How to Landscape: Designing a Beautiful Outdoor Space

How to Landscape: Designing a Beautiful Outdoor Space

Landscaping involves the planning, design, and construction of gardens and other areas of land. This process can range from simple affairs with a few perennials and annuals to grand displays with exotic plants, water features, structures, and much more.

Undertaking a landscaping project can add value to your property by upping the curb appeal. In fact, the right landscaping can add 10% to 15% to a home’s value. You can create an outdoor space that mixes a garden full of flowers and plants with hardscape features, such as stone pathways, walls, and patios.

If you’re a do-it-yourself type who doesn’t mind working hard and getting your hands dirty, you might be able to undertake a DIY landscaping project yourself. But a good general also knows the value of relying on well-trained troops. So, you might want to hire a landscape designer or other help for planning and implementation.

To get you started, this article covers:

The landscaping process

If you follow the natural landscaping process, you can create an outdoor paradise for your home or business that will provide rewards for years to come.

1. Research for inspiration

Do you want to balance your yard’s hardscape (shed, fire pit, pergola, etc.) and softscape (vegetation) features? Do you want beautiful flowers that feed the eyes or a vegetable garden that feeds the body? Are you hoping to create a sustainable, low-maintenance paradise that saves water?

Start by researching how to landscape your property beyond just Googling landscaping tips and images. Before you do an online search, spend some time in the space you’re going to landscape to:

  • Get a feel for possible focal points
  • See how the landscape and your buildings relate to each other
  • Check the sun coverage in different parts of the yard
  • See how paths might tie the garden together and shape the experience

Use your notes to be more specific in your searches, perhaps looking for distinct features you’d like to add or the kind of backyard or front yard landscaping style you’re trying to achieve.

Home and handyperson heavyweights like HGTV and Bob Vila go beyond just pretty pictures. They provide information ranging from how to build cornhole boards and landscape around a pool to how to create drought-tolerant landscaping.

2. Seek professional advice

Since landscaping can cost anywhere from a few to tens of thousands of dollars, it makes sense for beginners to get a landscape designer involved to ensure your money is well spent.

Independent designers can help you avoid expensive overruns because they’re experts at costing landscape projects. Landscape designers can analyze your space, including the soil type, to recommend which plants will thrive there.

They can also use design-rendering tools like computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create realistic depictions of a finished project. This lets you visualize the results and decide which specific approach is what you really want.

3. Assess your space

To understand how best to landscape your yard, you need to assess the space. Which way does the sun move across it? Do areas need mulch to protect soil from dehydration? Is the area subject to strong winds, and do you need to plant shrubs and trees or build  arbors to block them?

Where should you create sitting areas to best take advantage of the growing view? What are the sunniest spots, and which plants would benefit most from the extra rays? How do you plan to get water from one area of the yard or garden to another?

4. Create a list of wants and needs

Whether you’re tackling the project on your own or using the services of a professional, the job usually begins with a list of requirements—what you want and what you must have.

Are there specific herbs and vegetables you desire for cooking? Do you want to have a variety of flowers and plants that will provide blooms and greenery throughout the different growing seasons?

While you might be focused on things that grow, hardscape features can be equally important. Retaining walls and fences can be essential to making the yard feel finished. Patios and decks are ideal for socializing as you enjoy your outdoor bounty.


5. Make a realistic budget for the project

Of course, what you desire in a landscaping project can change when faced with what you can afford. This is why you need a realistic budget before the first shovel pierces the ground.

A landscaping professional can quote a budget after learning more about what the job will entail. If you’re undertaking the job yourself—with labor provided by family members or friends—an independent project budget professional on Upwork can help you list any cost factors.

6. Choose and buy the appropriate materials depending on the project

The hard materials you choose will provide the bones for your landscaping project and impart a lot of its visual appeal, whether for paths, walls, or raised flower beds.

One of the important considerations in choosing these is the style of your property and how the hardscape materials will complement it. For example, do slate, stone, or timber match the other architecture?

If the materials complement the ones used in your home or office building, you can create outdoor spaces that are an extension of the indoor ones, providing a pleasing continuity.

Garden paths can also reflect the style of your home or business. Paths can use pavers for a rustic style (e.g., old cobblestone or brick), something more modern (e.g., porcelain pavers), or even something natural (e.g., flagstones).

7. Hire the necessary professionals

When landscaping your property, you can do as much or as little of the work as you desire. Besides a landscape designer or architect, you may want to hire a construction team to build hardscape features like walls, sheds, and even swimming pools.

If watering the garden presents challenges, an irrigation specialist can help you optimize the flow so water isn’t wasted.

If you have a large crew working on the landscaping project, you might need a project manager or landscape supervisor to keep everyone on task and make sure the project stays on time and on budget.

If your lawn is your pride and joy, you might also want to hire a lawn care technician to roll out the green carpet and provide ongoing care services, such as mowing and weeding.

8. Start decorating

With your landscape plans done, materials ordered, and professional services hired, it’s time to get your project underway. Whether the actual work of landscape decorating or design involves building retaining walls, installing softscapes (plants and organic materials), or creating functional and entertainment-focused areas, your landscaped property will help connect you more deeply with nature and enhance your quality of life.

Landscaping mistakes to avoid

In undertaking a landscape project, sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do. Common landscaping mistakes include:

  • Saturating the space. You crowd it with too many lawn ornaments or plants.
  • Putting plants in the wrong places. For example, you plant flowers that need a lot of sun in a constantly shady place.
  • Forgetting the view from inside the building. Many people get so focused on how a yard looks that they forget a lot of its enjoyment can come from viewing it from inside a home or office.
  • Planting evergreen and deciduous trees too deeply. When trees are buried too deeply, air can’t get to their root systems and they may not survive the process.
  • Cutting grass too short. While you may think this will save you work, it can cause problems because it makes the lawn more susceptible to insects, disease, or burnout.
  • Not taking hungry wildlife and pests into account. Your garden can quickly become decimated by bugs and animals if you don’t plan ahead, perhaps by building protective fences and researching pest control.
  • Lowballing costs. If you aren’t realistic in your landscaping budget, cost overruns can quickly mount and turn something that’s supposed to give you joy into a source of great anxiety.
  • Not getting advice from a professional. Since landscape projects involve a lot of work and money, a professional landscaper’s advice can help you stay on track.

Hire professional landscapers for best results

Whether you want to grow your garden or your business, Upwork has a full range of well-qualified independent professionals to help you. Our landscape designers bring a full range of skills to the garden table, from 3D rendering to urban planning and concept garden designs.

Meanwhile, an independent project professional can create a realistic budget for your landscaping project and potentially provide other related services, such as bookkeeping and accounting.

With the right help, you can make a faster transition from landscaping your yard to reveling in the new paradise.

Author Spotlight

How to Landscape: Designing a Beautiful Outdoor Space
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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