Getting Started


One of the biggest myths I hear repeated by homeowners everywhere is that some people have a “green thumb” and others don’t.  I’m not sure how the myth of the green thumb was started, but it’s time to end it!  There is no such thing as a green thumb!  There are people who take the time to understand and care for their plants and there are those that don’t.  End of story!

People have been using the lack of a “green thumb” as an excuse for years!  The bottom line is that caring for plants is pretty straightforward if you keep it simple.  With a little time, anyone can learn the basics of landscaping and plant care.  You do not need to be born with a special talent for horticulture to make your own backyard space amazing.

So let’s leave the green thumb myth behind and roll our sleeves up.  It’s time to take charge of your yard!

The first and most important step in transforming your yard will not require the use of a shovel.  Before you start digging,  you will need to learn a little about the design process.  This is where the real magic happens.  We’ll break down the design process into simple terms and concepts that everyone can understand.

Let’s start by looking at a little history……

The “CULTURE OF RESALE” and the Death of the Well-Designed Yard

When I look around at neighborhoods in America, I’m constantly reminded just how rare good outdoor design is.  In wealthy suburbs and middle class neighborhoods alike, there seems to be the same lack of design sense.  Sure, there is a culture of high-priced landscaping in the wealthy neighborhoods of our country, but spending a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re getting a well-designed yard.   Most home builders and landscapers have simply lost touch with the fundamentals of outdoor design.

So, how did we get here?  Why are well designed properties so rare?  Why do so few landscapers understand even the basics of good design?

Not so long ago, landscaping was considered an integral part of home design.  Architects and home builders understood that a well designed home was built in harmony with the surrounding landscape.

After World War II, all that changed.  Builders began building inexpensive homes for middle-class families in search of the American Dream.  In order to make homes affordable, designs were simplified and subdivisions were made by builders using only slight variations on one design. Homeowners were willing to forgo a well-designed home for an affordable one.  This change was understandable and probably even necessary to make home ownership available to a larger part of the population.

A typical 1950's ranch.

Unfortunately, things got worse.  The real estate booms of the 80’s and 90’s once again changed the way landscapes are designed.  During this period, homes started to be viewed as investments more than living spaces.  People were getting rich on their homes (at least on paper).  “Buying up” became an obsession.  Builders were making a fortune and homeowners became very aware of what their properties were worth to a bank appraiser.    Homeowners started investing in their homes to increase the resale value instead of investing to improve their own quality of life.

So many builders, real estate agents and house flippers became involved in the market that the culture of home design changed dramatically.   Home and landscape design became about increasing a property’s value on paper.   “Rules” began to emerge for increasing a home’s “value” based on the way mortgage lenders appraised homes.  These rules don’t necessarily relate to the quality of living in the home.  By the end of the 90’s a culture of deigning homes and landscapes for maximum resale value was firmly established.  Even those who were not concerned with resale were engulfed in this cultural shift.

The culture of resale....ugh!

I call this the “culture of resale”.  It reduces most “landscaping” to planting a border of shrubs the front of the house to be appealing to potential buyers arriving for an open house.

Of course, landscapers also got in on the boom and started specializing in “curb appeal”.  Eventually, the basic art and science of landscape design was lost to the culture of resale except among well educated (and expensive!) designers.

While this is unfortunate for most, it means that you can get ahead of most professional “landscapers” by just understanding a few basic principles of design.

Hopefully, by bringing back these basic principles of design, we can help put an end to the culture of resale and return to better way of living in our homes and landscapes.

Next:  Learn about our FIVE LAWS of LANDSCAPE DESIGN