If you're a beginning gardener, congratulations. You're about to enter a very fulfilling world of color and beauty and we want to start you out right. Here are some easy landscaping ideas for beginners that you can use and implement starting right now.
Even better, you can have a new garden finished in a very short time. Depending on how large it is, it could be done in a day or a weekend.
First we want to give you some valuable tips you'll want to consider as you start. These tips are intended to make your life easier and indeed, if you follow them, they will.
Of course you can search the internet for easy landscape ideas for beginners and find lots of images. In fact, you may have already done that. We did this also. Do you know what we found?
Some images were good ideas for beginners but others are not. For sure, the ideas you'll find elsewhere we wouldn't recommend for you if you're just getting started.
For instance, if you see images with rock walls - walls that look like they were constructed by professionals - turn away.
We've built many rock walls and we want you to know that they are NOT easy. We've also seen many homeowners try to build them with not much success.
The key to rock walls is getting the base level. How do you do that? With speciallized crushed rock and sand, something you don't need to do as a beginner. We can't go into the details of building rock walls here in this article, but just know they are not usually easy to build.
On the other hand, lining a garden with a single layer of rocks is a great idea.
The lesson here is not all images you find on the web are good for beginners. However, we have a great alternative below.
Check out the photos we've included at the end of the article. Not only will we explain why they are examples of simple landscaping ideas for beginners, but we'll also explain what's in the photo and how to copy what you see in the images.
These tips alone will get to started with as less pain as possible.
So, let's get started.
Easy To Understand Landscape Design
If you see images of landcapes and like what you see, you can copy them of course. But if you want something unique, or if you want to use the image as a guide but put your own twist on the planting, it would help to know a little bit about landscape design.
We like to compare designing and installing landscaping to art. No two gardens are alike, just like art. In addition, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, just like art.
As you proceed, there are design principles you should adhere to, but don't think if you do something different, you're wrong. You're just different, and some people like being different.
We have an excellent guide for beginners just like you that goes over our top 10 the overall landscape design principles in easy to understand language. You can get yours for free by clicking here.
There are many things you can include in your landscape, from hundreds (actually more) of flowers, shrubs, trees, garden ornaments, paver walks, rock walls, arbors, water features, and on and on.
If you visit your local garden center, whether a large nursery or the big box stores, you'll likely be overwhelmed. The choices will seem endless.
The key here is that you don't need to know everything about everything. In fact, even the pros don't know it all. We are still learning too.
What you'll want to do is become familiar with a few plants you like that will grow in your area.
As an example. Start with flowering annuals. Pick 5. Get to know them. What are their light and water needs, flowering habits, their maximum size and planting zones.
Next take on shrubs. Pick 5 of and gather information on those. Next is ornamental trees if your space is large enough. Pick 3 and gather your information.
Finally, do a web search for garden ornaments (if that's something you might want) and decide if you want to include one or more.
Once you have this information, you'll be able to design and install your own garden and, using the easy landscaping tips for beginners we teach you here, you'll have a beautiful space.
See below for our suggestions for plants, shrubs and trees. Our suggestions are based on the most common and easy to grow plants. Of course you don't have to stop with those, but if you want easy, without spending much time, our suggestions are a good place to start.
As a beginner, that's what you want - easy to grow. You'll want plants that will survive and thrive. This will give you the confidence to move onto bigger and better spaces.
What Elements Of A Garden Should You Include?
The answer to this questions is simple - whichever ones you want.
All garden spaces need to have, well, plants. That's obvious.
In addition, the plants need to be different - different textures and colors of foliage, some shrubs, some flowers mixed in, and even an ornamental tree or two if you have the space.
The perfect garden has a mixture of all of this and we'll tell you how to do it below.
Other elements you could include would be garden ornaments, such as gazing balls, birdbaths, water features, other garden ornaments you'll see as your browse online or at your local retail stores (think gnomes - if you must) LOL.
Another element you may want to consider is a seating area - a place you can sit and enjoy your space. If this is something you want, you'll want to narrow down your choices. What kind of seats? A table and chairs? Just chairs? What kind of chairs? Adorondack? Outdoor furniture? A Swing?
What base will the seats be sitting on? Pavers? Grass? Bricks? Something else?
Then there are rocks. As we mentioned above, rock walls are not easy and take time. This, from yours truly that has built dozens of them. Beginners should stay away from rock walls that are several layers high. However, feel free to line your garden edges with rocks. This is a good way to incorporate natural elements within your landscape.
Lots of choices, so how do you narrow it down? Well, the best way to go is to start with you. You probably have some ideas of things you already like and want. Even if they are just general ideas, it's best to start there, look into those things, then expand from there - and don't worry, we've got you covered.
Read on for some more easy landscaping ideas for beginners.
How To Layout Your Landscape
Let's talk about 3 principles right here - the rule of odds, grouping of plants and the using curves. We'll briefly mention them here. For more information on these, plus other principles not covered here, see our free guide.
#1 The Landscaping Rule Of Odds:
This principle says to always use odd numbers of plants, 1, 3, 5, 7 plants. This can vary somewhat.
For instance, it may become necessary to only have 2 of a particular plant because of spacing or for other reasons. However, always start with odd numbers, especially if you're just starting out.
#2 Groups Of Plants:
Grouping of plants is also important. Think of your garden space broken down into sections.
Take a look at the basic drawing below:
We've drawn out a simple garden design using just a pencil and piece of paper. We've done it this way to show you that you don't need some sophisticated software program that will do it for you. In fact, in our entire landscape careers, we have never needed software to comunicate to clients our overall design visions.
In the above image, you'll see an area for shrubs and an area for flowers. Two simple sections.
Here's another image of the same garden but this time, I've thrown in a birdbath.
So far, so good. There are 3 elements.
Finally, in this image, we've transformed the section lines into actual plants.
Notice in the back we've chosen "boxwoods" which are smallish shrubs that stay green all year. There are 5 of them.
Next, within the flowers (annuals) are actually 2 plants - "red geraniums" and "yellow marigolds." One section for annuals but we've divided this up into 2 different colors that go well together - red and yellow. Also notice the odd number of each plant and notice the dividing line between red and yellow - which is angled.
This is the easy way to think of ANY garden space and lay it out in sections. There can be as little as 2 or 3 sections as noted above, or many more, depending on the size of the space.
#3 Using Curves:
Everything about your gardens should incorportate curves - from the overall design of the entire bed, to the individual sections of plants.
Curves are an important design concept because they lead your eye from one place to the next. On the other hand, sharp corners tend to stop your gaze at the end of the straight line, where it meets the corner.
Do you see how it can go? Can you see how easy it is then to create a landscape space worthy of showing off? We hope so.
Of course, each person's gardens are different. It would be impossible to cover all the possible shapes, designs, and sections here but we hope we don't have to.
Using these simple landscape design principles and the concept of sections, you should be able to design your own landscaping using these easy ideas for beginners.
The Selection Of Plants
As we mentioned above, all gardens should include a variety of plants. Let's briefly discuss them now.
If you want colorful flowers blooming all season, then you'll want summer annuals. However, they will die at first frost, so you'll need to plant new ones every year. However, for constant color, there is no other choice.
Perennial flowers do not bloom the entire season. However, some plants bloom at different times, some even more than once, so if you want to dive into perennials that will come back every year, we'd recommend starting with 1 or 2 - then, fill in with annuals for a splash of color throughout the season.
Want to know more about the differences between annuals and perennials? Click Here.
It's rare to find a garden space that looks good without some type of shrubs. We would say it's a necessity. Shrubs give your garden the variety of color and texture it needs.
If you're looking at a garden space and it doesn't include shrubs, it will usually be lacking substance.
If your space allows it, you might want to consider an ornamental tree. You can choose trees that are tall, short and anywhere in between. In addition, some are evergreen while others deciduous.
It's up to you do get creative and decide if an ornamental tree fits within the overall design.
Beginner Friendly Easy To Grow Plants
Our expertise is in planting zones 6-8, which covers much of the U.S. We are not able to give you advice on extremely cold or hot climates. Plants for those zones will vary from the "middle-of-the-road" planting zones in which we live and work.
That being said, here are our choices that will give you a wide variety:
- Cone Flowers
- Black Eyed Susans
- Day Lillies
- Japanese Holly
- Juniper Shrub
- Japanese Maple
- Crepe Myrtle
- Blue Spruce
- Norway Spruce
As you can see, this list is short. However, as we mentioned previously, you don't need to know every single plant that exists in the world.
Each one of the plants above has many different cultivars and varieties, which greatly increases the number of choices, so just learning these will be enough to start.
Depending on the size of your gardens, you can use as little as 2 summer annuals and 1 kind of shrub to have a beautiful space.
For instance, if you choose geraniums and petunias as your annuals of choice, there are a wide variety of colors of each of those.
How about bright red geraniums with deep purple petunias? How about pink geraniums with red and white penunias? The combinations of just these 2 plants can be extensive.
Of course, if your space is larger, by all means add more that 2. This was just an example. It's all up to your comfort level and how much you want to learn.
No surprise. All plants need watering. It's especially important for plants such as shrubs and trees that need to get their roots established within the ground so they'll survive for many years.
Now, you can water by hand, every day or every other day, or install an irrigation timer, an easy way to handle your watering chore.
If you want to hand water, read this article about how to know when to water plants.
For simple irrigation timers that will be a lifesaver - especially if you're busy and don't have time to water, check out this article and review of the best watering timer for you.
Sample Landscape Designs To Copy
As we promised at the beginning, we offer up a lot of easy landscape ideas for beginners in the form of images. Take a look and see if you can copy them or just use them as inspiration for your own project.
In this image, you can see the circular garden. This is a classic garden design that includes an ornamental tree in the center of the circle, with other, lower plants surrounding it.
Here I have identified only 4 choices of plants.
First you have the tree, which could be any small ornamental that you like. Next have loriape in a circle around the base. This is the varigated leaf variety. Loriape also comes in solid green. Both make good choices.
Next you can see coral bell plants - in 2 leaf colors. The front color is a deep maroon while the back color is green.
Finally, in the back, what looks like a blooming knock out rose. Although in the photo we can't be sure it's a rose, it would make a good selection if it's not. Actually 3 knock out roses in the back would be a great selection. However, they grow large, so you wouldn't want to put the UNDER the tree canopy, but rather in the back, just outside the canopy of the tree.
Here's another circular garden photo however, this time, the garden is a rasied garden with a rock wall.
First, as we mentioned previously, rock walls can be time consuming because it's important to get the bottom layer flat. In addition, all rocks above must be positioned correctly so they sit flat. This stone was purchsed and was build as a "dry stacked stone" wall, meaning nothing is holding the stones together except the fact that they sit flat on one another.
The ornamental tree is a cherry tree but it will get fairly large over time and need trimming. However it does produce wonderful flowers in the spring. Another excellent choice here could be a cut-leaf japanese red maple.
Again you'll see loriape surrounding the base of the tree. This is the solid green variety. In addition, junipers (the blue chip variety) also surround the tree, but in front of the loriape and staggered. This is because the junipers stay lower than the loriape and you want the lowest plant in front.
Finally, in the back are the summer annual, begonias. An even better idea here would have been to plant them around the entire base of the tree, not just to one side. Since annuals are planted every year, as the tree gets bigger, they will most likely not be planted here.
Here is a photo of the front garden of a townhouse. This is one of our clients.
First we want to point out the azalea bush, which has just finished blooming but many of the leaves haven't come out yet. It seems to be struggling, although it's looked great and went well in the garden in previous years.
Notice the annuals in the front.
First there is "blue ageratum" which is a summer annual that light (sky) blue blooms. There aren't many annuals that bloom in this color so it's a great choice.
Behind this are marigolds which are not blooming and behind that, bright red geraniums, all lining the bed in a circle. Once the plants have gotten a little more established, the colors of blue, yellow and red will really pop. We know because our client plants this garden the same way every year.
In addition, on the left are some hostas and behind that, a plant called "lambs ear." Both of these plants are perennials and come back every year. They are actually part of the garden that wraps around the townhouse on the side.
Here's another garden lined with rocks.
First you'll notice hostas in the back, forming a backdrop to the main garden area.
In the garden are a bed of "begonias," separated from other parts of the garden, but also a variety of "coleus," which is a shade loving plant annual and comes in many varieties. You'll also see a red, leafy plant called "persian shield." This is another annual with colorful leaves.
Finally, the "dead nettle" plant provides ground cover. This is a perennial that comes back every year. This variety spreads, but not as fast as other varieties. Also, this is NOT the "stinging nettle" which can actually be harmful.
What you cannot see in this photo is that in the distance, another bed of begonias has been planted on the other end. This balances out the garden splendidly.
Now for something completely different. Here's an easy landscaping idea for beginners.
As you can see, the garden is one large mass of stones with the garden areas lined in larger rocks. What makes this OK is that it's surrounded by a lot of green - as in green grass.
This is a very simple garden for beginners to pull off because it only uses 2 plants.
One is a shrub. This is not a client's yard so I do not know, and cannot tell what kind of shrubs they are. However, they look like "boxwoods" or "japanese holly." The other plant is an ornamental tree of some sort. Any ornamental tree would do well in this spot.
Behind the shrubs you can see a seating area within the stones that also includes a fire pit (at least I think it's a fire pit). If it's not, it should be.
In our opinion, the only thing wrong with this garden is the stone area is too big and there is no color to make it come alive.
What we would do is to connect the area that includes the 3 shrubs and 1 tree into one continuous garden. In addition we'd add some type of flowers here - either annuals or flowering perennials. In addition, we would expand the garden area on the right that includes 2 shrubs to also include flowers.
We would also change the bed edging. Instead of more rocks, we would look for another edging material that contrasts with the stones already in place.
If you create a garden of stones, always remember to lay down weed control fabric under the stones and attach it to the ground using sod stakes. This serves 2 purposes. First, it keeps underlying dirt out of the stones. Second, it will help prevent weeds from popping out of the stones. It's important to remember though that weed control fabric does not eliminate weeds. It just helps reduce them.
Conclusion - Easy Landscape Ideas For Beginners
Finally we want to mention that by using the principles we mention above and combining that knowledge with just a few plant and hardscape choices, you can design a beautiful garden space, even if you're a beginner just getting started.
For more help with design principles, get our free guide now.
For more garden design ideas, check out this article here.
If you want one-on-one help, we've also got you covered. Click here for more information on getting personalized advice, directly from us to you.
November 15, 2021
My aunt is looking for ideas on how to reuse her lawn in an outdoor space. I love your idea of adding natural stones to give it a more natural appearance. Maybe seeking out the advice of an expert might be the right choice for this.
November 7, 2022
Your list of suggestions when it comes to things like trees and shrubs really feels interesting. Something like that could really help us decide what to get for our home’s property, and I can see that being extremely important to decide before committing to the project. I’ll use this list and ask for advice from a landscaping expert so we know what to start planting with.
March 3, 2023
After reading this article, I now have a much better idea of how to properly use rocks in an easy way. Rather than trying to go for complicated projects, simple edging ideas might be a lot easier for me to do and get more out of. Once I find a service that offers decorative stone, I’ll use that material to put these ideas to the test.