Professional Help

The idea of designing a home landscape can intimidate even serious gardeners. Wise people know their limitations. Consulting a professional when necessary can prevent costly mistakes. For this reason, don’t let the cost of a designer keep you from asking one for help at any time during the design process.

Keep in mind that you can hire a professional to help you during a particular step without hiring one to do the entire design. For example, you might need help developing your base plan and site analysis, or you might ask for a consulta­tion when you have the first draft of your landscape design to get a professional’s opinion and input. Safety is always a con­sideration for constructed items, such as retaining walls, arbors, and steps. A licensed landscape architect can help you create a design to ensure these items are safe (see Working with a Landscape Architect at http://msucares. com/lawn/ landscape/resources/architect. html). Landscape contractors can help you build and install your ideas (see Working with a Landscape Contractor at http://msucares. com/lawn/ landscape/resources/contractor. html).

You should develop a relationship with the staff of your favorite garden center and involve them in your plan. They can certainly tell you about the plants they grow and sell.

Sources of Inspiration

Don’t be afraid to scour landscape design books, the Internet, other residential landscapes, or other sources of information. Use them to spark your imagination and help you formulate design ideas that will work for your landscape. A list of regional books and references may be found at http://msucares. com/lawn/landscape/resources/books. html. Attend the garden and patio shows that occur in your area. You’ll find everything you need, from professional services and building materials to plants and scores of adaptable ideas.

But, by far, the best source of landscaping ideas is your memories of gardens, landscapes, and natural places. You may want to recreate that corner herb garden that you remember so vividly from your grandmother’s yard. Or it may be that secluded garden bench tucked away under a bower of sweet­heart roses that holds nice memories for you. It could even be those wild muscadine grape vines you climbed as a child to reach the plump, juicy fruit—all these memories could be recreated and mixed with the desires of other family members to create a landscape that you and your family will treasure for years to come.

You may do most of your initial landscape planning in your head. But to capture those ideas most effectively, write down these observations, ideas, and expectations as they come to you. Use your digital camera to take pictures of plant combi­nations, landscapes, or gardens that are particularly appeal­ing. You can even take digital pictures of magazine or book pages that show plants or landscape ideas you like. Then you could create a home landscape idea file on your computer for reference later when you start the actual design process.