Landscape Gardening Design Ideas: Grow Food, Flowers, Landscaping Types

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | February 15, 2024

Person wonders if there is a landscape gardening guide that explores types of landscape gardens, how to choose landscape gardening design and ideas, and options for growing flowers and more.

Experienced gardeners can make landscape gardening appear to be so easy.

They all seem to have a keen, instinctive eye for what flower compliments which plant, where to position ornamental trees, how to lay certain types of walkways, and even where to place concrete birdbaths to maximize the available space.

If this is your first time tackling a landscaping project, large or small, simple or complex, the sheer number of options available to you may seem intimidating and overwhelming.

To simplify the process and break it down so it doesn’t appear too complicated or an insurmountable task, first, you need to clarify exactly what type of landscape garden you want to create.

This guide can help you get started off on the right foot.

Landscaping for Beginners

Landscape gardening is not a mystical art form that only the chosen few can master. Like any skill, the intricacies associated with transforming lawns and backyards can be taught and learned.

There are certain principles that are followed by professionals in regard to the planning, design, and construction of a garden environment that can serve both aesthetic and practical purposes.

Those include the balance, symmetry, variety, scale, and also the flow of the flora and fauna so the finished project has the desired effect for the homeowner.

Graphic showing tips for landscape gardening featuring two characters in a sunny setting: a man planting and a woman with a shovel, beside a signpost that details garden planning considerations, set against a backdrop of a blue sky, butterfly, and various flowers.

Choosing the correct plants and creating a layout that maximizes your area are just two of the many facets and no matter how much experience you have with landscaping, there is always more to learn.

There are some basic gardening for beginners techniques, and rules to follow for a successful and stress-free project. And it all starts with planning and identifying the axis of your garden.

Every garden has a focal point, a central line from which the landscaping project can expand and evolve. This can define the progression of the overall design depending on the ultimate goal for your front or back yard.

But just because you may be aware of this doesn’t mean that you’re good to go.

For sure, in the excitement to transform your outdoor space, it may be tempting to rush directly to your local gardening supply store to run your eyes over the wide variety of plants, flowers, shrubs, vines, garden gnomes, vegetables, dwarf trees, garden furniture, and anything else that has a tinge of green on it.

Before you do anything, however, even putting pen to paper, take the time to develop a strategy to ensure that you purchase plants that are well-suited to the size, location, and shape of your landscape.

It’s a good decision to refer to the USDA plant hardiness zone map from the government to be aware of which plants are more suitable for the weather conditions in the state where you reside.1

The last thing you’re going to want to see is the beautiful arrangement of the flowers and plants that you’ve just carefully planted in rows across the entire width of your garden start to wilt and struggle to survive because your plant zone is too hot, too cold, or too dry.

So, before everything else, research all you can about your yard, including the size, so your new plant life will be happy, bright, and continue to thrive.

Landscape Gardening: Planning Your Outdoor Landscape and Garden Design

Once you have confirmed where your land lies on the plant hardiness map in the United States of America, it will be easier to identify which plants and flowers should and should not be planted in your soon-to-be revamped front or backyard garden.

After that, follow a few of these simple guidelines that will help you to make an appropriate plan so you’re set up for success rather than planning for failure.

  1. When designing your landscape, keep in mind the local microclimates, the slope of the land, and even the soil type. These microclimates may form in your yard regularly, on a daily basis during certain seasons, creating varying degrees of intensity and duration of sunlight.
    This can impact where and at what time the shade is cast in your garden, and where you should position certain types of flowers so they can grow at their best in the correct light exposure.
  2. Another factor that will influence your flora and fauna options, is how quickly water drains away in the soil. It can’t hurt to do a few spot drainage tests around your home garden to avoid any plants becoming waterlogged by mistake.
  3. As a new or experienced landscape gardener, it’s important to recognize the purpose of the garden, who will be mainly using it, and how it is going to be enjoyed. Will it be used primarily as a backyard vegetable garden or is the intention to attract the birds and bees and create a tranquil zone to relax and unwind?
  4. Think ahead before you start purchasing rare plants that look absolutely fantastic in the store and that would make incredible centerpieces in your lawn, but may well be a pain to maintain and care for.

With that in mind, it’s easy to discover what will work for your design aspirations, and a few landscaping tips will steer you in the right direction as some plants need more TLC than others.2

For a stress-free zone, always consider transplanting low-maintenance plants if you don’t want to be spending what should be your chill-out time toiling in your newly landscaped garden.

Landscape Gardening Design Ideas: Types of Landscaping

The tasks involved in redesigning your outside living space in essence will turn you from a casual gardener into a garden architect, whether you realize it or not.

And just like an architect who designs homes, you should have a concept in mind before you begin, a theme that will tick all the boxes and complement your home’s style and features.

Your front and back yard are extensions of your home, therefore it’s important that whatever design theme you choose reflects a similar design to your house for aesthetic reasons.

Fortunately, there are many types of designs online or in magazines that will guide you on how to landscape backyard gardens to maximize space and appeal to the particular style of your home.

Here are just 5 of them:

1. Japanese Gardens

It doesn’t get more zen or peaceful than a Japanese garden.

This landscape design style comprises four basic components that are intended to create a spiritual retreat: rocks, water, plants, and decorations.

Japanese garden landscape with vibrant pink flowers, a serene pond surrounded by large rocks, and tall trees.

(Image: ADD9)

Water elements such as koi ponds, waterfalls, and stone basins are frequent inclusions if space allows, as is the addition of a bridge. Adding ornamental flourishes is essential in bringing this tranquil landscape design to life.

Landscape design of a desert-themed garden with cacti, ornamental rust-colored metal fencing showcasing a sun design, surrounded by textured rock formations, with mountainous terrain in the background.

(Image: dennisflarsen10)

2. A Desert Design

In terms of minimum care and restricted water use or availability in your plant zone, desert landscaping might be a convenient solution that solves those problems yet is still attractive. Succulents are typical for a desert landscape and often include cactus,3 aloe, yuccas, begonia, Autumn sage, and Yellow columbine.

These are just a few of the plants that may thrive in arid conditions, and even though they are often considered bland, some varieties display a wide range of bright colors and intricate shapes.

Although not for everyone and every house, this low-maintenance landscaping design should not be overlooked as it is ideal for dry environments where rainfall is often infrequent.

3. Tropical Garden

Installing Palm trees and other tropical plants such as Passion flowers, bougainvillea, orchids, jasmine, Calla lilies, ferns, or caladiums, will quickly transform your landscape with a touch of the Caribbean.

Garden design featuring a serene pond surrounded by lush greenery, rock formations, a fountain, wooden footbridge bordered by tall palm trees and vibrant plants.

(Image: Michelle_Raponi11)

If you live in a hot zone, be sure to incorporate heat-resistant furniture that won’t scorch you when you take a seat, and provides enough shade to protect you as you’re enjoying your tropical garden.

A mansion in a beautifully landscaped garden with vibrant yellow and green shrubs, a pathway, and tall trees.

(Image: stux12)

4. English Garden

As to be expected, this popular theme emphasizes the use of shrubs, delicate flowers, and a range of climbing vines and garden planters to present a picturesque landscape.

Manicured hedges merge into flower beds and the colorful plants create a style that is not regimented but embraces the natural style of nature, and often has different types of evergreen trees to keep the garden lush even in the dead of winter.

The addition of a water feature is a design element that will provide a charming aspect to your cove of tranquility.

5. Vertical Gardening

Creating a vertical garden is an inventive solution to container gardening where flora is kept and grown in planters and pots where land area is limited.

This method of gardening is a very efficient use of vertical and horizontal space, where the plants are encouraged and trained to grow on walls and over trellises. Vertical gardens are superior to traditional plant pots.

Modern building facade with a lush vertical garden, featuring various green plants between large windows.

(Image: JanNijman13)

If you are short on space but still want nature on your doorstep, vertical gardening is easy to learn and easy to do and, even better, hardly requires any real estate at all.

Additional Landscape Design Elements

There is no one size that fits all nor one design that fits all when it comes to your gardening zones, or whatever landscape gardening ideas you can imagine.

It is not unheard of to combine different designs so your landscape is unique, one of a kind. Fortunately, landscape gardening isn’t all about what’s just green or colorful.

There are other components that are needed including the types of stones, slabs, or gravel used for walkways.4

  • The style, height, and color of the walls erected to frame the landscape are just as important and can easily change the appearance of your front yard.
  • A raised garden bed is a nice option to alter the topography and make a feature of a marigold flower, geranium flower, or even a small hydrangea tree.
  • Colored block paving is an imaginative method to break up the landscape and create separate areas for different uses, a place for the kids, for example, and one for the adults.
  • If you have the space, tall slim trees such as the Blue Arrow juniper can be used as privacy screens and windbreaks without detracting from the sunset landscape view you now have from your backyard.
  • When arranging your flower bed in rows alongside a walkway, place them in such a way that your tallest plants are in the rear, the next tallest plants in the center, and the smallest plants in the front. In this manner, the rows will be neat and orderly and will impress your visitors.

Your imagination can sometimes be the only thing holding you back from designing an outstanding outdoor living area, but there are still simple rules to follow to keep you in line and hopefully enable you to make the best choices for the size and shape of your outdoor spaces.

Landscaping Tips for Your Yard and Garden

To make the most of your outside space, treat it like your home outside of your house by strategically dividing it into zones.

This method of division can be used to create separate areas for different uses and with a little imagination, every square inch will not be the same as the last.

But you will still want the individual areas to flow seamlessly into each other so it doesn’t appear like a patchwork of 3 opposing jigsaw puzzles mashed together.

A landscape gardening design featuring winding pathways, wooden benches, a lit lantern, and an array of blooming flowers encircling a grass patch, with dense foliage in the background.

(Image: davebaur14)

Connecting your areas is an important consideration so your family members and guests can easily navigate between the many sections of your garden without having to step over or squeeze past obstacles, or feel that they are in a different time zone.

  •  Also, consider the plants’ intended roles in the landscape early on in the design process, and how they will thrive side by side. Just like people, all plants don’t always get along when planted too close to each other, and this can be important if you are planning an organic gardening environment.5
  • Rather than erecting tall barriers or tall trees, using low-growing plants to create implied barriers that impede access but not the view, is a great way to keep your views open while still maintaining a modicum of privacy.
  • Always be mindful of the spacing as some plants such as azalea bush and hosta plants tend to grow wider than they do tall and will not appreciate being crammed into small spaces with other bushy bushes.
  • Creepers and vines are easy to train and grow over unsightly cables and exposed drainage pipes while creating eye-catching features at the same time.

Clematis vine, honeysuckle vine, and rambling roses are clear examples of what can be achieved with very little effort, and a bit of forethought at the planning stage.

Gardening Supplies, Landscaping Tools, and Safety Landscaping Supplies

The right gardening tools are essential to get your landscaping job underway without any delays and to make the task as easy as possible.

There is a wide range of tools available and the ones below are just a small sample of what an amateur gardener would need, and a professional would definitely have in their tool bag.

  • A bucket
  • Gardening gloves
  • Steel toe boots
  • Safety glasses
  • Shovel
  • Spade
  • Pruning shears
  • Trowel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Soil knife
  • Rake
  • Stirrup hoe
  • Tamper
  • Manure forks
  • Weeders

It is possible to proceed without a few of the tools above, but using them will enable you to complete your gardening tasks with ease, and finish your landscaping project with a flourish.

Gardening To Grow Food, Flowers, and More

Growing your own food is becoming an increasingly popular and sustainable landscaping sideline for millions of Americans who have decided to grow their own produce in the comfort of their own homes.

Known as foodscaping, these gardens are a combination of your favorite plants growing alongside your favorite vegetables and fruits.

By themselves, a garden filled with vegetables is not the most aesthetically pleasing sight, but that needn’t be the case.

This hybrid form of landscaping promotes the use of edible plants in home gardens and is essentially the practice of designing landscapes that serve more than one purpose.6

It is hard to imagine, however, that cabbages, carrots, and leeks could enhance your landscape to any degree, yet it is a form of companion planting. The advantages of growing your own fresh foods with traditional flowers and fauna have managed to change the growing habits and the outlook of many gardeners.

The art of foodscaping has served to broaden their skill set and to appreciate how to grow Black-eyed Susan next to your Black-eyed peas.

Several factors are attributed to foodscaping’s rise to prominence in the modern world even though it has been around for centuries. Some explanations point to the rising cost of fresh food in supermarkets and how the prices are continually fluctuating.

Other sources, however, state that increased urbanization, rising eco-consciousness, and climate change also account for the surge in foodscaping’s popularity.

A garden landscape showcasing a unique metal structure with an array of potted flowers in bright yellows, pinks, and reds, with lush green foliage and a pale pink building with a decorative iron gate in the background.

(Image: MrDaiGraphicDesigner15)

If you’re interested in this form of landscaping and farming it’s not necessary for you to start from a blank canvas. Planned properly, to ensure that the vegetables or fruits do not compete for local water or nutrient resources, it’s possible to incorporate fruit trees, berry bushes, edible flowers, herbs, beans, lettuce, cabbages, and more into your existing beautiful garden

Foodscaping is a sustainable design concept that helps produce more food, reduces food waste, and improves food security in an urban setting that either has limited space or a large backyard, and that includes businesses and schools.

Many vegetable plants make for perfect companion plants as they have attributes that ward off harmful pests and keep some diseases at bay. Similarly, some flowers attract beneficial insects that prey on insects that hungrily devour any tasty-looking green leaf.

Prime examples to use in your landscape gardening/foodscaping gardening project are:

There are more that you can plant to enhance the overall aroma of your landscape, and that will add an element of texture as well.

A bonus of combining these two gardening styles is that edible plants can often be grown in areas of your yard where ornamental plants cannot survive, such as where there is too much shade for most of the day.

Gardeners who have been experimenting with foodscaping for a few years quickly learn to transform an overrun bed of irises into a tropical paradise by adding rhubarb and edging it with deliciously red strawberries.7

A vegetable garden does not have to be boring, and not all vegetables are all green. Just as with flowers, there are deep purples, flashy reds, bright yellows, and a whole range of vibrant colors that can liven up your landscape quite dramatically.

Landscape Gardening and How To Landscape Sustainably

Climate awareness is spreading across the globe like wildfire.

There is hardly a person on the planet who is not aware of the damage being done by man-made greenhouse gas emissions, and everyone wants to do their part to mitigate that damage.

Lush vegetable garden landscape featuring a mix of vibrant orange flowers among large blue-green cabbage heads surrounded by assorted green plants.

(Image: congerdesign16)

Landscape gardening with the proper conservation methods, can be a useful tool in the fight against climate change. Combined with a landscaping vegetable garden it becomes a sustainable force for reversing the harm being done to the planet.

Shifting to sustainable landscaping techniques where water is conserved and reused, and only organic fertilizers, will help you contribute to conserving your local ecosystems and prevent air pollution and soil erosion.

Simple techniques like grass-cycling work wonders for improving soil health. This is the practice of leaving some grass cuttings on the lawn after you’ve just finished mowing and, as they start to decompose, will leach nutrients into the soil.

Introducing organic matter such as compost and mulch into your sustainable landscape as often as possible will also aid in improving soil quality by enriching it with useful nutrients.

Mulch will prevent soil from drying out, weeds from sprouting, water from evaporating prematurely, and erosion, dust, and muck from spreading. It does break down over time so will need replenishing regularly.

As a homeowner and a keen gardener, you can play an active role in efficiently managing the available resources in your backyard and in the process reduce waste, prevent pollution, and conserve water.

Using sustainable landscape gardening practices makes good ethical sense and with a touch of forward planning, you will be able to design a self-sustaining garden that is both environmentally sound and aesthetically pleasing.

Frequently Asked Questions About Landscape Gardening

What Is a Lawn Landscape?

Planning and designing your lawn is the same as landscape gardening in that the intention is to redesign or improve the yard or garden area by the addition of plants, hardscapes,8 furniture, fountains, and more.

What Is Gardening With Landscape Fabric?

This is an effective form of weed control without manually removing them by hand. It is basically a fabric that is placed around vegetables to control the growth of weeds while still allowing water to be applied while it is still in place.

Which Is the Most Efficient Garden Watering System?

Drip irrigation’s efficiency in delivering water with little waste makes it a more eco-friendly choice in many situations over other irrigation methods like spraying or flooding.


1U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2023). USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. USDA. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from <>

2United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, May 16). Landscaping Tips. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from <>

3Streets, J., Harris, N., & Carpenter, J. (2020, July). Succulents 101. West Virginia University. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from <>

4University of Florida. (2014, April 10). Walkways in the Landscape. University of Florida Gardening Solutions. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from <>

5Massing, M. (2022, September 2). What Is Organic Gardening? N.C. Cooperative Extension. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from <>

6Hoidal, N. (2021). Companion planting in home gardens. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from <>

7University of Florida. (2021). Foodscaping. University of Florida. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from <>

8Santa Clara University. (2023). Hardscape. Santa Clara University. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from <>

9Photo by ADD. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

10Photo by dennisflarsen. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

11Photo by Michelle_Raponi. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

12Photo by stux. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

13Photo by JanNijman. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

14Photo by davebaur. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

15Photo by MrDaiGraphicDesigner. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

16Photo by congerdesign. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>