There’s an old saying that states something like - “Getting Started Is Half Finished”. And so many times I find this to be true as I see do it yourself landscapers struggle to find their initial design idea. However, once they establish a framework of necessary design elements, it usually goes pretty smooth from there.
It’s not surprising that the most common landscape design question that I get is - “where do I begin?” or “how do I start my design?”. I know it can be difficult. And especially if you don’t have a vision for your design.
So where do you begin? How do you start your landscape or garden design?
While every design is different and every designer follows a set of rules and principles, I find that most do it yourselfers all have the greatest success from using the same starting point. Begin by laying down any paths, driveways, access routes, or walk areas that might be needed. And also create access to any areas that you may plan on creating. In many designs, this will help to establish a framework that you can simply design around.
Of course, this won’t be applicable in all designs as many don’t require any access or travel. So take and use this advice where and if you can.
Paths and walkways can accomplish many functions in your landscape or garden. Their main function, of course, is to create a designated space for people to walk on.
However, in design and as an aid to design, their function could be to guide your visitors to, through, or away from some other area in the garden. Also, they're a great way to break up a vast expanse of lawn, meadow, or bed area.
First, let's look at walkways, paths, and such as necessary elements.
Walkways are needed to guide visitors or yourself to and from another area. Observe that almost every home has a walkway leading to the front door, which is, of course, where most folks want to invite guests to come. So walks, whether refined (brick, flagstone, etc.) or primitive (gravel, mulch, etc.), are necessary to "guide" or "lead" visitors to, through, or away from an area.
So where are the necessary areas where you need other walkways or access? Maybe from the back door to the alley where you dump the trash. Or from the house to the pool area. Or from the pool area to the kids play area or the outdoor cooking area. You get the picture.
In a design sense.
Establishing walk, drive, and access areas will in turn help to create borders and boundaries. Once you have your walkways laid out, you can simply design a lot of the landscaping around them. The same goes with driveways and parking areas as well. You can plant beds on either or both sides of a walk or use a walkway as an edge to create borders.
Keep it interesting if you can.
If you were to, for instance, plan to place a sitting area at the back of the garden. Of course you would need some type of path for you and your guests to get there. However, instead of plotting a straight path, why not create a winding tour through other interesting areas of the garden on the way there?
Curves and winding paths do more than just create interest. They can also create an illusion of more space, distance, and travel. This is especially useful in creating small gardens and landscapes.
Once you lay down walkways, driveways, and access areas, you'll have a good starting framework for the rest of the design. Now, simply design around them.