1. Educate yourself. Spend those long winter evenings reading garden magazines and books and poring over catalogs. You'll slowly be able to determine the look you want and envision what plants will work in your garden.
2. Don't feel compelled to put it on paper. Sure, you can chart it all out, but nothing can predict the result precisely (not even those fancy professional landscape plans). Many a great garden has been created with absolutely no paper plans. Rely on your eye and the three-dimensional effect you see while working in your garden.
Design online with our Plan-a-Garden tool!
3. Designate areas for particular activities. Your yard will work better and more efficiently if you have spots designated for dining outdoors, the grill, the garbage cans, the swing set, and all those other things for which we use our landscapes.
Get even more DIY landscaping tips.
4. Remember, any spot can be a garden. No matter how shady or how baked, how flat or how steep your site is, a beautiful garden can flourish there. It simply takes planning a garden that is suited to the site, rather than fighting it. And no excuses about it being too small. Plant every inch with interesting plants.
Get tips for tricky spots with our Backyard Landscape Solutions guide.
5. Take photos. A photograph makes you look at your garden objectively and gives you the big picture. Scrawl in ideas with a permanent marker or grease pencil.
6. Write it down. When you see a plant you love, write down its full name in a garden journal or file. Keep track throughout the growing season of what is blooming when, so you can create a garden that blooms all season long.
7. Look at your garden during the winter. That's when its strengths and weaknesses are most apparent. Is the back of the neighbor's garage an eyesore? Could a path leading around the side of the house or to the garage make that space more usable and attractive?
8. Don't plant in soldier-straight rows. Instead, plant in clumps of at least three for most perennials and clumps of at least one dozen for most annuals. For even more impact, plant in large drifts that might have 10 or more perennials and 40 or more annuals.
9. Mix it up. Who says the vegetables all have to go in the vegetable garden? Many are highly decorative and charming in the flower border. Dwarf fruit trees are great vertical accents in a perennial border. And why segregate the roses or herbs into cramped gardens of their own?
Learn more about edible landscaping.
10. Go for a variety of shapes. Put a tall, spiky plant next to a low, fluffy plant. Juxtapose large bold-shape flowers with small delicate blooms.
Continued on page 2: Color