Landscape Design Tips for Beginners

Starting From Square 1: What is Landscaping?

White picket fence with yellow tulips planted in back.
Nick Li / EyeEm/Getty Images

Q.--
I know "landscaping" refers to plants, fences and the like. But is there a core idea behind landscape design?

Q.--
I just became a homeowner for the first time. Is there a good reason why I should bother with landscaping at all?

Q.--
What would be the first landscaping issue that I should begin to look into, as soon as I move into my new property?

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Should I hire a professional to work on my landscaping and, if so, how do I go about hiring such a person (for example, a landscape designer or architect)?

Q.--
I've decided to do my own landscaping work. How do I begin planning my project?

Q.--
I like a lot of different plants, but as a beginner, I'm not sure how to group them. Aesthetic considerations aside, is there a rule of thumb for grouping plant A with plant B, rather than having it grow next to plant C?

Q.--
What factors influence site selection for landscape plants?

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I don't want to sever any underground utility cables when digging. Isn't there some sort of "Dig Safe" phone number that I can call?

Q.--
I don't have a lot of time for maintenance, so I'm going to plant perennials rather than annuals. After all, they come up every year, right? Is this a sound strategy for beginners?

Q.--
I live in an area where it gets really hot, meaning I have to irrigate profusely if I don't want to lose my lawn and all my plants to drought. Could I save money in the long run by having a water well dug?

Q.--
I have big trees in my front yard, and no plant will grow under them. Can you suggest a way to plant under trees?

Q.--
I want to plant a row of trees alongside the street. Do you have any examples of pollution-tolerant trees?

Q.--
The cold weather is on its way. I'm new to landscaping and wonder what I can do about winter plant protection. Any tips?

Q.--
Is Spraying the Best Option for Tick Control?

Q.--
What Are the Best Plants to Grow Around Septic Tanks?

Q.--
How Do You Get Rid of Invasive Plants?

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More Specifically, How Can You Get Rid of Japanese Knotweed?

Q.--
How Do I Deal With a Muddy Mess Under a Tree Caused by Dogs?

Q.--
What Are the Best Plants to Grow on a North-Facing Wall?​

Q.--
How Do You Make Small Waterfall?

Q.--
What Tips Can You Offer on Pruning Arborvitae After Snow Damage?

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What Plants Will Grow Under Evergreen Trees?

Q.--
What Are Some Rabbit-Proof Flowers?​

Q.--
What Are the Best Flowering Shade Plants?

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What Are Some Good Xeriscape Plants for Shade?​

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What Are the Best Flowers for Landscaping Around a Mailbox?​

Q.--
What Are Some of the Best Ornamental Trees You Can Recommend?

Readers have sent in some other great questions over the years. Let's look at one more in some detail:

How Do You Plant on Sloping Land?

On a small scale and for a moderate slope, it is possible for the average homeowner to terrace sloping land using a series of small retaining walls. However, if the project is grander and involves significant labor and planning, then it is perhaps best left to professionals. A more feasible way for the DIY'er to landscape sloping land, in most cases, is to install an appropriate ground cover. One that is especially adept at holding back soil on sloping land in an area that receives full sunshine is blue rug juniper.

If you are presented with the challenge of finding a ground cover to cover a hillside that lies in shade, a better bet is Pachysandra terminalis.