Landscape Design is no different than painting, interior design, or fashion. Keep in mind basic principles like balance, contrast, texture, composition, movement, etc. and you can create stunning works of art. When it comes to designing a garden, it’s helpful to start by thinking about what you want to get out of it. 

Gardens are meant to be experienced. You should like how it looks, but you should also like how it smells, sounds, feels, and even tastes if you’re wanting to grow your own food. Most importantly though, you should like how it makes you feel! A garden should spark joy, bring you peace, comfort, and relaxation. If your garden doesn’t attract you to it, then what’s the point?

Start by asking yourself three questions: what, where, and why? 


What kinds of plants do you like? Close your eyes and picture colors, heights, and shapes you like most. When it comes to perennials, there are so many different colors, shapes, and sizes of flowers. Go to a nursery and walk around to see what catches your eye (and nose): color, shape, height, smell. Your garden should fit your style. Two options that help you figure out what direction you want to go are simply formal vs informal. Formal gardens tend to have straight lines, sharp angles, and symmetry. They also tend to be higher maintenance. Informal gardens are more curvy and have a more natural feel. They tend to have a higher variety of plants, and ultimately require less maintenance. 


Where do you want your garden to be, and how big? Is there a certain area of the yard that needs work? Maybe you’re looking to have a focal point in your yard surrounded by beautiful flowers. Light and soil play a major role in what you can plant. So keep that in mind. If your yard has a lot of shade, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful garden full of flowers; it just means you need to shift your focus to shade lovers.


Why do you want to have a garden? Do you want to cut flowers to make arrangements for friends and family (and yourself, of course)? Maybe you want to pick up a new hobby like flower pressing, or natural dyeing. Or you may just want a peaceful place to sit back and relax in the summer and watch the pollinators. Identifying the answers to these questions allows you to narrow down the options for what you will plant.

When working through these questions, keep in mind how much time you want to spend on your garden. Be realistic with yourself. All styles of gardens and types of plants require maintenance in terms of weeding, watering, mulching, etc – especially in the first 1-2 years after they are installed. As plants become established and grow into their mature sizes, these requirements will decrease, but depending on your “what, where, and why,” – your garden will always need some TLC to keep it healthy and beautiful. 

You can apply the “what, where, and why” questions to this plant selection too. The types of plants you choose will have specific needs to survive. If you want less maintenance, opt for drought and heat tolerant plants, as well as choosing areas of your yard that get afternoon shade. If your “why” involves harvesting your plants for food, arrangements, preserving, dyeing, etc, you will need to take more time to ensure that your plants are getting what they need to not just survive, but thrive. More thought will need to go into where you are planting, how much you will need to water, and proper technique to harvest to promote additional growth and blooms.  

Creating a beautiful, long lasting garden is hard work, but it is also so rewarding! Having an outdoor space where you can connect with nature, learn, play, and relax is so beneficial for your physical and mental health. We’d love to be your partner when designing a garden. Once you identify what you want to get out of your outdoor space, Seattle Sustainable Landscapes is here to make your garden a reality! 

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