How to start your landscaping


This article is the first in a series in which professional landscape architects and designers share their valuable knowledge to bring an outdoor space unique to you.

Designing an outdoor space can be both inspiring and intimidating, both an art and incredibly pragmatic and practical. This article takes a look at the initial imaginative part of the design process. Whether you design your outdoor space yourself or work with a professional, there is a way to start your journey that will set you up for success throughout the rest of the project.

What are the most important things people need to consider when they first imagine what their outdoor space could be like?

Kerry Lewis, Landscape Architecture by Kerry Lewis: The first thing I always ask people is how do they live? Do they have children, do they have pets, do they like to be outdoors, are they entertained and how are they entertained? Do they grill, and if so, do they grill all year round? If so, we would need to place the grill near the house and dig a path.

The other really important thing that I like to know is: do they like to garden, do they like to get their hands on the land, or do they want to learn? Some people don’t have their hands and want low maintenance, and others are passionate about plants. Do they have a dog or children who need to be fenced in? Should we be handling deer with fences or planting things the gate won’t eat? I also love learning about how people live in space and the indoor / outdoor connection: is it more about having views outside or actually being outside to play or relax. ?

Photo courtesy of Viola Gardens

Jessica Viola, Viola gardens: The very first place to start is to ask, where are we now? What works and what doesn’t? I’m a landscaper, but I practice permaculture, which is a design system based on models from nature in which we come up with design solutions instead of forcing them. So, you may ask yourself: where am I in the watershed? How does water move in the landscape? You should also think about the sun, heat, light and shade. If you’re in California, think of the Santa Anas or the Diablo winding east. There are different intrinsic qualities, like salt in the soil for example, that you have to think about. Often the problem is the gateway to the solution.

From there, the next place I encourage people to turn their attention is, how do you see the scenery? The more meaningful the relationship with the garden, the more people take care of it and feel a real sense of stewardship. From labyrinths to p̩tanque courts and fire pits, to botanical gardens and vegetable gardens, butterfly gardens and more, the first phase is almost an interview of who you are, who is your family, how you love. spending time together and how the outdoors space can accentuate these relationships. Not everyone wants a shire look Рif you want a more modern contemporary look, you can have it!

Nahal Sohbati, Topophyll Landscape Design: It’s especially important to start by understanding the space you’re working with and analyzing its opportunities and constraints to use them to your advantage. This will help you strategically prioritize the layout of your space to meet your needs and reach its best potential. Spend time outdoors and think about what’s nice and what’s not. Some common things to consider would be property lines, setbacks, existing trees, sun and shade exposure, microclimates, slope, views, and privacy issues.

The second question to ask yourself is, how do you want to use your outdoor space and what activities do you enjoy when you are outdoors? Be realistic about the scale of the space and your budget. I also recommend thinking about what lives next to you and considering providing habitat for them to thrive. Remember that your garden is part of a larger context and is also home to many living things besides you.

Landscaped garden with a dog sitting on the grass
Photo courtesy of Topohyla

Brian Higley, Brian Higley landscape architect: My first meetings don’t recommend anything – I’m just listening. I try to be more attentive to what my customers want in general. There’s no point in hiring a landscape architect if he’s not listening. The initial questions are really practical. I want to know how they want to use the space and what they do with it and don’t like. And things like, where is the septic tank and what are the constraints, because every job has constraints. Then you know what to work with. I always point out things that I like or that are really obvious or issues that I know we won’t be able to get through like serious leveling or drainage issues, which happens quite often, or if we’re going to need to. a wall retainer.

Why is outdoor space essential to the concept of a house?

KL: Spending time in nature is known to heal, calm, soothe, and even improve the quality of our lives. This not only includes being in nature, but also our use of nature. This is why the indoor / outdoor connection of the house is so important, especially in colder climates where we might spend six months or more indoors. The peaceful environment you find in the garden has a calming effect on our crazy lives.

Autumn trees and lawn in front of a house
Photo courtesy of Kerry Lewis

JV: In all landscapes there is a desire to experience the garden as an extension of the house. It’s not a compartmentalized space that you walk out into. I saw the lawn as an overt fate, an outdated way of thinking about gardens only as a way to impress neighbors or attract attention. We find ways to blend interior design, colors, and architecture into the landscape. It is not only a place to go to work and observe, but it is a place to touch, taste and smell.

Lush garden with glazed corridor
Photo courtesy of Brian Higley

NOT. : I believe home is a place that you feel you belong to and that you are entwined with in a symbiotic relationship; it is a place that you need and in turn it needs you. Just like our homes, outdoor spaces can provide comfort, joy and shelter. Outdoor spaces of any shape, whether it’s a backyard, shared patio, or small balcony, can be a impactful extension of your home. Regardless of their size, these spaces offer incredible benefits such as fresh air, sunlight, stress reduction, and closeness to nature, to name a few.

Outdoor spaces become scenes where plants, creatures and seasons are characters in our lives. We create precious memories as we grow up with these characters, all of us shaped by the passing of time and the choices we make. These relationships can teach us the valuable lessons that our outdoor spaces harbor not only us, but a larger ecological system as well. It is from this perspective that we can make ourselves more aware of our belonging and improve the outdoor spaces in which we live, thus creating a stronger sense of belonging and “home” in our outdoor spaces.

One thing homeowners often don’t realize is the direct impact outdoor spaces have on their indoor lives. Well thought-out landscaping can offer more than just a great view to look at. For example, placing the right deciduous or evergreen tree in a suitable location can provide the home with the right sun exposure in winter or shade in summer and reduce household energy use.

BH: I always want to see the inside of the house and see how someone is experiencing the house. Often the house is really disconnected from the landscape. Most architects think of the landscape as the view out the window, which is not really a connection. On many projects the house is actually part of the project – we will add an additional door or building.


Image of a woman in a green and blue shawl against a background of snowy trees

Kerry Lewis Landscape Architecture, established in 2002, is a design firm dedicated to the practice of residential landscape architecture. Kerry came from her love of plants and natural spaces growing up on a farm in the Hudson Valley area of ​​New York State. Kerry graduated from Cornell University with an Honors BS in Landscape Architecture. She has been a registered landscape architect since 1993 and currently holds a license in Maine and Massachusetts. She holds certificates in Healthcare Garden Design (Regenstein School of the Chicago Botanic Garden) and Horticultural Therapy (Horticultural Therapy Institute and Colorado State University) and is a strong supporter of green design methods that enhance wildlife value. residential gardens.

Jessica Viola in a yellow dress against a blue and teal door

Jessica Viola is one of Southern California’s most sought-after landscapers, having spent the past two decades cultivating a design portfolio based on regenerative full system solutions and artistic vision. Jessica’s in-house design team is currently entirely female-led and all team members are certified in permacultural design. Jessica approaches each project as a unique reflection of the dreams and desires of her client in relation to the needs of the garden, the architecture and the land.

Head of Nahal Sohbati on a background of green and red plants

Nahal Sohbati is a landscape designer and co-founder of Topo-Phyla Landscape Design in Santa Barbara. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in interior architecture, Nahal developed a passion for open public spaces with high social and environmental impact, which led her to pursue a master’s degree in landscape architecture. Nahal firmly believes that design is an advocacy tool to change “what is” into “what could be”. Since his award-winning community service project, Ridge Lane, Nahal has made it a goal to contribute design services that form lasting bonds between communities and their environment.

Head of Brian Higley

Brian Higley was born and raised in rural Vermont, where he developed a deep respect for nature. He is the son of a builder and therefore developed a deep understanding of the building process early on. Brian graduated from Vermont Technical College with a degree in Architecture and Building Engineering and worked for architectural and engineering firms across the country before returning to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for his training in landscape architecture. . He believes that a simple approach is usually the best and leads to a more enjoyable, functional and cost-effective design.



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