A step-by-step guide to designing the yard at your timber home.
Much like building your dream timber home, developing a landscape design takes a well-thought-out plan. Before getting your hands dirty (literally), you’ll need to create a list of existing landscape elements that you want to keep, as well as new features that you’d like to add.
Next, mock up a basic plan for your property, highlighting the three major areas that every yard should include: a public area, a service area and living area, and what desired features will be located where. And last, you’ll need to finalize the plan — all before purchasing a single tree, shrub or flower.
Step 1: Create a wish list
Before focusing on the changes and additions you want to make to your property, first make a list of the existing features that you want to keep.
For example, are there groups of old-growth trees that you’d like to stay? Or maybe you want to base your plan on the natural landscape, which might include existing wildflowers or tall grasses. From there, think about what outdoor features you’d like to add, space permitting. Some possibilities include:
- A brick, stone or wood patio
- An open area for playing sports or entertaining larger crowds
- Flower beds or borders
- A sectioned-off garden for vegetables or specific flower species
- A water feature, such as a Koi pond or waterfall
- A shed for storing tools, lawn equipment or recreational gear
Step 2: Create a basic plan
After making a list of existing elements to work around and what features you want to add, it’s time to draw up a basic landscape plan. Here’s what this plan should include: your property line; the location of your home’s footprint; utilities (both above and below ground); existing plants that you want to keep; walkways; driveways; and topographic considerations, such as boulders, creeks or slopes in the land. (Before finalizing your design, you’ll need to take accurate measurements and consider scale, but you don’t need to worry about that now. With that said, you should try to draw your base plan with realistic proportions in mind.) A drawing of your property with all of these elements will be the base for your second drawing, which will include the public, service and living areas.
- Public Area. This is the part of your landscape that is visible from the front of the house and the street.
- Service Area. This area is not seen from the front of the home but still has easy access from the drive. Here, you might have a space for garbage cans, a compost heap, a shed or a sectioned-off garden.
- Living (Private) Area. This area is meant to extend the home’s living area into the outdoors. This space may be home to a patio or deck, a water feature, or a recreation area.
Step 3: Draw up your final plan
Next you’ll want to add the desired features for your landscape. An easy way to do this is to place a sheet of tracing paper over your basic plan and draw in the features. This will give you an idea of how much space is available and will allow you to move the features around for the best layout.
You’ll then need to determine more accurate measurements for each item and fit them in more precisely. Next, you’ll draw in the specific landscaping needs for each of the three areas. For the public area, the landscaping should blend the house into the surrounding area so it appears inviting and natural.
You may also want to use trees to frame the house and mulch beds to break up the open lawn spaces. In the public area, remember that the doorway is the focal point, so plantings should lead visitors’ eyes to the entrance. To create this effect, you can place larger plants at the corners and graduate to smaller plants as you move closer to the door. Because the service area isn’t meant to be seen, screenings are very important.
Some options for screens are fencing, plant materials to form hedges, or a combination of both. They should be positioned to block views from the living area, the public area and neighbors’ yards. The living (private) area, generally located behind the house, needs to be functional and comfortable, as well as attractive. Shrubbery or fencing of some type can be used here for added privacy. Because you’ll most likely be using this area the most during the warm-weather months, make sure to incorporate protection from the sun’s rays in the form of large trees or an overhang of some sort. You might also want to include a patio here to use for dining or entertaining, as well as all-weather lighting to accent plant materials at night and provide light for evening use.