Makeover Step 6 – Bring it Together

Now you’ve created a rough layout and designed your features.  The next step will be to bring it all together in a final layout.  This step is usually done with a detailed drawing.  Don’t let this make you nervous.  Your drawing can be as simple as a paper and pencil map of your design.  If you’re more ambitious, you can download Google’s free drafting software, Google SketchUp and make a more elaborate sketch.  This program is so easy to use, you can likely learn it from scratch and create a drawing faster than you can do with a pencil and paper.  This choice is yours.  Either way, the point is to make an understandable drawing that will guide you or a hired contractor through the installation process.  Your drawing does not need to be a work of art!

Get it together

To start, take all of your features and your rough layout (including access points and walkways).  Use these to make your drawing of the entire project.  Your drawing should be a “plan view” meaning it’s a representation of your project as if you were looking down on it from above.   Your features should be placed and drawn as close to scale as possible.  Your features should be outlines of their footprint.  If your feature is complex, you should use a separate drawing to detail that feature.  For gardens, just outline them for now on your main layout.

You will have to add dimensions to your drawing when it is done.  You will likely have to go out into the property with a tape measure to decide on the final dimensions.

Don’t be intimidated!

Making the drawing is where some homeowners throw in the towel and run to a designer.  Not because it’s difficult, but because some homeowners are easily intimidated and don’t even try.  As a homeowner, you need to understand that that you own this project.  There is no one you need to impress but yourself!

Making a drawing is easy and there is no standard you need to live up to.  Your drawing is for information.  It’s not a beauty contest.  As I’ve said earlier, I’m a big fan of drafting software like Google SketchUp.  Not because it looks so nice, but because it’s less work than drawing by hand and it allows you to easily change your design and view it from different angles.  (We’re pretty much daring you to download  Google SketchUp at this point!).

Getting your curves right

So go ahead and start make your drawing.  First draw in your hardscapes.  Next, add in your planted features.  Once you’ve got both on paper,  you will need to start looking at the flow of your design.  Usually, the first time you put all of your features together, they will not flow together very well.  There are lots of different techniques for creating a sense of natural flow in landscape design.  For homeowners without any design experience, the easiest and most foolproof technique is to use “curvilinear” patterns for your final layout.  This is just a fancy way of saying to use lots of smooth curves.

So, how do you incorporate a curvilinear flow into your design?  It’s easy.    First, look at the “lines” of your layout.  The strongest lines are created where hardscapes meet grass or gardens and where gardens meet grass.  Stone walls or hedges can also create lines within features.  You will want to create long flowing curves along these edges.  Especially, the edges where your plantings meet the grass. If you decide to go with a curvilinear design pattern, you should follow it through everything.  All of your edges should have curves.  This includes the edges of, patios, gardens, pools (or at least the patio surrounding the pool), walkways, and the4 lines of stone walls and hedges.  Do not try and put a square patio or straight walkway into a design with a curvilinear pattern.  Pools and decks may be difficult to adapt to curved patterns, but they can usually be made to fit in if they are surround by curved lines, like a curved patio around the pool or a curved planting around the edge of a deck.

There are other patterns of design, like modular and angular patterns.  Some designers even create great combinations of styles that work well together.  You are free to use any type pf pattern you like, but curvilinear is by far the easiest to work with.

Anchor plants

Once you’ve got your design flowing together, you may want to make one more addition.  look at the places where your hardscapes and planted areas meet.  Do they transition well from one to the next?  If not, try using anchor plants to help.  These are large plants the help mark the beginning and ends of landscape features.  I usually frame my hardscapes with tall anchor plants to help define the spaces.  This is especially helpful if you want to create a more private and intimate atmosphere in your design.  If your mood is more open and social, then you will probably not rely as much on anchor plantings.

Add any anchor plants to your design now.  They will be the first thing you plant.

Watering and irrigation systems

Now that you have a finished drawing of your plan, you’ll need to think about adding electrical outlets or lighting and watering systems like automatic irrigation or remote spigots for hand watering.  If your design has any plantings (including a lawn), you will need to water it, at least until it has established itself.  If your plan includes as flower garden, then you will have to periodically water your garden during the warmer months of the year.  So, for flower gardens you will need to be able to access your entire garden by hose.  If you cannot reach all your plantings using the existing spigots, then I would strongly suggest adding more as necessary.  I would also suggest that you hire a professional to install remote water spigots if you need them. If you can afford it, you could also include an irrigation system that will water your lawn and garden automatically.  You may already have an irrigation system.  If you have one in the area where you will be making major changes, you may need to hire a professional to modify it as part of your install process.  If you’re new to irrigation systems, here are some benefits and drawbacks:


  • Plants and lawn are watered regularly
  • No need to hand water


  • Expensive to install
  • Water use can get excessive and expensive
  • Some towns and cities limit use of irrigation systems in times of draught

Ultimately, an irrigation system is a choice only you can make.  As with additional water spigots, we advise hiring a professional to install your irrigation system.

Outdoor lighting and outlets

Outdoor lighting can add a lot to a landscape and may be necessary if you plan on entertaining or using your landscape after dark.  Outdoor lighting can also add drama to your landscape at night that can be appreciated from inside your house.  It can get expensive, so look at some examples in our Landscape Features section.  Think about your goal statement.  Is it part of your goal to entertain at night?  Is it part of your goal to have your landscape appreciated at night?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may need to consider outdoor lighting.

At the very least, I would consider adding some outdoor electrical outlets to your design if you have an outdoor dining area or even a gathering place away from the house.  You never know when it may come in handy.  They’re great if you put up holiday lights in your landscape.

This is another part of the process where I would suggest hiring a professional.  Landscape lighting is complicated and possibly dangerous to attempt to install yourself.  If any of your lighting will be embedded in stonework, then you will have to install it at the same time as your stone.  Otherwise, landscape lighting can be added later in the process (but possibly with some limitations).

Once you’ve made your decisions on watering and electrical, add water spigots, outlets and outdoor light locations to your drawing.  You don’t need to design irrigation systems our include them in your drawing.  Your installer will use your drawing to design and install the system.

Now you should have a complete project design drawing. Congratulations!  It’s now time to start the install process.

Next:  Take the first step in the installation process in Mark Your Site