Achieving a beautiful yard is really not that difficult if you apply some basic landscape design principles beforehand. The biggest mistakes we see are the wrong plants for the wrong areas and ultimately uninteresting finished landscapes.

The general goal for a residential landscape is the creation of “outdoor rooms”. There should be a sense of enclosure and privacy from neighbors and shade from the hot Colorado sun. You want to create usable spaces that are functional and visually pleasing from all angles. Placement of focal points to draw you out into the yard are key.

The best way to insure a successful installation is the creation of a thorough plan. Ask yourself some key questions; what existing problems need to be addressed (e.g. grading issues or too exposed)? Also,what features do you want to include in your new landscape (patios,turf areas, pergolas, etc.)? Your plan should solve the problems and include your desired features.

The actual design is created in plan view, from above looking down onto your property. It should be drawn to scale (e.g. 1” equals 10′ in actuality). To begin, measure and include property lines, an outline of your house and any plant materials that are going to remain. Now for the fun! Begin placement of hardscape features such as walkways, patios, pergolas, focal points, and bed lines for both turf areas and flowerbeds.

Now for plant placement. Remember the “outdoor room” goal. Ground your yard corners with large shrubs or trees. Soften your fences by screening them with shrubs. These are the walls of your room. Place trees in key positions if you need shade. Research plants that work for your particular situation, e.g. sun/shade exposure, dry/wet soil, etc. Place perennials in large, sweeping, staggered groupings with taller ones in back and shorter in front. This makes for a more impactful, natural look. Choose the color palette that you want to use and repeat it through out the yard for cohesion.


Almost done… but don’t forget the details! Be sure to mulch all plant beds to maintain soil moisture, reduce weeds and give an overall clean look. Use natural mulches such as small brown bark or pea gravel.

Sound easy? Maybe not. Remember if you still don’t have the energy or creative juices to design what you want, there are professionals out there to help you. A professional design can give you exactly what you want and help you avoid the wrong plant choices from the beginning, saving you from costly plant replacement. It literally pays for itself in the long run! Regardless of how you do it, let 2013 be the year you enjoy the beautiful Colorado outdoors from the comfort of your own dreamy yard!

Laura Robinson is an award-winning, Stapleton based, Landscape Designer and owner of Sundial Designs.