any good landscape design software?

pam29011June 4, 2011

I met with a landscaper yesterday to talk about 3 jobs at our house:
prep front yard for grass (had a slew of trees taken out & have stump grindings & weeds everywhere)

Install gravel pad for shed in back yard

turn backyard into grass (had dozens of trees removed, saved the big ones, have dozens of stumps to grind & need loam to smooth out the grade)

When he saw the backyard we had this conversation:

Him: "Wow - this is a lot of yard, what are you going to do with all this?"

Me: "Ummm, make it grassy. And keep this area for a veggie garden, it's the only place that gets sun 10+ hours."

Him: "You could put in a pool, a fire pit - I mean, you have a lot of space. You just want grass?"

Me: "Well, eventually I want to do some understory shrubs & stuff along the back edge, like some mountain laurel & dogwoods. But yeah, grass. A firepit would be great, too."

So I realized that I don't have a friggin clue what I really want back there. I sort of figured we would get a lawn going & then I'd build from that. The lawn would be a blank canvas (as opposed to the mess of stumps, leaves, sticks, etc that is back there now). And the yard isn't that big, it's 125x125. Behind us is woods & then a farm, to the right is an abandoned property, and to the left is a wooded area that is a "paper road" that I don't think the town could put in now, since there is potential wetlands over there (definitely wetlands, just not registered yet). So it feels more private than it really should.

He gave me some good input on where to put the shed (we decided to go with a 10x10 so that our town setbacks will let us put it close to the fence, not 15' away).

But now I'm realizing I probably should have a plan for the end goal instead of taking it in stages -right?

My options are:

1) Buy some software & fuss around with it (cost would be $100 + 20 hours of my time)

2) Hire a landscape designer (I'm not sure of cost, but guessing $500 - $1000, maybe more)

Any recommendations? I've gardened before & done small landscaping on my own. I know what plants I like & what like the soil in my town (this is our 2nd house in this town). But, I've never done anything on this scale.

Thanks in advance!

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There's a third option.....go to the library or local bookstore and check out/purchase a couple of books on home landscape design. There are dozens and some very good.

The advantage the book will have over the software is that it will explain and take you through the design process - all the components that must be considered and included to develop a landscape/garden plan. Software is just a tool, much like tracing paper and a pencil. It is only going to help visualize a design but not give you the knowledge you need to have to develop one.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 10:19PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Along with gardengal's approach, have a copy (or several) of your property survey at hand while you're reading and thinking about things. Scribble ideas on the survey - the survey is to scale of course and by sketching out ideas on it you can get a rough idea whether things you are thinking about will fit in the space. Once you come up with something that looks/feels right, you can then move on to making more accurate measurements. In the early stages, 'eyeballing' it in relation to the house, fences or other structures is usually enough, I find, to work through whether something is an idea that might work or not. And it's far easier/less work to do that on paper than mess around with a (usually crappy) software program.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 10:11AM
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You know what? I even have a book that walks one through planning a landscape. I had forgotten about it (it's in a bookcase in the guest room, so I almost have an excuse).

I think you are right about just using graph paper. I started measuring the yard yesterday, at least to plot out the 3 big trees near the house & the deck & such. I learned that I have no concept of 20' vs 35'. Thank goodness for tape measures, and a 50' rope that I marked every 5' in Sharpie.

It is a lot of work to do it that way, I wish I had one of those measuring wheels like the fence company used when they installed our fence 1.5 yrs ago. But the rope works.

Thanks for the tips!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 11:30AM
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Skip the software, because to use it effectively you bneed tom know hpow to landscape, and that's not included in the installation :)

Read the link - it will save you money and grief.

Here is a link that might be useful: DIY landscape design

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 6:55PM
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A really designer,he must have 7 years old student time and 5 year old design experience,service 300 his clients and know every clients well,he master 5 sort different design soft ware(such as 3dsmax,maya,photoshop,cad,caredraw...),read every years important landscape design book,create new something at isn"t enough just buy some book,soft ware to design garden.often,before designing,people don't know how do,after reading designing pics,think designing is easy,this is wrong cost $800,can get 10 different style design pics(cost would be $100 + 2 years of your time).

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 6:17AM
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And the design that emanates from this approach is equally coherent. When you think about it some of the best gardens in the world were designed before there were computers some even before there was electricity. Some of these gardens were designed by people with no training at all or training in another field. Design software replaces the drawing board not the design ability.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 7:26PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I'll get practical. Putting a lawn over a ground out stump is not a good idea. The rest of the stumps rots and the lawn sinks there slowly for years. I would join the stumps into a flower bed. A sawed off, or ground stump, is less of a problem there.
Work on privacy first, around the perimeter, that won't interfere with your veggie garden plans.

As Ink says, "Design software replaces the drawing board, not the design ability."
Know your priorities and go from there.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 4:40AM
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Now,it is software design time.any industry products,such as auto,building...have to use software to design.
Design software replaces the drawing board,are super-power drawing board design ability.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 5:40AM
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If you did not plan on doing much with the landscape before, why would you fee the need to just because the landscaper listed off a few things that he would like to sell you?

You either have activities that you need or want to do on the site, or you don't.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:15AM
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Hi Mike (botann),

I am concerned about the eventual sinking of some lawn areas, and I expect we'll have to add an inch or two of loam over some spots each year for many years. We can't link the stumps into a flower bed because that would encompass the whole yard ;) It was heavily wooded when we bought it, and we cleared all the diseased or leaning trees, and many of the small/scraggly ones. That left us with a handful of really great trees and a lot of stumps (that we don't want to grow back).

I think the easiest way to maintain it from here out is to "lawn it" and mow it with a riding mower.

Thankfully privacy isn't an issue right now, though it is something we want to work on in case the land behind us ever gets developed (it's a farm ... but only about 25 miles outside of Boston so you know when the owner dies it will probably become a new development & the tree buffer might be torn out).

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 8:30AM
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It sounds to me like with the removal of the trees and underbrush, a whole new world has opened up to you. The conversation with the contractor sparked the realization that you have a blank canvas, clearly, so here's my recommendation:

1- do the cleanup work you described (loam, grading, grass) to get the yard clean and easy to maintain. Then stop. Get through this year, see how you live and move in the new space. Flip through magazines, look online, and see what features you may want to incorporate.

2- next winter (don't wait till spring), contact a landscape designer who really grooves on space planning. You want someone who will have the conversation with you about how you use the space, what your family's needs are, and what suits the site. Obviously you can do this yourself without a designer, but a pro is good at knowing what to ask and can move the process along quicker and with fewer missteps.

And it sounds like you really, really want someone local who will actually come to your property and meet with you. I generally tell folks to avoid online "design" services like the plague, but I think it'd be a night and day difference for you.

disclaimer - I'm a designer so of course I think we're awesome and leave a trail of puppies and rainbows everywhere we go. But no, I'm not trying to be YOUR designer. Beantown is way too far :)

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 10:39AM
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You've gotten a lot of great advice already. I second the opinion not to bother with design software- it's much easier to use paper and pencil than to learn a whole new (probably buggy) software program on top on trying to learn about landscape design.

Also, I agree that books are a great place to start to get ideas and thinking about how you might want to use your space. There is a recent thread on this forum with book recommendations that was really helpful. I found 4 of them at my local library. Flip through as many books and magazines as you can to get ideas and start scribbling them down.

I also think it's a great idea to start doing some of the labor now and give yourself time to come up with a "master plan" for your design that you can implement over time.

Rather than grassing everything with a standard lawn grass, have you considered planting a meadow grass and wildflowers that you wouldn't have to mow for some parts of your lawn? Of course it depends on how you plan to use all that lawn, but that sounds like an awful lot of space and probably more groomed lawn than you may need. I'm not sure what type of meadow grass would grow well in shade in your zone, but it might be worth looking into.

It sounds like your yard has a lot of potential. Have fun with it!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 4:56PM
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I think I agree with marcinde (dave?)go slow. One thing you should try to avoid is putting all this grass down and then deciding to add something that requires a Bobcat carving tracks in it.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 6:24PM
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This design forum is a online designer.this place remember read other place comment.just winter is different.but it isn't so much different as imagine now.winter is more hot, plant tech,film,greenhouse...decrease different.only some place,few tropical plants can't grow in winter.but people don't like native plants.enjoy external style.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 4:11AM
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LOL!! Does the above come with a translation?? I can't make out hide nor hair of what is trying to be communicated.

Except for the first sentence: "This design forum is a online designer". is not. This forum is a venue for the discussion of landscape design. Period. Some design advice is certainly disbursed as well as explanations of the design process but both fall far short of actual online design services. Which tend to be not very valid anyway, as it is virtually impossible to correctly assess site conditions without actually visiting and walking the site. Garbage in, garbage out.

And a skilled and experienced landscape designer knows and understands this. REAL landscape design is so much more than any kind of software. Photoshopping a few bizarre plants over a photo of a portion of an existing landscape is NOT design. It's just playing with a computer.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 11:56AM
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I mean:
I draw on board and take photos in project place.but clients demand to feel every suggests include small leaf,small flower,tree prune shape,exact colour and change...draw board don't work well.
I have to continue to work.I use software improve to draw board:
I import draw pics,project photos into CAD system,get arc,wide,long,height data,handman,DIYer need it,other software not work well.
I put cad pics into 3dsmax,change 2ds pics into 3ds mock up.
import 3dsmax system file into maya soft ware,improve 3ds small leafs,small flower... is important that many clients need to feel designer' suggests before,some people often misunderstand a same tree different size,different distance decide it.
import maya file into photoshop,
there is a wrong about photoshop,think it can do everything.photoshop is just 2ds software than 3ds.I master it.but I only use it to improve everything color and light.creating mock up,leaf,flower don't work well.
I am searching a software it to work well do everything,but I never successful
This forum is a venue.but it is a online designer too.some members tell me,they get their designing from me here.I know many member get their designing from other member's suggests,ideas too.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 2:15AM
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designshare: I understand your explanation and what you say is valid, unfortunately the results of your efforts that you show here are very childish and only proves that software cannot make a designer. If you can use the approach you describe to illustrate a vision of a well thought out design it may work but I see no evidence of that when you jump on a query that contains no useful information at all with one of your comic book renditions. To be completely frank I find your contribution insulting to the profession and doubly insulting to this forum that you are using it to tout business.

It is time for you to disappear and I don't mean just to change your name.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 6:37PM
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unfortunately---computer,software make millions designers in every industry every year.I enjoy stone tools times,but I am sure to disappear.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 7:43PM
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but I am sure that it will disappear.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 7:45PM
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Hi! I just purchased "GardenPlanner" software. It's very easy to use, there's a two week trial period where you can decide whether or not it's the program you'd like to purchase. I've only played with it a few times and although I'm not especially computer savvy, I was able to copy the design for my cottage garden. Hope this helps!!!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 12:42AM
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