Landscape Design for Year-Round Outdoor Spaces

Spring is almost here; now is the time to start thinking about budget-friendly home improvements. And one of the most ROI DIY projects for spring is to create an environmentally friendly outdoor living space you can enjoy year-round. It not only increases the functionality of your property, it also creates life-long memories for you and your family. A good landscape design considers a number of factors including who will be using the space, location and microclimate, and how much time you want to spend on maintaining your landscaping.

Make Room for Kids and Adults

Who will be using the backyard and why? Is the outdoor space going to be where the adults gather to relax around the fire pit? The patch of lawn that’s fairly flat would be a great place for a swing set, but the adults sitting on the patio can’t see the kids playing. Do you have pets – if you have a dog, the fence might need to be below ground a couple of feet to deter digging, but if you have a cat, the fence should be “unscalable” to prevent escape. Once you determine who will be using the outdoor living spaces, you can create a landscape design that will easily accommodate kids, adults, and the four-legged family members.

Have a Plan

To ensure the successful outcome of your home improvement project, start with just hanging out in the backyard. Before you make major changes to outdoor living space, spend time with your landscape – let it “speak” to you. Do you drag a chair from the patio to be nearer to the flowerbed by the tall shade tree? Maybe the corner of the property by the shed would be a good place for a water feature and a meditation arbour.

For landscaping that will look good and need little upkeep, ask yourself the following questions and include the answers in your landscape design plan

  • Do you prefer an English garden (formal, high maintenance) or a cottage garden (informal, low maintenance)?
  • Will the landscaping be eco-friendly?
  • Will you conscientiously use environmentally-friendly products and gardening techniques?
  • Do you want plants to flower in each of the four seasons?
  • Do you prefer more shrubs to flowerbeds?
  • Will you have a mix of flower, vegetable, and herb gardens?
  • What focal points do you want to feature – koi pond, living wall, pergola, gazebo?

When you have a general idea of what you want to include in your landscape design, draw up a plan – it doesn’t have to resemble a blueprint from a n architectural firm. Make a budget: include two lists: one for what you will be using or repurposing in your eco-friendly landscaping design; the second list outlining materials and furniture you want to purchase for your outdoor living space.

Before Choosing a Location

Divide the backyard or the front yard into areas. Assess how much sun, shade, and wind each zone receives at different times of the day. Knowing which areas receive sun and shade will help you choose the appropriate plants and shrubs for each zone.

Don’t forget to factor in the effects of microclimate. Microclimate is a climatic condition that is unique to your backyard. For example, if the garden shed causes the wind to speed around the corner, placing a fire pit nearby might put out the flames when you’re trying to enjoy an evening with friends.

Do some rough sketches to help you visualize what you want the outdoor living spaces to look like. But I can’t draw! Draw a rectangle where you want the new patio to go; a circle for the gazebo you will be building; wavy lines in a circle for the water feature; and straight lines in a square to represent the signature focal point flower bed you want to create.

Start Small

Unless you only want to focus on one area or just make a couple of changes, your landscape design makeover will include a number of components. This isn’t’ an episode of a home improvements show – there’s no team of 10 to help you tear down an old shed, dig flower beds, or put down pavers for the new patio floor. Commit to enjoying the process of creating a lasting landscape design you can enjoy year-round. Select one area of your design plan and begin there – a small flower bed; purchasing a decorative bench; preparing the ground before installing a fire pit.

Focal Points for Your Outdoor Space

Balancing focal points with pathways to guide you and your visitors through the landscape is an art – too many focal points and they become a distraction; too few, and they fail in their purpose to make the garden visually interesting.

Fill in the blank: an outdoor living space wouldn’t be complete without a ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______________:

  • Rain chain/rock garden combo
  • Pergola and colourful climbing plants
  • Place to sit in front of a fire
  • Living wall
  • Large, free standing umbrella or sun sail
  • Fountain
  • Wind chimes
  • Bird house/birdbath combo

Place candles or vintage lanterns on a table: they will not only will provide light; they will also help create a festive mood. Focal points make outdoor living spaces comfortable and inviting.