The Design Process - Excerpt from Creating a Florida Friendly Yard

The Design Process The design process gives a structured order to landscape design by determining needs in an methodical manner. 

I. Site Analysis 

Site analysis is the initial step of the process. Here, the site is examined and all information, also known as an Inventory, is recorded on a Base Plan.  

Base Plan  

A base plan is simply an overhead view of the yard along with the location of the house and drive, much like a bird’s view of the site. Oftentimes, a copy of the property survey can be used as a base plan. An overhead view shot can also be accessed through map websites such as Yahoo Maps or Google Earth.  


An Inventory is a list of existing elements on the site. This is a thorough list that includes such items as property lines, topography and existing vegetation (trees and shrubs), overhead power lines, street lights, sewer lines, septic tanks, the views from the windows of the house, the curb appeal, outside water spigots, air conditioning units, walks, poor drainage areas, dry spots, wind direction, sun direction and sun path. and any other existing conditions or elements. The site inventory also takes into account adjacent properties and conditions, like roads, topography and drainage. A homeowner should also determine and include the soil type in the Site Analysis. Is the soil sandy as it is in most of Florida? Or are there large amounts of clay present? Is the ph of the soil acidic or alkaline? The breakdown of soil is important when picking plants, as certain soil types are necessary for some plants. Soil test kits can be obtained from local hardware stores for as little as ten dollars. It is important to locate all underground utility lines, by calling the national "Call Before You Dig" number, 811  so you do not cut utility lines, looe service or get injured. 

Needs and Wants 

The whole point of a new landscape is to fulfill a need. What are your needs and wants for the yard? What are your goals and what do you hope to accomplish?  Do you plan on having a recreational area for the children?  What about a meditation area with a hammock or even paver seating area under shade? What about an adult themed space for entertaining and hosting guests and friends? Would you want seating, a patio, a firepit?? What about a garden for vegetables and herbs?   Make a list of the goals for your yards in order of priority and what you especially hope to accomplish. When prioritizing, ask yourself what’s important to you.  Is it more necessary to put up a fence for screening or to have a firepit patio? Is your first task to install new beds in the front yard and then the vegetable garden in the back yard?  You may want to see six or seven things accomplished, so write them down in order of importance.  Now, once the goals are established, then you must consider your budget. What are you willing to spend on your landscape project? How much money have you set aside? If you can’t afford to do it all at once, consider phasing in all of the elements over time.  

II. Bubble Diagram 

Once a Site Analysis is completed and the needs and wants of the yard are determined, a homeowner can take the base map and site analysis and create a bubble diagram. This is where you will decide whether your meditation garden should go next to the fence where there is ample shade or whether you prefer it closer to the house. Where will you place the entertaining area? Where in the yard is there full sun for the vegetable gardens?   

III. Design a landscape plan 

Now, with the site inventory and a list of your wants and desires on the bubble diagram, you can finalize your landscape plan.  Layout the patio area to scale. Specify that you want a 5’ x 5’ raised bed at the corner of the house.  Draw where you want the groundcovers, shrubs, and trees. Think about the yard as if you were walking through it and use the designer’s palette of tools, incorporating elements of design: line, rhythm, shape, texture, color, form, mass, color.  Tips on Designing Plants should be placed in odd numbers in groups. Repeat plants species and color throughout the yard for continuity. Don’t install plants too close to the house, allow proper circulation and insure no damage is done to the foundation. Place larger plants to the back and or center of beds. This leads the eye. Remember to keep in mind when planting, to allow plants plenty of room to grow. So don’t plant too close together.