Need Design Advice for Backyard Landscaping
My husband and I moved into a new construction home 6 years ago and did our own landscaping design and work (with some help with the hardscape labor). Neither of us had any landscaping experience to speak of, so needless to say, we made a lot of mistakes and I have a lot of regrets. We have a fairly deep, rectangular backyard and I think we could have done a lot with it, but what we have is a flat, boring, fairly narrow tree border with a few scattered shrubs and perennials. One long side of the yard is a huge fenced off veggie garden area that my husband cultivates each year, and the other long side of the yard is a fruit tree border. So it does have some some function, but I'd like it to be attractive too.
I eventually would like to modify our front and side yards in some ways too (extending some beds and revising some plantings), but for now I want to focus on the backyard and make some progress there.
Once I decided we'd made the borders too narrow to do the kind of layered plantings I would like, I became paralyzed and haven't done much in the backyard at all in the past few years because I'm so afraid of doing more things I'll regret. At the time, my husband wanted a lot of grass because we have a dog who loves to play fetch so I feel like we designed the yard for the dog more than for ourselves, and now that we have little kids we're not playing a whole lot of fetch anyway. We also ripped out a dog run we never used so now have a big ugly weed patch in its place.
Since we've had more time to think about what we really want out of the yard, I started making a tentative design plan for how I'd like to modify our yard, but I still feel paralyzed and can't seem to decide where to start. We'd like to eventually add a playhouse for the kids (that could later be a potting/gardening shed for me), a gazebo for evening dinners, wider planting beds all around the yard, and LOTS more shrubs and plantings.
I'm thinking of starting with just planting out the beds that we have in place (which will eventually make up the back of the someday deeper planting borders) until we have time & energy (or money) to tackle widening the planting beds and adding the structures and additional plantings. My husband and dad are extremely handy with woodworking so between the 2 of them can tackle the playhouse and gazebo structures, but my husband isn't excited about extending the planting beds and moving pop up sprinkler heads unless he's confident that the plan won't keep changing. I'd like to tackle the changes in phases, but I really want to have a long term plan in place before we do anything.
I think it would help a lot if I could work with with a good local landscape designer who understands our tastes and vision, but I'm not sure how to find one who I'm confident will give us good guidance. We live in a dry climate in Colorado so I want our design to be water wise but also attractive with a cottage garden/informal style that I don't see a lot around here. So many of the professionally landscaped yards in our area are heavy with ornamental grasses and more formal than what I prefer, so I'm hesitant to just hire any average designer in our area. I have gotten a lot of ideas and inspiration from Lauren Springer Ogden's book "The Undaunted Garden" and I love her style of gardening, but I can't seem to move forward on my own for fear I'll just keep making mistakes and regretting them. I feel like half the stuff I've planted I've wound up moving (some things more than once) and it's driving me (and my husband) crazy! I feel like if I could just get some help with the "bones" of our yard I could handle a lot of the plant choices and smaller details myself.
Any ideas on how to find a good designer in my area, or whether I should just try to get past my regrets and fears and do it on my own? I feel like I've learned a lot from my mistakes and I have a better idea of what I like and don't like, but I still lack confidence in myself to come up with a design that will translate to something that I'll be happy with. I could take and post some pictures if that would help, but I'm afraid I have too many questions and problems areas for this forum to tackle. I'm also not handy with Photoshop or landscaping applications. Everything I have done design-wise is on old fashioned graph paper.
Any thoughts or advice are appreciated. Thanks!