A successful landscape development does not automatically happen. It is usually the result of planning. The four steps I use are suitability, utility, economy and beauty.
The landscape design should meet the families needs. If it doesn't, it has very little value. Dad may want a garden, potting shed and a place for flowers. Mom may want a safe area for the children to play. Little Johnnie may want open space to practice baseball and football. How do you fit it all in? Well, it's easy if you plan before you plant.
I have always used a check sheet. This gives the family a chance to give input on what they expect a landscape design to be.
Family members, age and outdoor hobbies:
Is a special play area for children required? If so, what equipment will be required? (Swings, slide, sand box, overhead ladder, chinning bars, etc.)
What can this area be used for in later years?
Will the family washing be done at home? If so, will a clothesline be required?
What type of heating fuels are used. What provision for storage and delivery of fuels is being made?
Is the family horticulturally minded? Has the family had enough experience to evaluate maintenance problems? Will outside help be available to assist in maintenance?
Is a vegetable garden desired? If so, size? Space for cut flowers, size? Are small fruit trees desired? If so, what kind?
Does climate and insect life permit outdoor living or will the garden be primarily for viewing from the house? Will the yard be used for barbecues and picnics? Are large groups to be entertained?
What plants would the family like to include?
Does any member of the family have an interest in one plant genus, such as roses, iris, dahlias, etc., or special subjects, as potted plants?
What garden features interest the family? (Pergol, pools, sun dials, bird baths, seats, benches,etc.)
Special structures or areas? (Greenhouse, lathehouse, coldframes, hot beds, potting yard, tool storage, etc.)
We have to keep in mind that we are planning not only for today but for situations in the future. It is really important to put the answers on paper.
The house and the garden should be viewed as one unit. They both have work areas and they both have areas for enjoyment. The relationship between the house and garden should be practical. The living areas of the house should open to living areas in the garden. The same goes for the work areas. If you store firewood, it would be wise to keep it close to the room(s) with the fireplace(s). Like the rooms of a house, the areas of the garden should be planned around their expected use.
We need to consider economy in terms of space, garden development and maintenance.. Failure to do so will result in disaster. You need to make sure you design the proper space for the activities you wish to pursue. Do you have enough room to grow the vegetables you desire? Is there enough lawn area to enjoy the activities that require lawn? Do you have to spend every spare moment maintaining the property? A properly designed garden can save you both time and money.
Planning tip: Keep the lawn area free of trees, shrubs and flower beds. It will make the lawn easier to maintain and give you fewer items to mow around.
Beauty is easy to define. Fortunately it is in the eye of the beholder. I have collected garden magazines for over 30 years. They are a great collection of thoughts and ideas. I am always looking for sources of ideas for things I consider beautiful and can use in my garden.