How to Plan the Perfect Landscape Design and Layout

By Toll Brothers 3 minute read

Last updated on March 25th, 2021

Fall and spring are prime planting seasons, but before you run out to the nursery, it is important to plan your landscape design and consider your layout, just as you would when planning your interior. A landscape layout uses scaled dimensions to help determine where you should place all outdoor elements, from flowers, plants, and grass to furniture, hardscape areas, and water features.

Create a Wish List

The best way to gather your thoughts is by making a list of all the features you want in your yard. Think through the various ways you will use your yard. Do you need an area for children to play? Are you planning to entertain? Do you want to grow a garden? Once your list is complete, roughly sketch your vision on paper to get an initial feel for where everything would go.

Study Your Yard

Take time to observe your yard to determine how much sun and shade you get in each area during the day. How is your existing greenery doing? If your plants and grass are often dry, you might want to think about installing an irrigation system. Wind is another consideration, especially if you are planning a firepit.

A birds-eye-view of backyard landscaping design.

Toll Brothers at Montcaret, MI

Choose Your Design Tool

You are now ready to measure your landscape area and prepare a grid. You can transfer your dimensions to graph paper or use an online tool. There are many landscape software programs on the market that can make the process easier and give you a better visual of your plans. Some popular choices include:

Home Outside

Home Outside is a free app that can be downloaded to your computer or mobile phone. You can choose from 700 features to design paths, walls, water features, gardens, and more.

The program includes margin rulers and scale bars to help you perfect your design.

Garden Planner

Garden Planner is an easy-to-use program that has drawing tools you can use to quickly create plans for outdoor features. Browse a library of 1,200 drag-and-drop plants, trees, buildings, and other outdoor objects you may want to incorporate into your design.

Realtime Landscaping Plus

Realtime Landscaping Plus is specifically designed for beginners. Once downloaded, you can easily upload a picture of your house and select from tons of templates, so you don’t have to start from scratch. You can also drag and drop pictures from more than 10,000 images of plants, furniture, and other outdoor elements. If you decide to create your plans on graph paper, visit the National Gardening Association for step-by-step instructions on drawing a landscape map.

Landscape Tips

Now that you have created your wish list, analyzed areas that are sunny versus shady, measured your yard, and prepared a basic grid, it’s time to create your design. Start by deciding on any permanent fixtures or features you do not want to change, like your driveway, trees, and hardscape areas. Now the fun begins! You can draw or drag-and-drop elements you want included in your landscape. In addition to plants and other living elements, don’t forget essentials like irrigation systems and lighting. The following tips are helpful when thinking through placement options:

Front yard landscaping with colorful flowers and greenary.

Trailwoods of Ann Arbor, MI

Traffic Patterns

Consider how you want foot traffic to flow through your yard. You can designate a specific pattern with a pathway or guide traffic through the strategic placement of shrubs, flower beds, and trees.

Patterned lawn with outdoor bar, pool and lounge chairs.

Ridings at North Branch, MD

Focal Points

Having a focal point helps organize your design and leads the eye to a place of interest. Some options for focal points include a water feature, fire pit, bench, or favorite tree.  Remember, less is more. Your focal point should be in scale with your home and attract visual attention without overwhelming the overall aesthetic.

Outdoor fireplace with seating area.

Toll Brothers at the Pinehills – Vista Point, MA

Design Elements

Plants come in a variety of shapes, texture, and colors, all of which need to be taken into consideration when planning your landscape. Based on your observations regarding sun and shade exposure, group plants together based on their preference. Another good rule of thumb is to design the layout of plants to feature hues from the same color family, using contrasting leaf and plant textures for additional interest.

Outdoor kitchen with waterfall and landscaping.

Toll Brothers at the Pinehills – Vista Point, MA

With your plans in hand, you are ready to start turning your vision into reality. Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a professional, the thought you put into creating your landscape design will go a long way in ensuring that your yard fits your needs and your lifestyle.

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Toll Brothers, an award-winning FORTUNE 500 company founded in 1967, is the nation's leading builder of luxury homes. Embracing an unwavering commitment to quality and customer service, Toll Brothers currently builds in 24 states nationwide, and is a publicly owned company with its common stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: TOL). 2021 marks the 10th year Toll Brothers has been named to FORTUNE magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies® list. Toll Brothers also has been honored as national Builder of the Year by BUILDER magazine, and was twice named national Builder of the Year by Professional Builder magazine.

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