Plant in Numbers
One of the easiest landscaping ideas to implement -- and one I always use when designing a garden or landscape -- is to plant big swaths of the same plant for bold interest. Here, for example, I love how the planting bed offers a big, bold burst of chartreuse from a mass of golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'). It's contrasted (in color and texture) by a planting of blue fescue (Festuca 'Elijah Blue').
It's easy to create a hodgepodge look when planting if you try to plant one of everything. I avoid that by reusing the same colors, shapes, or plant varieties in plantings. Here's a perfect example: To the left of the deck, golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea') echoes the color of golden sweet flag (Acorus gramineus 'Ogon'). The sweet flag augments the texture of the blue fescue (Festuca 'Elijah Blue'), which plays off the silvery-blue color of a potted false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Baby Blue'). The shape of the false cypress, in turn, is a repeat of the Japanese maple next to the deck.
Use Plants that Do Double Duty
My yard has limited space, and if yours is anything like mine, it's important to make the most of it! I take advantage of plants that serve more than one purpose. This espaliered apple tree, for example, offers privacy from the neighbor on the other side of it; provides an attractive backdrop for the curve in a path; and in autumn, gives a harvest of delicious apples.
Create Bold Contrasts
One of the easiest and most basic landscaping ideas is also one of my all-time favorites: Create contrasts. Consider color: When you pair rich burgundy-purple with chartreuse, the gold hues seem to become brighter and the purple tones seem to become richer and darker. Together the colors are much more effective than when used alone.
Have Fun with Plants
Don't be afraid to enhance what plants do naturally. Espalier is a perfect example of this. Here, for example, a simple shrub goes from ordinary to extraordinary with some training and pruning. Don't worry: It's easier than it looks (it just takes some pruning once or twice a year) and makes a big impact.
Gardeners tend to have lots of landscaping ideas for plants and fewer for their hardscapes (nonplant materials). You can easily add a level of interest to your yard by incorporating a variety of materials. Here, the natural feel of lawn and cut flagstones makes for a delightful contrast against smooth Mexican beach pebbles and gravel. Note how the color of the flagstone mimics that of the beach pebbles and ties the two together; it's an example of using repetition.
Play with Geometry
I didn't like dealing with lines and angles in math class, but I love using them when landscaping. Take advantage of lines, shapes, and angles when laying out your yard to add drama and impact. Here, a square patch of lush green groundcover stands out when lined with palm trees and edged in smooth beach pebbles.
Another easy landscaping idea is to add interest to your yard with structure. I often use low fences or hedges, for example, to divide spaces, and give each space or room its own unique identity. Plus, the structures add interest all year long.
In this particularly fun example, curvaceous boxwood hedges add a playful line that draws the eye and looks attractive every day of the year.
Embrace Trees & Shrubs
Trees and shrubs are some of the most important players in the landscape, and gardeners often give them the least amount of attention.
It's easy to use them to make an impact, especially if you select varieties that have colorful foliage. Go a step further and execute some creative pruning. Here, for example, sheared golden false cypress and columnar holly make for a delightful contrast against sheared purple barberry.
It's easy to plan all your beds and borders along the perimeter of your property, but adding an island bed that floats in your lawn is a simple strategy for making a good-looking landscape.
I like to make island beds extra effective by adding height to the middle of the yard. Plus, you need to walk around the planting to see what's behind it, so it adds a bit of mystery.
If you have container gardens, chances are they're on your porch, entryway, deck, patio, or balcony. Too few gardeners think about the idea of mixing containers into their beds and borders.
Doing so is an easy way to add flexibility to the landscape. Large, colorful glazed or plastic containers add a bright splash, even without blooms. You can move them around to highlight different parts of your yard, plus it's easy to change out container gardens each season to get a different look.
Pay Attention to Texture
Our eyes are attracted to color and many gardeners stop there. But it's easier than you think to add a layer of interest to your garden by incorporating texture.
I love this example, which features tidy mounds of blue fescue, punctuated by an upright pyramid of Colorado blue spruce and dwarf black pine. A potted variegated yucca repeats the texture of the grass and adds in a new color.
Note Plant Habits
Embrace plant shapes, and use them in your landscape. I usually tuck in a few tall, upright plants to draw the eye up and break up the monotony that comes along with using a lot of mounding shrubs and perennials. I often design yards with weeping plants, too: They add excitement, visual energy, and a unique graceful shape to your yard.
Go with Green
When I help folks design their gardens, they often ask for lots of color and overlook green. But using a variety of shades of green is a wonderful way to add depth to your plantings.
Bright chartreuse greens (as seen in these 'Frisia' honey locust trees) catch the eye and stand out in the landscape, especially compared to the darker, richer tones often found in evergreens. Blue greens add a softness and almost always harmonize well with other shades of the color.