A detailed plot plan is the first step in planning your home landscaping. And it’s not as scary as it sounds. Trade shovel for pencil and let’s cover some basics.
Graph paper is your friend.
Use it to prepare an accurate plan of your property. Typically, a scale of either 1/8 or 1/4 inch equals one foot should work. Using such a scale, outline your property line and draw in all existing structures-house, driveway, existing patios and walkways, walls and fences, trees and shrubs. Mark the doors and windows in your sketch of the house-they will impact the positioning of plantings.
Don’t forget overhead power lines (they will impact your decision on the height of plantings in that area), underground utilities (you do not want to dig up your gas line, nor do you want to place a willow tree on top of a water line) and easements.
Last but not least, make a note of drainage flow-if that’s an issue on your property-as well as prevailing winds, east-west orientation, and any preferable view beyond your property (i.e., you might want to hide the neighbor’s rusting shed with evergreens along your northern property line, but leave the southern view wide open to take advantage of a distant city scape).
Now it’s time to add your ideas for landscaping. But don’t ruin the plot plan you just took an hour to graph out. Take that plot plan and either Xerox it 15 times and work on the copies (you’ll go through that many trials and errors), or use tracing paper to lay over the plot plan and work your magic on the tracing paper. Either way, now you can let your imagination run. Begin by focusing on use areas-a lawn for play, a vegetable garden for the infamous home-grown tomato, a patio or deck for outdoor living, maybe a fenced dog run to give King his own space and keep him from upending Great Aunt Ethel sipping sweet tea on the patio for outdoor living.
How do you want to move to and through your landscaping?
Do you need a path from the curb to the front door? From the front drive to the backyard? Do you want both sides of the house accessible to the back? Straight or circuitous path to the garden from the back door? Where do you need privacy? Does a prevailing wind require a wind block? As the sun arcs across the sky from east to west, how would you like to take advantage of it-both summer and winter? For example, a deciduous redbud or mimosa planted on the southern edge of a proposed patio will keep the area shaded in the summer, yet allow the sun to stream through leafless branches in the winter. Thinking about a reflecting pool nearby? Or have an aversion to sweeping? Okay-scrap the mimosa (the mid-summer feathery blooms are very messy) and consider dogwood or river birch. Now you’re working it.
Bring it all home.
As you begin to visualize yourself in the landscaping, sketch in the hard surfaces-the fences, the walkways, the paving and decking. You’re almost there. Now take those doodled flower beds and areas marked “planting” and tag what uses the plants are to serve. Shade? Aesthetics? Erosion control? Privacy screen? Delectable edibles? Aroma therapy? Plants grow-so factor in the mature size of trees and shrubs when calculating space parameters. Okay-time to begin making some tentative selections of actual plants from plant lists cataloged to your area’s climate zone-keeping in mind the artistic concepts of balance and proportion. But that’s another story.