Common Mistakes in Landscaping Design – Finding the Right Mindset

It's important to have a planning process for future landscaping designs; find out more here.

If you don’t have a lot of experience with landscape design, it can be an intimidating thing to approach, and unfortunately, there are many people who don’t consider the designing process at all! Instead, they just choose empty areas and fill them with unrelated elements, neglecting the overall potential of the finished product as an extension of their homes and a solution to their needs. We’ll leave the detailed descriptions of digging and paving a patio, building a fire pit or caring for hedges to other articles. Today, we’re going to talk about finding your inner designer and approaching the planning phase of your landscaping with the right mindset.


Landscape architect design


The design phase is crucial to maximizing space, visual appeal and functionality. We’re going to go over some of the most common mistakes and oversights people make when they plan their landscaping projects so that you’ll be able to start off on the best foot possible. Read on to find out what not to do while you draw up your landscaping design!


Mistake #1: Failing to Have a Plan at All

Landscaping is not something that you want to haphazardly stumble through. If you just add elements without thinking about the overall design, you could end up with, at worst, an incoherent and unpleasant yard, or at best, a layout and approach that doesn’t maximize your space and potential.


Moreover, if you’re working with a contractor to add something like a pool or a deck without thinking about future landscaping development, something could end up sticking out as an eyesore when it could work for you.


Beautiful classical garden fish pond surrounded by grass gardening


The Fix: Even if you’re saving money or developing a hobby by tackling your own landscaping, you don’t have to know much about landscaping to draw up a plan. Even if you’re a lousy artist and far from being a landscape architect, sit down with a pencil and some paper and start thinking things through – draw up a rough sketch of your space and pencil in your gardens, patios, focal points, hedges, fountains. Play around with different ideas until you have something that strikes you as the right approach, and keep tweaking it until you’re ready to get started!


Landscape plan


If you’re working with a contractor to add something like a swimming pool, you want to avoid letting their design become an overriding criteria for the rest of your landscaping. Instead, work with a designer to create a “phased installation” so that your pool will fit into a larger concept down the road. You may even want to hire a landscaping consultant to help you get your thoughts gathered and developed – this can be a great budgetary middle ground between total DIY and professional execution.


Mistake #2: Being Unrealistic About Time

So you’ve watched those home makeover or DIY shows in which a backyard is entirely transformed into an oasis – complete with veranda, serenity garden and magazine-cover vegetation – all in a weekend. The reality is that these shows have massive crews and professional contractors at the ready. Gathering material, hauling debris, laying pavers, constructing frames and roofs, gardening – many of these things are happening simultaneously with the help of a lot more hands than you probably have.




As a result, you’re either unrealistically ready to tackle your entire landscaping project in a couple of days, or you’re scared to get started because you think that it all has to happen at once.


The Fix: If you’re planning on DIYing your landscaping, you need to take a step back and recognize that this project is going to happen in phases. You’re working on the first one now – drawing up the perfect plan. The next phase? Divide your design up into phases that are manageable and won’t look too much like a larger unfinished project as you complete them. Depending on the size, you could manageably dig and lay a patio in a weekend or so. You might want to choose another weekend to add a roof or lay a walkway. You get the picture!


Red circle marked on a calendar concept for an important day


Mistake #3: Failing to Coordinate Properly

This is a multi-faceted category that includes a number of elements, but much of it can be boiled down to the concept of coordination. Much in the way that you wouldn’t just throw individual, colorful pieces all around your home with no regard to color schemes, themes and progression, a smattering of every color of the rainbow in your yard will look busy and stress-inducing. It’s best not to approach your landscaping without an eye for the interplay of its many elements.


A carefuly kept front yard showing summer colours


The Fix: When you’re planning, start by thinking about your interior design. You’ll make the absolute most of your entire home is there is coordination between the indoors and the outdoors. You should carry the textures and colors of a room into the outside of it as well as you can, so that the eye travels through something like a window or French door seamlessly, viewing the outside as an extension of the room. You can even coordinate your paving material outside of a door to make the transition point vanish.


Luxury house with a two-car garage and beautiful landscaping on a sunny day. Home exterior


It may also be a good idea to find a focal center for your landscaping design, such as a serenity garden, a fountain, or a fire pit with furnishings to help draw the eye naturally through your layout toward each individual element. Furthermore, many landscape designers encourage adherence to a color scheme of around three colors or less per season to maintain unity.


Mistake #4: Ignoring Functionality

You may think that you have the perfect space for your patio, but if it’s on the west side of your house and you’re planning on using it frequently for dinners or evening cocktails, you may be setting yourself up for a hot and blinding disappointment.


Sunset on modern patio with simple outdoor furniture


The Fix: Consider factors such as climate, sunshine and overall purpose when you start building your concept. If you experience extremely hot summers, lighter paving and woods will retain less heat. If you’re looking for a shady place to socialize, consider placement or other options such as trees or roofing to counteract the sun. Looking for a place to have a glass of wine at night in a chilly environment? Consider a tasteful fire pit and some beautiful furnishings as a center piece to your plan.


Luxury House with regal elegant covered outdoor patio


This may not be a comprehensive list, but it should certainly get you thinking in the right direction about the big picture of landscaping design. The sky is the limit and rather than them being constraints, these simple adjustments will help you to tap into your creativity and create a professional-quality design that’s perfectly suited to your lifestyle. Grab a pencil and a sketchbook, and start dreaming!

Images used with permission, courtesy of and

Next: Your Ultimate Guide to Hedge Trimming