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What can I do myself to get started on a nice-looking yard without a landscaper?

I'd like a nice-looking yard, but I can't afford a professional landscaper. What can I do myself to get started?
Submitted by BHGPhotoContest

There are lots of ways to lift a landscaping project out of the ordinary. Adapt one or more of these ideas to make your yard memorable. Choose plants that complement one another in height, color, and bloom time. Assign tall-growing plants to spots behind the medium-size varieties. Save the front of the border for low-growing and creeping plants. Put one tall plant, three medium plants, and five short plants together. Place the tall one slightly off-center; group the medium plants together; then intersperse the small, ground-hugging plants among the others. Dress up your yard with a flowering vine. It can transform a fence, porch pillar, arbor, or stairway railing into a bower of bloom. Plant vegetables and flowers in a raised bed. That way you can work the garden without walking on the bed. The plants will benefit from the enriched soil.  Take advantage of underused locations around your house, such as side yards, alleyways, slopes, and driveway edges. Add an inviting path and line it with colorful plants. Use containers for architectural interest. Terra-cotta pots, stone urns, and window boxes offer focal points, often in places where nothing can otherwise grow, such as on decks and patios, along walkways, hanging from awnings or latticework, and on top of walls.

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