When planning a landscape, one must first establish the criteria.
What will the space be used for? Entertaining, recreation, privacy, contemplation, corridor space, view shed or utilitarian? If you are tackling more than one space, a master landscape plan is the way to go.
It illustrates the project in its entirety and helps to prioritize the phases of implementation. Of equal importance is the theme of the landscape.
Is the site historic, an estate, in an urban neighborhood, a vacation get away, an environmental area, a wildlife sanctuary? What is the architectural style — contemporary, historic, mid-century modern, rustic, cottage? What are the physical conditions of the area — wet, dry, sunny, windy, off-site views, construction and/or environmental constraints?
And finally: Research costs and create a budget.
Once you have established your criteria you can begin designing your space using materials and plants.
Hardscaping is a term in the landscape industry used to describe hard exterior surfaces such as decks, pool decks, patios, walkways and driveways.
Hardscape materials include brick, flagstone, limestone, granite, travertine and gravel.
The material chosen should reflect the theme and architectural style of the design and your family’s lifestyle.
The installed pattern of the hardscape material, whether it be random, herringbone, running bond or irregular pattern should complement the existing and proposed structures and overall design theme.
Arbors, trellises, porches, and walls are all structural elements that include endless material choices.
Naturally occurring features can be structural as well, they help form the space and can include large trees, rock outcroppings and water.
Structure and hardscaping are the framework or bones of a design and should be addressed early in the planning.
I consider plants the icing on the cake, the last design element to be contemplated.
That’s not to say they aren’t extremely complicated in their cultural requirements, growth rates, ultimate size, shape and form, texture, bloom, fruit, fall color and winter interest.
Getting this part right is key to a successful landscape and is often an ongoing endeavor as plants mature and require specific care to maintain their appeal.
In summary, the key ingredients to a successful landscape design are establishing the criteria, use, style/theme and identifying the site’s physical conditions and finally creating outdoor living spaces with plants and materials.
It sounds simple but it can be daunting and sometimes hiring the right professional to help is a great option.
It is important to find someone with knowledge and experience.
They should be a good fit for you and your family as your landscape should reflect your unique tastes and lifestyle within your budget.

(Editor’s Note: Jennifer Connoley is the owner-operator of Jennifer Connoley Landscape Design in Easton, Md.)