Once you’ve identified the style of your landscape and the primary functions it should fulfill, it’s time to examine a diversity of plantings.

Trees bring majesty to your landscape and highlight your yard’s vertical dimension. Shrubs help to define open spaces and facilitate transitions. Perennials provide texture and depth, while annuals and bulbs give a splash of seasonal color. Ground covers lend continuity and give your yard a finished look.

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Size matters when selecting plants. You will want to make choices that are in sync with the scale of your house and yard. Soaring trees and substantial shrubs will add to the grandeur of a large house but may be too imposing for a single-story bungalow. A rambling ranch house will look best with small trees, low-profile shrubs, and other greenery stressing a horizontal axis.

Always take into account a plant’s full-grown size when making any additions to your yard. Guidebooks and nursery tags list maximum heights mature plants will reach, as well as the ideal ground space required. If your ground space is limited, seek out “columnar,” or “fastigiated” varieties, which will grow tall and narrow.

Choosing Plants That Will Thrive

Picking plants that work well in your particular climate will help keep your landscape looking beautiful. Plants that are ill-adapted for your area will require plenty of upkeep—if they even survive. Consult your local nursery or county cooperative extension office to identify native plants or other greenery that will thrive in your locale.

You should also choose plants according to the sun and soil conditions of your yard. Research the sun and shade preferences of the plants you are considering, and follow the recommended requirements.

Perform a soil test, either through a do-it-yourself kit or a lab, to identify your soil type and see if you will need to add amendments. Do not overlook this step; soil quality is the most important factor determining whether your plants will fail or thrive.

As a final note, to achieve year-round color, consider when individual plants will bloom. And don’t neglect the drama that vivid fruit, foliage, tree bark, and ornamental grasses can add to your garden’s overall tapestry.

Mixing Landscape Plant Selections

After choosing plants that evoke the style you want and that meet your sun and soil needs, think about how to link these selections.

One technique is to repeat one or more plants in several places to create a unified design and draw the eye from one area of your yard to the next. Another way to achieve a harmonious look is to utilize different plants with similar leaf shapes or forms. Be sure to draw from a similar color palette to avoid a disjointed or garish effect.

When mixing plants, make sure that they are in proportion to one another. Foundation plantings, at the base of your house, should rise up to the structure in layers, with short plants in the front and tall plants at the back. Tall plants serve to frame and accent your house, and low ones encourage the eye to travel.

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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort