Sometimes all it takes is a little change to make an ordinary area into something special in your landscape design. Something as small as a bench can make all the difference.
Adding a bench is like posting a welcome sign that says “Have a seat and enjoy yourself!” Not only is it inviting to those who visit your garden, but it is likely to make you take a break from your work and encourage you to stop and appreciate the combined work of Mother Nature and your own efforts.
Use a bench for comfort, practicality and decor. Placing a bench by the entry to your home gives you a spot to set down anything you are carrying so you can open the front door. It hints that guests should make themselves comfortable. Or you can fill a bench with flowers so it becomes a display with character.
Nestle a bench in the shade of a tree to invite a cooling rest. Or set out an ornate bench along a stepping stone pathway to offer a rest and a place for viewing. Place a bench handy to a water feature to encourage watching fish or splashing water from a fountain. Hide a bench in a wild garden to beckon you into cozy place to read a book, or use a bench to divide one part of the garden from another. Even small gardens can benefit from a bench that is cleverly and artistically positioned. In fact, a decorative bench can become the major feature — a focal point — of the whole garden.
The bench itself can be ornamental or practical. Use the style of the bench to accent a garden theme. Go for the traditional iron and wood bench if you aren’t sure since it will fit in almost any situation. Rustic benches blend in nicely with woodland or natural styled landscapes. You can buy one or construct your own from hunks of wood, tree trunks, branches or driftwood. Or try a stone bench. A rough-hewn chunk of rock can look natural or will blend in nicely with a contemporary landscape design. Try wrought iron for an English or Southwestern styled garden or slip in a bench inset with brightly colored tile to decorate a Mexican theme.
Choose the kind of bench that will accent the style of your garden. Or shop for a bench that captures your imagination and build your garden around it. You can always buy a simple bench and drape it with outdoor fabrics and pillows to create your own effects. Benches are for enjoying your landscape. Have fun deciding which bench you want to use and where you want to position it in your garden. Larger spaces can handle multiple benches. Areas separate from each other can use different styled benches. Benches can add a whole new dimension to your landscape.
If you are planning to lay flagstone for flooring in your patio – or elsewhere – you’ll find there can be a wide range of prices quoted for the installation. That is because there are many kinds of flagstone that can be used and, depending on the texture and color you like, different stones can vary drastically in price. The other reason is that installer can also offer different qualities of workmanship. A more carefully placed job will demand more time than a job quickly done. The difference is easy to see if you know what to look for.
Price the various kinds of stone you like before buying. If you go to a builder’s supply store you can see not only many different types of stone, but get an idea of how each will look when spread out over a wider area. It can be difficult to get a realistic vision from a small, single piece.
Once you have your flagstone chosen you will want to choose the style for laying it. For an informal or more rustic look you can piece together complementary shapes so the rough edges remain at a consistent distance from each other throughout the installation. The closer the fit, the better job you will have. A good installer will chip edges naturally so gaps create uniform lines and the design will slot together like pieces of a puzzle. A poorly installed job will look more like slabs of stone that have been randomly floated on a sea of concrete. The best jobs will have even spacing and will fit accurately.
Another approach is a little more formal with a more polished look in that the stones can be fitted by cutting with a saw to have simpler, cleaner lines. Just like the chipped stones, the tighter the fit, the more time-consuming the job will be. The neater and consistent the spacing, the more polished your finished flooring will be.
A good job of installation will often come down to the finish work — the details of how pieces fit together, corners are joined and surfaces are smoothed. A good job of basic installation and finish work will make the difference between a good job and a bad one. Once you know what you are looking for, you’ll find the comparison to be easily noticeable.
There are so many different landscape software programs on the market it is hard to know which software to choose for home use. Different software programs have different assets and liabilities. There are even some free programs available. And some of the paid landscape software programs allow you a free trial period to check them out before your buy.
There are some impressive programs available for professional landscape design, but there is a serious learning curve that is likely to demand more time than would make sense for home use. Professional software is costly, usually well over $1000 for most programs. Programs designed for home use can be simplistic and do not have the flexibility of more elaborate programs, but they should be sufficient to help the homeowner lay out ideas for do-it yourself design.
Some free programs might give you all you need. ‘Virtual Garden Design’ is produced by the BBC and it will give you a fundamental virtual view of how your design will look, although you won’t get a full plan.
The BBC’s ‘VirtualLandscape Design’ also gets high recommendations. You can either download it or use it on the BBC website and but you will need to use another program – Adobe Shockwave — to run it properly. It’s a nice little program if you want to do some home garden designing in 3d.
‘Plan a Garden’ landscape software is a Better Homes and Gardens program that offers easy drag and drop plan so you can place plants, water features and rocks into a basic layout.
Although this is not exclusively a landscape software, Google ‘Sketch-Up’ offers a 3D modeling program that is quite impressive for a free program. It is the bare bones of a professional program with a lot of limitations, but it will afford a realistic format handy for playing around with home landscape designs.
‘Smart Draw Landscape Design Software’ has a nice paid program that most homeowners rate well. Smart Draw also offers a landscape program for free. Like most free programs, your flexibility is limited and you will have to work with the templates you are given, but you can still do a lot with this free landscape design version.
‘Design Workshop Lite’ is a free, highly simplified 3D version of the paid ‘Design Workshop Classic Home Design’ and ‘Design Workshop Professional’ softwares. You can get some basic, useful renderings, but don’t expect a lot of flexibility. Still, it’s not bad for the price.
‘Show Off ‘ is a program that takes a different approach. You start with a picture of your property and drag and drop in various features so you can try out different ideas and see how they will look. This basic program needs to be used while you are connected online directly to the Show Off site. More detailed design will require you to subscribe for their features.
‘Garden Planner 2.3′ from Artifact Interactive is an easy, wizard-driven free software that pretty much lets you click and drag elements onto your landscape format. It can be useful for working out an overview and some details of your landscape. A reasonably good software, it is free for a 15 day trial offer, and only costs around $20 to buy if you decide to buy it.
Be aware that these free and low-cost programs do not actually offer you the ability to do much drawing. But they can give you a chance to play around with locating different features in your property to help you design your property.
Look for the features you need. More is not necessarily better. And seek out software that is user-friendly. Like in all software program purchases, adequate software support and ease of use is also a priority. Since different reviewers do not necessarily agree with landscape software ratings, here is another list of software that is rated by Landscaping Software Review as the top 2010 top ten list. These are not free landscape software programs but they range from about $20 to $90. This is list starts with the highest on their ratings list.
Realtime Landscaping PLUS
Landscape Deck & Patio
Home & Landscape Design
Landscaping & Deck Designer
HGTV Home & Landscape Platinum Suite
Total 3D Home, Landscape & Deck
Turbo FLOORPLAN Landscape & Deck
3D Home Architect Home & Landscape Deluxe Suite
3D Landscape Design for Everyone
Some other landscape software programs for home use that are under $100 and have gotten high reviews are ‘LandDesigner 3D’, ‘Better Homes and Gardens’, ‘Punch Super Home’, and ‘Landscape and Garden Designer’. Most of these have a free trial period to check them out first and see if you like them.
What is a Beautiful Landscape?
“A beautiful landscape” can mean many different things to different people.For some, the only landscapes that will qualify require hundreds of thousands of dollars in elaborate construction.For others, the most beautiful landscape is the one nature created – with no sign of human intervention.For most, the concept is somewhere in between.
If you are building a landscape for your home – or for any building, the best choice is something that will not conflict with the design of the structure or that of the general surrounding area.A lake of emerald green grass surrounding an adobe styled house or pouring down the side of a scrub-textured chaparral creates visual discord.A wild English garden surrounding a formal building looses its charm and merely appears unkempt.A formal geometrical garden would look absurd surrounding a log cabin.This does not mean you can’t have a garden styled to your taste even if the house style you bought isn’t.It does mean that to make both beautiful, some thought has to go into making idea, taste and reality mesh.
You can create illusion of landscape styles even if you don’t have enough space or money to re-create you ideal.A “Beverly Hills” mansion landscape feel can be designed on a shoestring budget by creating miniature areas as focal points.
Do-it-yourself folks can save a lot of money.But since most people don’t have the knowledge or experience of professionals, it’s not a bad idea to spend considerable time doing research, or call in consultants for advice before diving into landscaping projects.Research and creative time is spent by the best professional landscape designers and architects.It does account for much of their billable time.Ideas do not pop into a creative’s head and drop onto the paper instantaneously.Also make sure you hire the right help for the right kind of expertise you need.
With the ‘globalizing’ of communications, generic plans have become popular and practical.Adapting a small number of basic designs to different layouts and plant environmental needs has created a whole industry that gives what appears to be a custom design at a less expensive price.If you are creating your own design, you need to allow yourself that time for thinking and researching.Then comes the adaptation of those ideas to the page format so you can delegate whatever you need to or work on the plan over time without forgetting important aspects.
Another point to consider about beauty, is that not everyone thinks the same plants are beautiful.I find some folks like a neat, contained plant to be beautiful whereas someone else finds the same look too stodgy and prefers a natural sprawl or wilder look.Colors are very personal.We probably start associating our feelings with different colors as early as in our pre-verbal childhood.Maybe we physically see colors differently depending on how our organic eyes and brains process the light waves.Who knows why we often prefer one color over another.And I don’t suppose it matters.But some people feel quite strongly in favor or against various flower or leaf colors.
Although this article was written with Southern California in mind, the concepts are universal and can help people design landscapes in just about any garden anywhere.
One of the most powerful natural decorative effects in a landscape design is the placement of stone, rocks and boulders. Rock varies as you travel through Southern California. Even locally you can see the wide mixture of stone that has been pushed to the surface by the contorting jolts of earth movements in our hills and mountains. There are sandstone rocks in reds, beiges, yellows and whites as well as multicolored granites. You can find wind and water rounded rocks and boulders and sharp-edged splintered rocks. Some areas boast iron in the stone formations making them orange and others are laced with copper that turns rock green. Mica and quartz can make stone glitter. There are rocks and boulders that will go with just about any kind of landscape you may want to design on your property.
Rocks are perfect to enhance a Southwest landscape theme, to set off the interesting shapes of a cactus and succulent garden or to offer natural seating in a wild or native landscape design. Add a boulder to highlight an ornamental grass garden or use scatterings of rocks to trace out a dry riverbed. Single stones can be the focus of an Asian or Zen garden or they can be carefully placed to be used as furniture or to set off a shapely tree. Design with rocks and boulders into almost any theme to add accents and character. They can also be used to create spacial effects and perspective illusions.
You can buy rocks and boulders, priced by the pound or you can collect your own from your own property or from open, undeveloped land or dry rivers. Do not take rocks or stones from parks or other California public areas: it is against the law. If your yard has an unblocked view of surrounding land, you might want to choose the same kind of rocks that will blend with your local, natural stone. Using a material that continues outside your boundaries will help your garden to look like it flows beyond your property line
Avoid equally spaced rocks forming a pattern unless you want to create a formal, contemporary or minimalist design. Often landscapers with no design sense will line up stones or set them in neat, equidistant spaces. Nature would never do that and these overly calculated rock settings look silly in anything but an intentionally contrived – and carefully, artistically designed –overall landscape design.
Rock and stone can be integrated in walls and into the surface of concrete. Pebble finishes can be used for textural effects and designs can be drawn into different areas of colored stone. Big boulders make powerful statements. They can guard an entry or tower over a natural-looking dry river bed, stream or pond. Rocks are heavy so expect to need power equipment to move them unless you stick to sizes less than 18 x 18x 18 inches. Medium rocks can be moved with a crow bar or lifted with the help of several strong backs. Be very careful when moving rocks. They are very dense and weigh more than they appear. Always lift with your legs and don’t try to move something that could cause injury.
Look around at some examples of the landscape design with stone and rocks by checking out garden magazines or the Internet. Visit parks and public gardens. Do you want to create your own stand of jutting rocks? Do you like the squat, rounded rock forms that pile into mounds? Are stacked walls or flat flagstone areas more to your taste? Decide on the kind of stone, rock or boulder you want and blend it into your own garden. Build with rocks and stone that will complement your garden style, the area you are living and even the design of your house.
Adding stone, rock and boulders not only creates interest in the design, but it can help you build areas of drainage and permeable paving that will help with excess rain run-off during the winter wet season. Gravel offers water-saving, non-growing surfaces for practical use, play or design. Use it to fill in hard-to-plant areas so they look great in hot or cold weather and smother invading weeds in spring. Stone is a natural product that can be used to advantage in your landscape design. It can even function as a top-dressing or a layer of mulch. Just remember that dark colors absorb heat so they can get hot in summer sun for delicate feet and plant life.
Natural rock comes in all sizes, shapes and a surprisingly wide range of colors. Use it in your garden for ease of care and beauty. It can become one of your most important and stable design elements.
Amazon Carousel Widget