Planning a landscape can seem overwhelming. Whether your yard has some existing plants and structures you would like to update or you are starting from scratch, changing up your outdoor space is a big job, but it's an important one. A well-designed yard can add significant square footage to your living space; it gives you another spot to relax and entertain.
Need a jumping-off point? Check out some of the basic landscape designs popular these days.
A tropical landscape's main feature is large, bold plants. Palms are a great choice to add visual interest while planting bamboo allows you to create quick-growing privacy screens (but beware it spreads fast, so it's best to have it in raised beds). Water features are a signature part of a tropical landscape design, too.
While beautiful, a tropical landscape doesn't work everywhere. Unlike other styles on this list, the plantings that make up a tropical garden are not easily replaced with hardier varieties, so it does depend on the right hardiness zone or environment.
A woodland garden is defined by layered plantings. Think of being in a forest: you are surrounded by tall trees, then an understory layer, and finally, low-growing plants on the forest floor.
A woodland garden uses the same concept. If you have existing trees — the easiest way to get this design quickly — you may need to prune them slightly to open up the understory layer and allow sunlight through. Forests exist in every USDA hardiness zone, so you can make this style work wherever you live.
A prairie garden landscape is made up of a combination of grasses and perennials. Despite the name, you don't need acres to make this style look amazing. Well-drained soil and a sunny location will keep your prairie garden looking great. You'll get a range of colors and textures that return each year, and it's usually pretty easy to choose native plants that won't take a lot of upkeep.
When most people think of a desert landscape, they imagine cacti and other succulents. While it is true that these can create a lot of visual interest and thrive in a desert environment, there are other plants you can add to a desert garden to soften the look.
For a vibrant desert landscape, include choices like drought-tolerant perennials — sedums and fountain grass — along with certain herbs, such as lavender, and native wildflowers, such as fountain bush and desert lupine. Finish off the look with stone walkways and gravel in place of mulch. This style is a bit dependent on your hardiness zone, but it's still possible in colder areas: you may just have to replant each year.
English gardens make a nice choice when you want a lush, traditional look. Landscaping in the English garden style relies on both annuals and perennials, so there is visual interest throughout the year. Plants such as hydrangea, bee balm, daisies, and cosmos are all popular choices.
Create structure in the landscape through the use of hardscaping and paths. Divide the area and ensure privacy with hedges.
Japanese gardens have several components, making them a less flexible choice than many other types of landscaping. In addition to plants, a Japanese garden will include water and stone. Other common elements include bridges and lanterns. Adding these hardscape materials increases the initial investment, but offers a long-lasting reward that can remain striking in all seasons.
Common plants used in Japanese landscaping include the beautiful Japanese maple, the lotus, pine trees, and serviceberry shrubs.
The hallmarks of Tuscan landscaping include natural stone, terra cotta, and vibrant colors. Create a backdrop for your landscape with Mediterranean trees, such as olive and bay, and fill in borders and edgings with traditional herbs from the region, like sage. Ornamental grasses combined with plants in bright, contrasting colors create visual interest. Decomposed granite and other warm-toned rock make an excellent mulch.
"Elegant and simple" come to mind when you mention French landscaping. Hardscape elements such as fountains and planters, pea gravel pathways, and cast iron seating all serve as support for the plantings of a French garden.
Cool-toned flowers, low-growing shrubs, and tidy groundcovers make up the flora in this style. Create privacy or impressive backdrops with tall hedges and add horizontal interest through the use of ivy. Just make sure to do your research, as some ivy species are highly invasive.
Water features such as fountains and long, narrow pools are hallmarks of Spanish gardens. Pathways can be gravel but are often paved or tiled. Symmetry is important when designing the Spanish landscape, so it makes sense to plan the garden on paper before you begin planting.
Plantings are often a nod to the sub-tropical region: bougainvillea, palms, and figs. Rosemary and lavender are popular choices, as are pomegranate, cypress, and olive trees, if you have the environment to support them.
Symmetrical design is a key element of the formal garden. Create structure through hardscapes like trellises and hedges — these features also allow you to create distinct areas within the yard, another classic of this style.
When considering what to plant in a formal garden, think more about shape and texture than color. Roses, tulips, and lavender are popular choices, as are boxwoods, Irish yew, alliums, and hydrangeas.