Using Landscape Design Software

Computer software can't turn you into landscape designer -- but it can make you look like one.
Blond woman at computer

Landscaping software allows you to create a landscape and watch it grow, all without leaving your chair. Various software programs offer a wide range of options to help you trade your pencil and graph paper for a mouse and a computer screen. Remember, though, that you'll still need to measure and inventory the property, as well as decide what you want to accomplish.

Choosing a program

Most programs are designed with do-it-yourselfers in mind. Some software allows you to scan a photo of your site and superimpose plants and hardscape features on a digital version of it. Other programs let you create an electronic base map and make infinite changes as you choose plants and features and move them around.

Look for a program that guides you through a survey of your property, then lets you define and map the site. An accompanying tutorial helps with this process.

The software you choose might also include a growth feature that enables you to see what plants look like as they mature, and a shadow caster that shows where tree and building shadows will fall any time of day throughout the year. Growth and shadow affect the placement of gardens, decks, and swimming pools. Three-dimensional viewing gives you a real-life view of the landscape and even takes you on a virtual tour.

A cost-estimating feature helps you plan and track costs at every stage. A sprinkler system installation feature simplifies this project by formulating a workable plan, complete with flow rates and a shopping list of pipes and emitters.

Other software features include plant encyclopedias with photos, botanical names, and plant care guides; a search feature that helps you identify plants appropriate for your region's climate; demonstrations of common gardening and building tasks; and troubleshooting guides.

Internet Options

Search the Internet for an ever-growing world of gardening resources. You'll find websites that offer everything you need, from expert advice to garden planning options. Order plants and products to arrive on your doorstep, or get the information you need within minutes.

Create and save landscape plans
with Plan-a-Garden.

Better Homes and Gardens Online offers a free internet-based design program that lets visitors design flower beds and landscape plans. Plan-a-Garden includes a library of trees, shrubs, and structures and can be arranged on a computer screen, then saved for future reference or printed out.