Insider Secrets Only Landscapers Know (But Won't Tell You)

Covered pergola with furniture.
This covered pergola provides a shaded retreat from which to enjoy a lovely yard.  KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Whether it's having hardscape features installed, performing chores, or selecting plants for the yard, it's helpful to become wise to the insider secrets that landscapers do not always share with amateurs. Thinking like a professional can save you a lot of money, time, and frustration. Best of all, unlocking the secrets of the pros can help you transform your plantings from a mere collection of specimens into a sophisticated landscape design.

Prioritize Your Hardscape Choices

Hardscape features provide wonderful structure in the yard, but not all of them are equally necessary. Since some types of hardscape are quite expensive, it is important to prioritize when you are landscaping on a budget. Give priority to those projects that are critical to your enjoyment of your landscape.

For example, while you may get excited over the idea of having an elite patio built (replete with outdoor kitchen, etc.), you will not enjoy it very much if you are baking in the sun. A simpler patio roofed with a covered pergola might be a better investment for you. It will offer a permanent, shaded retreat where you can bring food to dine outdoors, chat with guests, or simply enjoy the flower beds you have created nearby.

Use Lawn-Care Hacks to Save Time

Taking good care of a lawn is a time-consuming chore. Fortunately, there are some hacks that those in the know use to save considerable time, including:

  • Laying down a mowing strip
  • Mowing with a mulching mower

After you lay down a mowing strip and see how much time it saves you, you'll kick yourself for not discovering this landscaper's secret sooner. It consists of a row of pavers separating the grass from an adjacent area or structure. You run the wheels on one side of the mower on top of this strip, giving you a clean cut along the border (no need to go back later and "touch up").

For example, if you currently have a lawn butting right up against a chain-link fence, remove the grass along the fence line and replace it with pavers. Doing so will eliminate having to run the string trimmer along the fence line after mowing to cut grass that the mower couldn't get to. 

Save additional time by using a mulching mower rather than mowing with a bag attachment. Not only will you avoid having to remove a bag, empty it, and put it back on, but the finely shredded grass clippings act as a lawn fertilizer (saving you the time required to buy fertilizer and apply it).

Strike a Balance Between Monotony and Variety

Very few people prefer monotony to variety in a landscape design. The good news is that there are some easy ways to inject that variety. One way is simply to vary the eye level of the viewer, rather than keeping everything on one plane. A landscape berm will do this, but so will smart plant selection. Grow a variety of different plants, in terms of height. Provide transitions between them for a smooth flow.

Let's say a row of landscape trees lines the northern border of your yard. To bring the viewer's eye level down a notch, plant sun-loving shrubs in front of it. Complete the three-tiered design with an edging of ground cover plants at the very front.

The bad news is that homeowners sometimes get carried away with variety. Captivated by the beauty of many plants when they shop, they buy a "sample size" for each of them. They will grow one of this and one of that. The result is a hodge-podge, and the design suffers.

The pros are dispassionate enough to give priority to the overall design even if it means doing without some lovely individual plants. An insider secret landscape designers swear by is planting like plants together in odd numbers and repeating that grouping elsewhere in the yard.

For example, three Gold Mound spireas could be grown together in a flower border not too far from the street, complemented by a grouping of three more in a foundation bed. Each grouping will achieve a greater impact than would a solitary shrub, while the repetition brings unity to the design, tying in different parts of the yard.

You may not agree with everything that landscapers recommend, but, remember, professionals are professionals for a reason. They couldn't stay in business if they didn't know how to get the most bang for their buck, work efficiently, and execute designs that the vast majority will find appealing. You'll profit from understanding their thought processes even when you don't follow their suggestions in their entirety.