Landscaping Ideas for a Rectangular Yard
By Sandra Carusetta
The most thoughtful garden plant collection may be rendered boring in a monotonous setting. A rectangular yard, simply lined with flowers like soldiers in a row, fails to inspire either the excitement or serenity of a backyard garden getaway, or the inviting welcome of a beckoning front yard. Fortunately, you don't need to make substantial renovations to create a more appealing landscape. Minor adjustments either to existing sites or during the planning stages work wonders.
A seating area tucked away under an arbor, a small flowering patch with a birdbath or an herb garden off the kitchen are all examples of garden rooms -- separate areas within the yard that offer privacy, utility or specialized beauty. Divide a rectangular backyard into garden rooms, creating a floor plan as you would for a home. Considering the family's needs, include a play area for children, a quiet reading cove for adults or a dining room under a pergola for everyone. Divide garden rooms with trellises, hedges, walkways or low, clipped evergreens, depending on the privacy level you want. Include furnishings as basic as a garden bench or as elaborate as a fireplace, wet bar or outdoor kitchen.
Curving and Straight Lines
Curving lines engender anticipation. Introduce curves in small, rectangular yards by adjusting border edges and walkways. Curved border edges provide an opportunity to highlight favorite flowering plants at wide areas. A curving flagstone walkway connecting garden rooms or leading to or from the house increases perceived space and promotes relaxation. Straight lines, including squares and rectangles, introduce a tension that is immediately relieved by softening features such as water, plants or manmade accents. Picture lily pads floating in square ponds or straight-edged planter beds accented with decorative boulders or a birdbath. A straight alley edged in plants and terminating in a seating arbor, fountain or sweeping vista suits large rectangular yards.
The Landscape's Theme
Use line and form to promote your desired landscape theme and to contribute both dimension and mood to an otherwise dull rectangular yard. The forms of billowing plants and rugged boulders introduce a natural, organic feeling. Topiary plants and geometric planters set a formal tone. Tall, narrow forms, such as columnar trees, draw the eye upward to bring vertical dimension and the feeling of height and excitement to the yard and low horizontal forms increase visual space while promoting serenity. Include at least one engaging element of motion in your landscape scheme, such as a capriciously splashing fountain or a breeze-driven sculpture. Strictly clipped evergreens outlining colorful parterres admirably fit rectangular spaces while echoing the grand gardens at Versailles.
Color and Texture
Warm and hot colors, such as reds, oranges and some pinks, promote visual excitement while cool colors and pastels deliver soothing relaxation. Warm colors contract a space by visually jumping toward the viewer while cool colors seem to shyly recede, creating the sense of expansion. Consider flower colors as temporary and incorporate them according to the seasonal use of the yard. In addition to flowers, foliage and structures contribute landscape color. Evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs contribute constant or seasonal color. Silvery foliage ties various color shades together, dark greens provide a foil for brighter colored foliage or flowers. Walls, walkways, stones and garden structures offer permanent colors around which to build your color scheme.
Since 1984, Sandra Carusetta has written advertising copy and promoted custom art businesses to a worldwide clientele. Carusetta's career history includes professional florist, private cook, writer and small business owner. Carusetta has published numerous informative online articles on gardening and cooking.
Landscaping Ideas for a Rectangular Yard
A rectangular yard provides many options for landscaping. The principles of landscape design are unity, balance, interest, rhythm and movement. Whether a suburban setting with a large yard or a small urban patio, a rectangular yard can be used to create a lively cottage garden or be divided to create spaces that work with the needs of the homeowner, yet still maintain the principles of design.
Sun and Shade Landscape
If the back of your house faces directly away from the midday sun, you will likely have a shaded backyard for most of the day. Set your main patio or seating area in the sunniest spot in your yard, and build a simple shade structure for really hot days, if this is not directly behind the house. Using natural stones or pavers, create a path from the main patio to another seating area on the other side of the yard that can serve as an early morning or late afternoon sunspot or a cool shady place during the heat of the day. Flower and plant beds line the sides and back of the yard, creating a flow of movement between the two. Position an island bed along the path to add interest. Lawn grass can fill in the open areas. Plants for the landscape should include sun loving varieties—such as lysimachia punctata (loosestrife), spiraea and astilbe—and those that thrive in shade, such as the hardy rhododendron and hosta. Use plants that grow well in both sun or light shade, such as zantedeschia (calla lily), schizostylis coccinea (kaffir lily) or virburnum.
- A rectangular yard provides many options for landscaping.
- Using natural stones or pavers, create a path from the main patio to another seating area on the other side of the yard that can serve as an early morning or late afternoon sunspot or a cool shady place during the heat of the day.
Create interest in a long narrow yard, which is typical in many cities and towns, by creating an angular or rounded patio. Use pavers or brick to reshape an existing square patio, or create an angular or rounded plant bed around the patio to create the same illusion. Add a path to the back of the yard in a diagonal pattern. Garden designer and author Tim Newbury suggests using structures such as a trellis screen and pergola along with plants to break the yard into smaller areas that soften the rectangular shape of the yard. Other elements to add include a water feature near the seating area and an arch along the pathway. Plant lawn grass in open spaces and a traditional mix of trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses, which soften the landscape and add movement. Some plants to use include clematis, a climbing flowering plant; hydrangea; vitis vinefera, a vine that works well with trellises; juniper tree; acer tree; liriope muscari (lilyturf); day lily; and miscanthus, an ornamental perennial grass. Use perennials to create a low-maintenance landscape.
- Create interest in a long narrow yard, which is typical in many cities and towns, by creating an angular or rounded patio.
- Plant lawn grass in open spaces and a traditional mix of trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses, which soften the landscape and add movement.
wonderful watergarden image by Shirley Hirst from Fotolia.com
A water garden makes water the main feature to create an relaxing landscape. If you don't have slope in your backyard, stair-step flat rocks to create a cascade of water into a larger pool. In small gardens, use movement from side to side to create a layered landscape. Use ferns and hostas in the moist soil by your pool or pond and alpines such as campuanula, sedum and phlox, which grow well in between rocks and stones. Aquatic plants such as the calla, hottania and waterlily can be used in a pond. Japanese maples, dogwood, spruce, willow and birch trees also fare well in landscapes with a water garden.
- "The Practical Rock & Water Garden"; Peter Robinson; 2009.
- "Great Garden Designs"; Tim Newbury; 2005.
Carmel Perez Snyder is a freelance writer living in Texas. She attended the University of Missouri and has been a journalist and writer for more than 13 years. Her work has appeared in newspapers across the country, the AARP Bulletin and eHow Garden Guides.
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Simple and Easy Front-of-House Landscaping Ideas You Need to Try
Aside from location, curb appeal is one of the greatest contributors to your home’s value. And what makes or breaks your curb appeal? Your front yard landscaping. In fact, a Michigan State University study found that a good landscape can add 5-11% to your perceived home value. After all, your front yard is the first impression that people get when they drive by your house or walk up to your front door.
Revive your landscaping and bring new life to your curb appeal with these easy DIY projects. And best of all — these are all projects that you can do over a weekend without breaking the bank.
12 simple front yard landscaping ideas that can add serious curb appeal
1. Add rock features
Even if you use a different material for a garden bed border, adding rocks or stones break up the profile for an understated natural accent. In many cases, front yard landscaping ideas with rocks can serve an important function, too, like making a rock spillway for your rain gutters that will keep an area from getting too muddy. Other ideas include breaking up a bed or adding pea gravel borders to your walkways. This project will only run around $20–$50, depending on how much surface area you’re covering.
2. Add lighting
Landscaping lights are inexpensive (as cheap as $20), and most often solar-powered. This means you can simply choose the color lights that you like, stick them in the ground along your walkway or bordering a flowerbed, and let them power themselves to light up your front yard in the night.
You can also upgrade to standout features like lanterns, lighting that recesses into a walkway, or even faux rocks with integrated lights that seamlessly blend into the landscaping.
3. Upgrade a bed border
By simply upgrading or refreshing the border on your flowerbeds, it will change the whole look of the plants and features already there. Pavers, pre-made blocks, and natural stone retained with a $30 plastic lawn edge kit are all good candidates, depending on your home’s style.
4. Plant ground cover to hide unsightly areas
Not all yards are flat, and grass won’t grow in all places. You can use a ground cover, like Pachysandra, to add greenery and color to areas where shade or slopes make it difficult for grass to grow. With seasonal maintenance, ground cover can look neat and professional without overtaking the parts of your yard where grass and other features shine.
5. Plant perennial shrubs in front of your house
Once you plant perennial shrubs like Azaleas or Hydrangeas, they will give back year after year as they bloom and add color to the front of your house. Many are fairly inexpensive (around $40) and are easy to keep up. Be sure you consult with an expert at your local nursery for info on how to plant them with enough space, when to prune, and how to trim the perennials to prevent unwieldy growth.
6. Make a garden bed around your mailbox
Plant some Creeping Jasmine or annual flowers next to your mailbox. Make a simple border to contain a little bit of mulch. This whole scape can be achieved for about $75 and can add color and personality to the end of your driveway.
7. Haul out old mulch and refresh
Just because there’s mulch in the garden bed doesn’t mean that it looks good. Mulch can dry out, leaving your beds looking worse-for-wear. Revitalize your landscaping with a dark-colored mulch that will contrast with your shrubbery and flowers. You can buy bags of mulch at your local home improvement store for less than $10/bag. The amount of mulch you will need will depend on the size of your flowerbeds.
8. Build a flower bed around a tree
If your front yard already has a tree, adding a flower bed will give it a lot of character. These beds should match (or at least align with) the beds at the front of your house. Add color in the form of annuals or perennials. All in all, this project will likely cost $100 to $300, depending on the border and plants that you buy.
9. Improve your grass
A drab lawn can immediately take away from your house’s initial cuteness. By renting an aerator machine for around $100, you will greatly improve the penetration of nutrients for a fuller, healthier looking lawn. Even a simple reseeding with a $50–$70 bag of seeds will help fill in thin spots and prevent patches on your whole property.
10. Plant a shade tree
With either bright spring blossoms or brilliant fall colors, a native hardwood tree planted in your front yard will bring years of beauty to your home’s exterior. While some rare varieties of trees are expensive and require care, most trees from your area are hardy, resilient, and affordable at your local nursery. Expect to pay around $100–$200 for a sizable tree, plus cost of delivery.
11. Plant an ornamental colored tree
While a large shade tree can add a regal touch to your front yard landscaping, the subtle pop from a colorful tree, such as a Japanese maple, will offer a bright focal point in your yard. Some varieties of Japanese maples can be quite expensive, but others are quite affordable, costing around $100. They’re also fast-growing and beginner-friendly for the first-time landscaper. If you’re feeling bold, try a cherry tree.
12. Set up a birdbath
You can get a lightweight, antique-style birdbath for under $40. Birdbaths are a way to add a water feature without the hassle of water connections and maintenance. Plus, you’re inner bird-watcher will leap for joy whenever you get beautiful, winged visitors.
Tips on low-maintenance landscaping
A lot of great features and plants can add beauty to your front yard but end up taking a lot of time to maintain throughout the year. To keep things manageable, consider these tips before any front yard landscaping project.
- Research the growth and maintenance of your plants before buying. Some ground cover like Myrtle or Stonecrop can get out of hand fast, so look for varieties that only need edging one or two times a year.
- Plant perennials wherever possible. Annual flowers provide a lot of color and dimension to a flower bed, but they last for just a few months. For veteran landscapers, an easy trick is to mostly invest in perennial shrubs and bushes to do most of the work year after year, and then work in annuals if you have the time and desire.
- Maintain your garden bed edges. This does take a little work, but it’s well worth it later. By using a simple edging shovel, you can easily and quickly maintain clean lines around the features that you invested time and money to build. A good garden edge is seldom noticed, but the lack of one presents a messy look that takes time to dig out and redefine.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to landscape a front yard?
The main thing you will need is tools, so invest in a spade, garden rake, hand trowel, and a good wheelbarrow. These tools will cost you less than $150 and will last for several years of landscaping projects and maintenance. Make a list of what you’ll need for your next landscaping project and set a reasonable budget.
How can I make my front yard look better?
Even the most simple front yard landscaping ideas will be underwhelming without neat trim, healthy plants, and green grass. Focus your energy on maintaining clean lines around your landscaping elements and helping your grass and plants look vibrant and healthy.
What landscaping is worth doing on my own?
Most simple front yard projects can be handled fairly easily without help, even for a novice. But projects that require hauling a large amount of dirt, rock, or bigger plants might be worth bringing in the pros. Even if you don’t have a vehicle that can haul these elements, nurseries across the country offer delivery services for mulch and plants at reasonable costs.
What's the difference between landscaping and maintenance?
Landscaping is making the elements, and maintenance is keeping those elements looking nice. Improving the look of your lawn’s grass by aerating, composting, or reseeding is an essential landscaping task that you can hire out, but it’s also easy to do once a year. Beyond that, normal edging, mowing, and pruning of your landscaping elements are considered maintenance.
Charlie Morgan is a freelance writer and fly fishing guide based out of Knoxville, TN. When not on the water or writing, he's working on restoring his historic 1940 bungalow
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Front yard landscaping rectangular
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