Landscape Shapes - Blank Slate!

whaas_5a(5A SE WI)February 9, 2011

Sorry for the rudimentary drawing put I'm trying to get feedback on the overall flow and shapes of the beds.

I'm starting with a blank slate and mainly mixing various spruces and pines along the lot lines and pulling in smaller trees, shrubs and perrenials to the front.

Thoughts? Thanks!

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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

If you're thinking of shapes, try looking at the 'negative space' as much as the bed shapes - i.e. is the shape of the remaining non-garden-bed space (lawn?, grassy path? etc.) pleasing? I think, if you focus on the negative space, you'll probably make some changes. Is the larger clear space on the left side the main lawn area? Is the rest meant to be a grass path past the beds? A grassy path can be a powerful sweep of green to carry you through the garden but it would be best if it was a reasonably consistent width. You might want to clearly define the lawn areas and their shapes too, rather than just focussing on the garden beds. Will there only be lawn and beds or a patio or other functional spaces too?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 9:06AM
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My suggestion would be to first consider water in your plan. At times, excess water will exist in every area of your property. In the graphic below I show the areas bounded with red lines. For one reason or another, water crossing any of the red lines can often be problematic. But cross it must or you will have an unwanted pond. Your plan should identify where and how water will cross the red lines.

Also note that I have shaded areas of your property. High subsoil moisture levels can be beneficial in the green areas and very bad for structures like the house and drive. Manage the flows and absorption of surface water to best advantage.

Do this before you start installing plants. A mistake can be expensive to fix.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 10:35AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)


Good suggestion on looking at the negative space as well. Most of the negative space will be grassy area for the kids and pets. We have a fairly large deck and will possibly put a patio underneath that may jet out with a firepit. I already see what I want to change.


I failed to mention that the dotted line going across the plan represents the beggining of a slope. Everything from that point is a slope, continuing beyond my lot line. Generally speaking its all on a 15 degree slope but there are some smaller areas with handdrawn dotted lines that are 20-30 degrees (hence the break in some of the beds). The challenge is gardening on this sloped lot.

Et all, I�ll clean this up, repost the plan and post pictures as well.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 4:32PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

whaas, I've been reading your threads in the Conifers forum, where you've posted this same landscaping plan. In a recent Conifers thread, you posted photos of the house also:

Since you're redoing the plan, please re-draw the house and deck, also the deck stairs. While it would help to know distances in the yard, there's nothing on the current plan to show us how large an inch (20') is.

Before you decide on the shape of your beds or the locations of your conifers and other plants, you need a plan which shows the actual shape and dimensions of the house and deck. Otherwise, you can't design pertinent shapes for the beds, or know whether the conifers and other plants will fit where you want to put them.

You mentioned in the Conifers thread that you're removing the conifer in front of the front door. That's a good move -- but I encourage you not to plant anything else tall in that location (the question mark in your plan). The house will seem much more welcoming if the front door is more visible.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 5:04PM
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It is a pity that the area is covered with grass at the moment (the pictures on the other forum show this) because I have the feeling that you see your 'shapes' as cut outs. The effect is what was once known as 'perimeteritis' on this forum. Also one of the most difficult design problems is seing thing in 3D (spatial awareness) for example when you see the shapes drawn out as if the area is flat like your drawing and then you see the reality the shapes change.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 5:44PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)


looking forward to redrawing and getting everyones feedback. I'm typically not a fan of putting anything more than 5' tall in front of the house BUT in this case the front faces shade may be of benefit here. I'm going to take time and caution while selecting that tree. The lot lines are drawn to the survey. Are there any free online tools you'd suggest that I can utilize? I'm currently using MS Word.

Since I'm going to redraw, I'm trying to integrate your suggestion but don't quite understand. I plan to plant based on views from various areas inside the house as well as outside. The reason I brought this design to this forum is that I started to think twice about creating a design that mainly outlines the lot line and house.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 6:29PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

whaas, I was visualizing a solid cone-shaped conifer the size of your circle. I think a shade tree would be fine in that area -- even necessary! Just please not something as wide and opaque near the ground as most conifers. Ideally the trunk should be offset from the front door a bit (though of course it will hide the door from one angle or another).

You can experiment with different locations by using something narrow but tall (stack of cardboard boxes; tall piece of cardboard tied to a chair, free-standing pillar-type coat rack with something hanging from it to give it more width, etc.) to mimic the effect the tree's lower trunk will have when it's ten or fifteen years old. (Another consideration is how far the tree should be from the driveway to minimize cracks in the concrete.)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 12:38AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I use MS Paint for garden and house plans. First I make graph paper (at the pixel level, so the spacing is consistent) and clone it. Then I take one of the clones and draw the house or garden to scale in Paint. Then I clone that and add whatever I'm thinking of doing.

This past fall's project was to plan a new front walk and foundation beds, and since there's a slope involved (walk-out basement on one side), I also did elevations for the front and north side (fairly easy because the house is mostly brick and the walk-out basement is cinderblock, so I didn't need a laser or level, I just noted which course of brick or cinderblock showed above the soil).

When I was trying to figure out the best design for the walkway and adjacent beds, I found the graph paper grid too distracting, so I removed it. Then when I got the beds the way I wanted them, I made a separate grid of dotted lines and pasted it (still in Paint) over the plan to make the measurements more evident for the guy who's maybe someday going to build the hardscape for me.

All of that is only two-dimensional. When I'm trying to figure out how the potential new landscaping will look against the house, I print one of my plans, then sketch on it by hand. Not exactly high-tech.


There's a free and apparently superior version (Paint.NET) which has been recommended on this forum. I haven't tried it yet and don't know what it can do, because until last week I was using an ancient computer.


I've seen some plans years ago that were made with some sophisticated software that enables you to show buildings, stairs, fences, and hardscape in three dimensions and from different angles.

That software may have been Google's free SketchUp, which has also been mentioned on this forum. Apparently besides creating buildings, trees, etc., you can also import terrain from Google Earth -- or you can create 3D terrain in other ways. (I'm not sure what the freebie version can do, as opposed to the Pro version, which I assume is not free.)

Some examples of SketchUp plans from a Google Images search:

It looks to me as if SketchUp would enable you to produce a 3-D version of your house and prospective landscaping, but there would probably be massive amounts of time involved. [Then again, you're talking to the woman who drew the entire front of her 75' wide house in MS Paint, and figured it was silly not to add the carport, roof and chimneys....]

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 1:31AM
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