Landscaping 101

There are so many things to consider in landscaping that you might feel intimidated when it comes to making your own yard beautiful. Never fear. Whether you are starting a new landscape from scratch or want to improve an old one, these simple guidelines will help you to create that perfect look.

Plant Choice

According to Stephen Labrum, a professional landscaper and grounds supervisor for the Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork, Utah, the first step you need to take in deciding which plants to use is to look at your property and decide how you are going to use the space. He suggests looking through books and magazines for inspiration.

"I have my own file and cut things out of magazines to get an idea of a great garden area or patio--things that I then incorporate into projects," says Labrum. But remember, there are several things to consider when choosing plants.


"Go to professional gardens such as at temples, city buildings, and school campuses to get an idea of what plants grow well in your area and what they look like," Labrum says.

Visiting these places not only allows you to see a visual landscape but also shows you plants at a young, intermediate, and mature stage that grow well in your area.

Local nurseries can also be a great help when finding plants to put in your yard. The people there can tell you specific things about plants and trees, like how big they are going to get, what soil is the best, and how to care for each plant.

Another way to understand your climate and which plants will thrive in your yard is to find your city's cold hardiness zone. You can find this either in a book from your library or online.


When you are searching for trees, bushes, or flowers, use an assortment of species that have different heights, colors, and leaf sizes. Avoid buying numerous amounts of the same plant. "In nature, not all one species of plant grows in any given area. There are varied trees, bushes, and flowers," Labrum says. "The goal of your landscape is to make it look as natural as possible; it will make it feel more comfortable."

Don't always run with the crowd. You don't want the exact same trees and design as your neighbors. Be sure to add your own personal touch to your plant selection so that your house will stand out.

"The landscape is what keeps your eye coming back to the house," Labrum says. "It's like a new discovery of a picture, noticing different things every time you look at it."


The best way to design your landscape is to divide your yard into different "rooms." Labrum explains that the best functionality of your house is separation of rooms, so that is how your landscape should be too. "In my backyard I have a 'play room' with a swing set, a 'secret garden room' with a bench and pond, a 'running around room' with a big grassy area, and a 'garden' room where my garden is," says Labrum.

Connect each separate room with "hallways"--areas in the yard that don't necessarily have a purpose but get you from one room to the other. Allow each room in your yard to have its own unique plants and style, but make sure to incorporate some similar plants throughout each room so that each room is tied together.

"Its good to have different interests in your landscaping, just like you do in your house; each room has it's own paint, carpet, and pictures, yet similar things tie it all in together," Labrum says.

Finally, plant things in odd numbers. Clustering three to five plants together will give your yard a more natural look.

--- Quick Landscaping Tips

  • Before you start planting, make sure to know where your sprinkler, natural gas, and electrical lines are throughout the yard so that a line won't be broken during construction.
  • Before you start planting, look at your landscaping idea from all different perspectives: a neighbor's house, across the street, and even from a window. Show your design to a nursery worker for more input.
  • Don't be afraid to ask. If you visit a public garden and are wondering what types of plants or trees they use, go into the office or building and ask to speak to the landscaper.
  • Remember, the landscape of your house is like the mat and frame of a picture. Be sure that your landscaping and house complement each other.
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