A Landscaping Guide For New Homeowners

By March 9, 2020 April 9th, 2020 Landscape Design
A Landscaping Guide For New Homeowners

The boxes are almost unpacked, you’ve arranged the living room furniture, and you’re ready to begin a new life as a homeowner! It’s an exciting, not to mention stressful time, thanks to the seemingly billions of details to manage.

Whether you’ve moved into a brand new construction with mostly dirt patches and builder materials, or you snagged a great old home with lots of character (or anything in between!), you want to put your own stamp on the outside as much as the inside.

But creating a brand new landscape as a new homeowner can be quite a bit more daunting than choosing a wall color, and if you’ve ever agonized over all those color chips and paint swatches at the home improvement store, then you know how stressful *that* can be!

The problem with landscaping is that there’s a lot more to think about than picking a few favorite colors and blooms. And a home improvement store may have a full garden section just around the corner from the paint brushes, but it may not be your best bet if you’re looking to create an outdoor space that you can enjoy as part of your new home.

So for all the new homeowners who are looking out of bedroom and living room windows, wishing for a yard to play in, cook in, dine in, relax in… here are some ideas to get your started toward a landscape that reflects your personality and your lifestyle, and will welcome you home every day for many years to come.

master plan for landscapingMake A Plan

Before you chose your new home, you probably had some plan in mind for what you wanted. You knew whether you needed one bedroom or three, knew whether you were willing to buy a fixer-upper or only wanted something new, had a wish list for the kitchen and the master bath… you probably even had an idea of the type of neighborhood you wanted to live in, and had priorities like whether it was a good place to walk your dog or let the kids ride their bikes.

Creating a new landscape is not so different! It isn’t a haphazard project that begins one day when you decide to plant a few petunias. It requires thinking and planning, ideally with the help of a professional landscape architect who can guide you through the process, ask the right questions, dig down to the real answers, and come up with an effective way to execute it all.

Budgeting is also part of the planning process. When you bought your home, you had a budget in mind, and you looked at houses that fit within that comfort zone. The same is true of landscaping, except this time you’re creating your must-have and nice-to-have lists for your outdoor space.

Your plan can be created with a budget in mind so your money is wisely spent. It can include stipulations for a phased approach that best suits your needs and budget. It can also help you explore viable financing options for bigger dreams.

In addition to helping you prioritize and budget, a landscape master plan will take into account the things you may not see but that will ultimately affect how your space looks and how useful it is. These can include things like drainage and soil, sun and shade, wind, slope, and more. Whether you have anything from a septic tank to a lot of hungry deer, the right plan can mean the difference between a landscape that works within its environment, or is a constant source of aggravation and grief.

From carefully documenting what you want, how you want to use your space, and what types of plantings, hardscapes and other features will best suit your needs, to accommodating your budget requirements and personal tolerance for maintenance, a master plan will be the blueprint for your outdoor enjoyment and success.

pool patio furnitureUnderstand Your Lifestyle

As you plan your new landscape, you will answer many of the same types of questions you asked yourself before you purchased your new home – what type of space do you envision? What type of lifestyle do you and your family want to enjoy? What are the deal-breakers, and the wish list items?

Asking and answering these questions will define the purpose and even the features of your landscape, from patios and pathways, to pools, fireplaces and fire pits, ponds, waterfalls, play areas, privacy screening, seating, and more.

Are you an entertainer, gardener, sunbather, or sit-in-front-of-the-fire-and-relax kind of person? Have you always wished you had a koi pond? Or an outdoor kitchen with a wine bar? Do you have a hobby that you’d like to enjoy outdoors, whether it’s sitting quietly and knitting, swimming laps, or plucking tomatoes?

How about the rest of your family? What needs and desires do they have? Do children need a place to play? Do pets need shelters or space to run? Not only will your family’s lifestyle help define features but it will also guide things like plant types – after all, if the family beagle loves to chew on your garden petals when you’re not looking, you want to be sure they’re not toxic.

Sometimes you don’t even know what you want from your outdoor space until you see it. We’ve worked with numerous customers who’ve sworn they’re not outdoors people, or insisted they absolutely don’t want a pond. But once they begin to see a plan and imagine the results, they realize that the feature they never imagined wanting is the one they can no longer live without.

Use the precious time *before* digging a single hole or planting a single tulip to really think about the space that’s going to be yours. It would be a terrible shame to create a stunningly beautiful landscape that you don’t really enjoy being part of. Recognizing and planning around your lifestyle means you can have beauty *and* function – a yard that extends your living space to the outdoors and delights you whether you’re gazing from a kitchen window or sitting in the shade of a gazebo.

gazebo seating pathwayThink Forward

You probably didn’t move into your new home fully furnished. That means either you brought furniture with you, and measured the rooms to be sure it fit before unloading it from the moving truck, or you bought new furniture and did the same. It’s unlikely that you only realized the sofa was too big for the living room the moment you tried to get it through the door!

Landscaping is not so different. It’s important to be sure that the features and plantings are in scale with the house and surroundings. But there’s another challenge, too.

Imagine that you’ve measured for the sofa and it fits perfectly. But over time, your sofa adds a few inches, and a few more… until one day you realize it’s become a full-fledged sectional.

Sounds silly, but your landscape does just that! You may plant the most perfect Forsythia, only to find that in two or three years it’s become a nuisance, blocking windows or crowding out other plants. You may plant a tree beside the driveway or patio only to realize years later that its roots have spread and begun to push through the pavement and buckle the stones.

Landscape planning isn’t just about creating a beautiful space in the moment. It’s also about creating a space that can grow, evolve and thrive over time.

Thinking forward also includes thinking to the next season – all four of them. You wouldn’t expect your living room to be usable for only a season or two before closing it up and locking yourself in the bedroom until next year. Yet that’s what so many people do with their outdoor rooms. They spend some time outside during spring or summer, then lock the doors and leave their gardens and landscapes to sit in idle gloom until winter is over.

We’re here to tell you that it absolutely doesn’t have to be that way! If you think (and plan) ahead, you can have a landscape designed to bring you a new and unique joy throughout each season – bright flowers in spring, lush foliage through summer, rich colors and berries for fall, and texture, sound, motion, and yes, color, all through winter.

You can enjoy the wildlife that each season brings and spend time outdoors taking advantage of that season’s best features, from pools in summer to fire pits in winter. Your outdoor space should be a true extension of your home – and it can be, with the right outlook and the right plan.

wildflowersBe Practical

We want you to dream big! Imagine all the features you’ve always wanted, all the things you’ve always wished you could do outside. Imagine your outdoor kitchen, your lap pool, your flower garden and koi pond.

Then consider some of those everyday practicalities that aren’t much fun but can actually make a big difference in just how much you enjoy all those things you imagined.

Even if this is your very first home, you probably have a memory from your last apartment or childhood home that reminded you of what you *didn’t* want in your new home. Maybe you hated the dark furniture that always looked dusty no matter what you did, and you swore you’d never buy dark furniture again.

Maybe it was a beautiful white bathroom that looked so elegant and inviting… for about five minutes after a scrubbing, until a single hair met the tile and marred its perfection.

Maybe you just hate dusting blinds, or carpets make you sneeze, or you love microfiber but it’s impossible to keep the cat off the couch.

All of these practical considerations affected your home choice, as they should affect your landscaping choices. The truth is that some features and plantings require more maintenance than others. If you’re the type of person who loves gardening and feels right at home with some pruning shears, then by all means, indulge your green thumb!

But if you’ve already got a thousand things to do, not least of which is moving into your new home, and the thought of standing behind a lawnmower every week is making you wish for a 10-month winter, then you may want to consider something low (or no!) maintenance.

None of that means compromising on beauty or function – it simply means adjusting to your needs. A wildflower garden is a lot less maintenance than a big, green lawn (and looks prettier, too!), and a hardscape is essentially no maintenance at all.

So as you dream, take a moment to do a gut-check. Will some beloved feature cause you grief or hardship that will detract from your enjoyment? How much maintenance are you really willing to do? And are you willing to hire a professional if you need one?

There are many ways to marry your wildest dreams with practical realities – all it takes is understanding limitations and exploring possibilities.

As a new homeowner you have a clean slate to turn your home – indoors and out – into something reflective of you and your lifestyle, a place where you can enjoy moments and create memories for many years to come.

And you probably have a whole lot on your plate. Maybe you’re even thinking that you just *can’t* think about landscaping with everything else going on. That’s why we’re here – to guide you through the process, to ask and help you answer the questions, and to inspire you to imagine just how much you can love and enjoy your outdoor space – whether you’re ready to get started now, next season, or next year.

Contact us for a consultation and let’s start the conversation. It’s an exciting time for you, and we want your landscaping experience to be just as exciting, fun, and stress-free.