I encourage do-it-yourselfers to learn the basic concepts implemented by professionals. A great way to do that is to browse landscape design photos. To break the concepts down so as to make it easier for beginners to understand them, I organize them into the following categories:
Not only will these concepts serve as building blocks for improving the look of your own yard, but studying them will also generate numerous ideas for you. That is, browsing the photos I supply in the resources below will provide access to ideas that you can apply immediately; but, in addition to that, digesting the explanations that accompany the photos will open up a whole new window for you into the world of designing.
Browse my photos of plantings showing color schemes in action! See examples illustrating such concepts as:
- Contrast in color
- "Warm" colors
- "Cool" colors
Color Schemes and More:
- Color Schemes
- Color Theory
- Lists of Flowers, With Pictures (organized by color)
- Pictures of Flowering Shrubs
You may wonder what seemingly abstract terms like "form" and "texture" have to do with improving the look of your yard. You may object that you're not painting a masterpiece, after all; you're just putting plants in the ground. Yet it is not coincidental that our subject shares some terminology with the world of art. The backyard is your canvas; your understanding of concepts such as form and texture will determine the beauty of the resulting picture.
Flowers may be sufficient to achieve the color schemes you desire, but when it comes to form and texture, you'll find the need for other allies, such as ornamental grasses, as well as trees and shrubs with interesting branching patterns and foliage.
View photos: Plant Form and Texture
How do you direct the gaze of the viewer where you'd like it to land in the yard? That's something professional designers learn about in their training. A partial answer to the question lies in the use of focal points. But "scale" and "line" can also be manipulated to influence eye movement. If you've ever admired the overall impact an effective hedge or a fence has on a yard, aesthetically, then you've seen examples of "line" at work (perhaps without even knowing it!). Discover the power of these classic landscape design ideas for yourself, concepts that can work their magic in the humblest of yards.
View photos: Focal Points, Scale and Line
If Beginners Could Take Away Just One Thing....
Of the concepts mentioned above, perhaps the one most frequently overlooked by beginners is texture. Yet this oversight is easily corrected. It all starts with paying more attention to the leaves of your plants. Beginners are often so obsessed with the flowers of plants that they are blinded to the importance of foliage. But upon further reflection, it should become obvious that attractive leaves boast a selling point with which flowers cannot compete: namely, that they offer a display throughout the growing season (in fact, in the case of evergreen plants, a display that lasts the whole year).
For the sake of convenience, we can term plants that are valued more for their leaves than for their flowers "foliage plants." Beginners are well-advised to look for such plants when shopping at the nursery. Once you have identified them and have read my explanation of the concept, "texture," start comparing and contrasting the textures of these foliage plants. After you have developed an eye for texture, start experimenting with how you juxtapose your plants. The juxtaposition that will probably excite you the most is one that features a striking contrast.
Once you've felt this excitement, you will never look at plant combinations the same way again. Consider yourself bitten by the texture bug!