary, and oregano can be added to your herb garden.

Aside from picking out the right plants that will thrive in water conservation areas, it is imperative to plan out an effective water irrigation system if one is required. A well-built drip system buried in the ground will stay cool and conserve water.  A drip system can use up to 70% less water than a broadcast system.

The drip irrigation system is highly efficient as it drips water where it is needed at the plant’s roots rather than spraying the water through the air. 

This is Only a Taste

This is just a small taste of themes that you can choose from and remember that you don’t necessarily need to follow a theme; you can create the landscape in your own style, but be sure that as you plan your gardens, you keep consistency in mind.  Using similar and consistent looks throughout your garden will give it a calming and complete look rather than a confusing, cluttered look.

Principles of Good Landscape Design

There isn’t a specific manual to a perfect landscape, but certain principles of good landscape design guide beginners and experienced professionals alike.

Landscaping is an art based on creativity and function. A creatively designed landscape that doesn’t function well for the occupants is no better than a very functional space with little creativity. You need to create the perfect blend of the two, realizing that not only must you create a visually appealing picture, it must also be comfortable and inviting to the user.

This article will discuss various principles of effective landscape design that I hope will help guide you to the landscape of your dreams.


The principle of unity emphasizes harmony across the landscape. There must be a smooth interconnection of all elements of the landscape. To achieve a unified landscape, make sure your patios, walkways, and sidewalks are all planned and positioned in a way that both complement and are complemented by the plantings.


Repetition is a common way to achieve unity. Repeating various elements throughout the landscape in such a way that instills a sense of familiarity while not an obvious sense of repetition. There is comfort in familiarity, but too much comfort creates boredom and a lack of desire to explore further.


Consistency unites all aspects of the design to achieve the desired theme. Observe the color, texture, height, and shapes of all the elements used to create the design. Strive to create a design consistent enough to not appear fragmented while varied enough to provide a continual sense of interest from one end to the other.


Balance is another essential principle of landscaping. It improves the landscape’s aesthetics by stabilizing all aspects incorporated in a landscape. A balanced landscape unifies all elements into one seamless lot. Balance gives us comfort and calm. The feeling that it is done completely and properly but not overdone.

I believe this to be the overall most important aspect of all landscape design. Balance is about a feeling more than it is about specific weights and measures. To feel the balance of a property, you must almost squint as you enter to take in the entirety and judge its completeness without being distracted by any one element.

Having said that, there are specific elements of balance that can be very important in certain portions of the landscape. They are as follows.

Symmetrical Landscape Balance

To create symmetric balance, you should have two sides with similar elements and designs—for instance, the same type of flowers or shrubs with the same shapes and sizes. In short, one side of the landscape should be a mirror image of the other/opposite side. Purely symmetrical balance is mainly used in a more formal design, while a combination of symmetric and asymmetric balance is a more common approach to creating a visually appealing landscape.

You must be aware that symmetry is only realized from one or two viewpoints, and you mustn’t strive to create complete symmetry even in the most formal designs; there are apt to be viewpoints from which symmetry is lost.

Asymmetrical Landscape Balance

The balance is achieved using various elements and components of a landscape with a unifying factor like the shape, size, or texture. While the landscape is not a mirror image as it is in the symmetrical design, it does appear to be equally weighted while using differing components.

Revisit the notion of consistency to be sure that you don’t create a jumbled mess.


Simplicity means different things to different people, and the same landscape will be interpreted differently depending on a persons’ personality. While one person might see a big garden of mixed flowers as simple because it is merely one big bed, another might see it as complex due to the many varieties of plants within the bed.

Simplicity can be hard to pin down, but you will know it when it is no longer there.

Simplicity in a landscape will have a calming effect. For a simple landscape design, avoid too many colors, textures, and shapes. Simple does not mean monotonous.


The colors present set the mood and feel of the landscape. Bright colors make objects seem closer, while cool colors make an object seem farther from you. A combination of the bright and cool colors brings out a striking look that is more appealing and satisfying. Keep in mind simplicity and balance. A jumble of too many colors is typically unappealing but can be fun and exciting in small doses.


Different plants will have different textures; some will be thick while others will be thin, some will be very coarse while others smooth. You must also consider that different textures will be apparent from different viewpoints and distances. While the bark of an oak may not register from across the yard, and a bed of small flowers may appear smooth at a distance, it will be a different feel up close.

Textures create interest in a similar way that colors do; it’s usually just a bit more subtle. Always keep in mind how the most prominent aspects of the yard, such as outcroppings, walls, or even the house, create a sort of textured appearance from a distance.


The form or shape of the plants used in a landscape can heavily influence a design. Consider how a bed full of pyramidal evergreen shrubs would give an entirely different feel than a bed full of mounded shrubs. One would look jagged and sharp, while the other more flowing and smooth. Use the forms of the elements to create interest within the landscape. Having too many similar forms will appear boring, while too many differences might again seem cluttered. Once again, it is about balance.


The proportions and scale of your landscape components and how they relate to each other will significantly impact how the final design is perceived. Scale is hard to pin down, as it changes with time. Differences in scale is why so many landscapes get planted too tightly and end up as one big mass over time.

The designer may not have accounted for growth when considering scale.

It is a very hard concept to embrace because when planting a new landscape, especially one on a tight budget, the small plants will leave you wanting more and feeling unsatisfied with your design. This will often lead to crowding to achieve a better initial look.

You need to be able to project your vision into the future to ensure that your plantings will be in scale with each other and the surrounding hard structures long term. The alternative to this would be to over plant to achieve the desired scale now with the intention to remove certain plantings over time to reset the scale as things grow.


Creating a sequence of the elements used in your landscape can result in visual rhythm. The rows, lines, and columns of the landscape can be presented to create a sequence that achieves harmony, interest, and a desire to continue on to see the next element.


There is often one part of the yard, one prize plant, one area of the patio, or one corner of the house that needs some emphasis. The feature can be emphasized by allowing the design to lead the eye to it or perhaps by framing it in such a way as to make it stand out.

On the opposite side, sometimes there is one feature that overwhelms the view and needs to be hidden or softened a bit to allow the design to feel complete. This is often the case when the home is new and “sticks out like a sore thumb” because there are no plantings around it. It is often the landscape that will de-emphasize the house to bring the view into balance.


Too many similar elements in a landscape can be boring while using too many different varieties can lead to clutter. A big part of your struggle is to provide enough variety to keep the viewer interested while not making it appear so cluttered that it distracts from the yard’s overall feel. Combine elements that complement each other and their surroundings.


Lines can be straight, curved, horizontal, or vertical. Choose the ideal lines to use, taking into consideration the theme of the landscape and the flow of the yard. The lines used will create different effects from different perspectives. Straight lines are formal and direct, while curved lines are more adventurous with a flowing effect.

Once again, variety can be attractive when lines are appropriately used but distracting when varied too much. One thing that I see over and over again is the use of too many small-radius turns or using a curve, then straight, then curve in the same view.


In my opinion, this is the most important yet often overlooked factor that can make or break a great landscape design. I believe that far too many designers have their style or their favorite ways of doing things, and they apply them repeatedly to landscape after landscape which results in more of a one size fits all concept of landscaping.

While this approach may be efficient and may be a good start for many homeowners, I believe that, first and foremost, useability must be considered. A comfortable and useable landscape for one person may stymie and irritate another.

Your landscape should meet and blend with your life and your routine. Creating a pretty design on paper is far from creating an outdoor living space that makes the occupants feel comfortable and fulfilled. This is why I firmly believe that a person who enjoys spending a good deal of time in their yard should design their own landscape or at least have a critical role in the design.

At the very least, the ebb and flow of the driveway, walkways, patios, gardens, and lawn areas should be outlined and reviewed by the property owner prior to many of the design elements being added.

Final Word

Whether you are starting from scratch or refreshing an old design, try to keep some of the above concepts in mind while building your landscape. While vague and hard to envision, to be sure, the principles discussed above should help guide you to a landscape that will suit your lifestyle.

It will always be easier for a new designer to take a portion of an existing landscape and redesign it rather than starting with a blank slate. Going from the blank slate to the finished product is always the most challenging design unless, of course, you are simply dropping in a cookie-cutter design similar to others with the assumption that we all like approximately the same elements in our landscapes.

If you are a homeowner trying to design your landscape, I feel that a few rough sketches of the overall concepts are likely helpful, but I wouldn’t waste too much time on detailed drawings.

While a landscape architect may be able to envision a landscape from a paper drawing, it is very difficult for a homeowner to do the same. Countless times a homeowner has paid a landscape architect to create a pretty plan and then, once it was getting installed, decided to make changes and revisions on site where they could actually understand what it would look and feel like.

This is the value of the new digital renderings and video walk-throughs that are possible with today’s technology. While not true to life, they are often very accurate and can give the inexperienced homeowner an authentic feel for what it will be like to interact with their landscape.

If you are doing your design, spending more time walking the property and viewing areas from varying angles will be better than spending a good deal of time on detailed drawings.

Spend time doing research, pic out a bunch of pictures of things that you like the look of, then walk your property and take the time to envision how to make these desired elements work in your yard.  Feel free to stake it or paint it out and live with it so that you can get the feel of your ideas before you actually install them.

Front Yard Landscaping Ideas

Curb appeal is important.  We always talk about making a good first impression, and the front of your house is many people’s first impression of you and your family.  Curb appeal is also vitally important when it’s time to sell your home.  While most people that I meet have many back yard landscape ideas, most aren’t as good at coming up with front yard landscaping ideas.

This article will try to pull together a few pointers to help you figure out just what to do with your front yard.

Where to Begin?

Where you begin depends on where you are right now.  If you are starting from scratch and you have a bare front yard, congratulations, and I hope that you are enjoying your new home.  But, if you are like most people, you already have a front yard landscape, and you think it needs an update.

I’ll run through my thought process on front yard landscapes, and you can jump in wherever you feel is appropriate for your situation.

The Vision

An excellent way to figure out what you want to do in your front yard is to look at some other examples.  One of the easiest ways to d this is by searching online for front yard pictures that you like.  This is very easy to do, and iunno time, you will likely have many ideas.

The second easiest way and probably better way is to drive around neighborhoods in your area and see what others have done.  Checking out the local front yards will help because you know that if they are doing it in their front yard, you can do it in yours.  It doesn’t help you to download a bunch of landscape pics with plants that can’t grow in your zone, so looking locally for ideas is often easier.

I am not suggesting that you copy anyone; I’m just saying that it is a great way to start putting together a list of features that catch your eye.  You can write down a list, but the easiest is probably to take a picture of the components that you like

Pat Attention to Specifics

Every house that you pass will give you a first impression.  Some will be good, and some will be bad.  When you come to a good one, take note of which aspect caught your eye.  Was it the way that the plants were placed?  Was it the curve of the front walk or the driveway’s style?  If you do this for a while, you will start to realize what you like.  Maybe you like brick curving walkways. Perhaps you like large trees bordering the house, or perhaps it’s the flower beds that catch your eye.  Whatever it is, figure it out.

This will be easier if you are looking at homes similar in design to your own.  Not that you can’t take ideas from any yard, but it will be easier for you to picture it in your yard if the house is of a similar design.

Looking it Over

Once that you have a bunch of ideas of which landscape aspects catch your eye, you need to figure out how to implement them in your front yard.

Standing Out in the Road

Stand out in the road in front of your house and lake a long hard look.  If you live on a busy street, it may be better to take a picture so that you can take time to examine the details without worrying about getting run over.

Which aspects of your front yard are appealing and which ones are terrible.  If you have a brand new house and have no landscape at all, the house will stick out like a sore thumb.  It will likely be very unappealing and might feel stark and bare.  If your landscape is twenty years old, it is likely that it is a bit overgrown and messy.

Many times, landscapers and homeowners alike plant for the moment rather than for the future.  They plant trees and shrubs that look good when they put them in, but ten or twenty years down the road, everything is growing on top of everything.  Many homes have trees that are obscuring their most attractive features, or they have large overgrown shrubs blocking the window and groundcovers growing over the walkways.

Clearing the Slate?

If you have a new home, you are likely starting with a clean slate, but if you have a mature landscape, you certainly do not.  A pet peeve of mine is that many landscape companies make it a standard practice to completely start over with a landscape.  They often suggest to homeowners that they tear it all out and start over.

Why would they do this?  Doesn’t it seem very wasteful to you?  It certainly is wasteful in most situations, but the new landscaper wants this to be an easy and profitable job.  If they wipe the slate clean, they can install one of their cookie-cutter designs that work on every house in the neighborhood. They get paid for all of the labor for tearing out perfectly good plants, and then they get paid for installing all new plants.  This is about profits, not about you or your yard.

Most of the time, starting with a clean slate is completely foolish.  Most of the time, some of the existing landscape is just fine, and we can plan around it.  I would only recommend clearing your front yard landscape as the last resort.  When you have looked at it from a few angles, and there is just nothing good about what you have in your front yard, and you plan to change way too many aspects to save anything, then you may need to wipe it clean, but this is rare.

Pick and Choose

Sometimes, with an old overgrown landscape, it helps to remove some of the obvious things that need to go.  By picking out some of the worst offending features and getting rid of them, you may be able to more clearly see what you need to do to move forward.

I want to caution you to consider the lifespan and value of any plant material that you may be thinking about removing.  Cutting down a mature tree is a big decision that cannot be reversed.  Trees take lifetimes to grow to maturity, so first, figure out if that tree can stay and be pruned before you decide to cut it down.  Pulling out some overgrown juniper shrubs that have been rubbing on the front windows for the last few years is a whole other story.

Some multi-stemmed, suckering plants, such as dogwood and lilac, can be cut right down to the ground, and they will grow again from the base.  These plants are very easy to rejuvenate and can often be re-used in a landscape.

Having landscaped for so many years, I can envision the re-worked landscape without removing the bad stuff first, but for a homeowner new to doing their own landscape work, uncluttering the front yard may be the best way to start.

The New Dream

Once you have some favorite aspects picked out and you have removed some of your old clutter, it is time to pull together the dream.  Plan out your ultimate front yard landscape without any concern for budget. Just plan your dream and price it out.  I find it easier to dream big and cut it back if need be rather than the other way around.  


As you plan out your new landscape, it will help you to walk up and down your street and in and out of your driveway a few times to get a feel for how the new landscape will look.  As you view it from different angles, inset the favorite aspects that you want to implement in your mind’s eye and try to get a feel for how they will affect the yard’s overall look and feel.

You will feel a bit silly at first, and it isn’t easy to do for many people, but it will help you get a feel for your new plans before you actually begin.

Things To Consider

When planning your front yard landscape, you need to consider certain things.  Landscapes are rarely only viewed from one direction, and they are very seldom viewed from above.  Having site plans drawn for landscaping is often a big waste of time and done only to make it easier on the landscaper and not the homeowner.

 I can’t tell you how many times I have seen homeowners surprised by their landscape layout because it looks totally different than what they thought they were getting from their plan they had seen.  Even when standing in the yard with the plan in hand, many homeowners couldn’t even tell you what goes where.

If you need a plant to keep your thoughts or your landscaper’s thoughts straight, that is fine, but I would highly recommend walking the yard and painting or staking out the major elements so that you can truly get a feel for them.  Seeing things in your yard and seeing them on paper are two entirely different things.


Landscaping is about flow, continuity, and contrast.  You want to draw a viewer’s eye in a way that gives them the overall best impression of your home and yard.  Maybe there is a part of the front yard that should be blocked, and maybe there is a part that should be highlighted. 

Framing beautiful windows with plants can be very attractive, but plants growing up over the window sills almost always looks ugly.  Plants softening the edges of hardscapes and blending different landscape features look great, while plants growing together and covering up key features just look messy.

For curb appeal, it should look inviting.  For large front yards, groups of trees blocking some of the house from the road with a winding driveway leading to the house may add intrigue, while a large, thick stand of brush in a small front yard will look unkept and will usually give a bad first impression. 

A walkway that flows from the front door toward the road looks inviting, while a yard where you can’t see the walk at all makes the front door seem to just stand alone in whatever bed or lawn might be in front of it.


Most tall houses look better, with some tall landscape plantings tying them down at the corners. In contrast, short houses look better with smaller plants.  Everything typically looks best in scale.  A huge tree up close to almost any home is a bit much, while a sizeable towering tree out in the yard might make it look more stately.

Think of your front yard as a piece of artwork.  Paintings usually have symmetry so that they don’t look really heavy on one side and light on the other.  Your front yard is the same.  If you have tall trees and a tall section of house on the left, then you will need something substantial on the right side to help balance it off.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be done with larger trees.  A fountain, a colorful and full garden bed, or some outcropping stone might help balance the look.   

Blank Spaces

Don’t forget about blank spaces.  Blank spaces in our landscapes are essential to add interest and contrast.  At a distance, extensive beds of green plants will just look like a green mass, even if they appear very different close-up.  Part of your job when designing the front yard landscape is to design so that it looks good from afar as well as close up.  Speaking of blank spaces, it often looks nice to break up huge blank walls with some plant material, tying the front of your house down into the beds with some layering from tall in the back to short in the front.


Adding some basic low volt landscape lighting to your front yard will bring the place alive at night.  Don’t go overboard with lighting; a little goes a long way.  Also, lay it all out above ground and live with it a few days before you bury any wiring.  You want to be able to go out into the front yard at night and move the fixtures around to get just the look that you want.  Once you are sure that it looks right from the road and the lights aren’t shining in your eyes when you are inside the house at night, then you can bury the wires.

Take Your Time

Part of the luxury of doing your front yard landscape yourself is to be able to take your time.  Landscapers aren’t pressuring you to make decisions; you can decide at your own pace.  Take out a few things and add a few things.  Change the big stuff first.  If you are definitely changing the front walkway or steps, then get that part done and work your way out from there.  Plan a bit, plant a bit, and take a look at what you’ve got.  Don’t be afraid to move things around if they don’t feel right and continually back up to see what it looks like from the street.

With a bit of advanced planning, some research, and some design ingenuity, you will be able to create the front yard landscape of your dreams at a fraction of the cost of hiring it done.

Good luck and have fun!