Landscape Planning | Part 1: Using a Checklist

by Rama Nayeri

in Landscape Design

graphic image of landscape planning check list binder with red pencil

I’m introducing a 4 part series dedicated to the art of landscape planning. This series is designed to assist you in understanding the process as well as knowing what you want and need prior to financially committing.

Let’s face it when it comes to designing your garden, whether you are working with a designer (recommended) or going to DIY the project it is important to understand what you intend to do in the garden.

What is your intention for your outdoor space? Having a clear understanding of how you would like to use the space will make it easier during the design phase of the project.


Below is a checklist of questions to ask yourself before getting started:

  1. Do you actually intend to spend time in the garden and if so when? When the sun is out or when it is dark?
  2. What is the main purpose of your garden?
    • Outdoor dining/entertaining for just a few people or more than a dozen?
    • Meditation/contemplation.
    • Hobbies (if so what types?).
    • Games/sports (if so what kinds?).
  3. Do you prefer open exposed spaces or enclosed sheltered areas?
  4. How would you like to move through the space?
  5. When and where does your garden get the most/least amount of sunlight?
    • Some plants cannot tolerate a lot of sun while other plants don’t like to be in shade. Understanding how much sun your space gets will determine what you can and cannot plant.
  6. What is the homes architecture like and are there any elements that might look nice repeated in the garden?
  7. What is your favorite color and how does seeing this color make you feel?
  8. What is your least favorite color and why?
  9. What do you like most/least about your home’s exterior spaces?
    • Are there elements that you just don’t like but might be willing to live with to save cost?
    • Are there any areas of your hard surfaces that are cracked, broken and not worth salvaging?
    • Are there any plants in your garden that are overgrown?
    • Are there any plants in your garden that just don’t fit the drought tolerant style you may be going for?
  10. Do you have any HOA restrictions?
    • If you have an HOA then you should read your CC&R’s carefully to ensure that there are not any serious restrictions on what you can and cannot do in your garden.
    • If your HOA has a common cookie cutter plant palette then it would behoove you to not follow that list and go with something a bit more native and drought tolerant which will give your HOA an education lesson on proper plant selection.
  11. What is your budget?
    • How much can you really afford to spend for the construction of your garden? The shows that you see on television do not often tell you about budget and take longer to install than just a half an hour time slot.
    • What is designed will depend not only on what you are looking for but also what you can afford to spend. Planning a landscape with a 20 thousand dollar budget is not the same as planning a landscape with a 40 thousand dollar budget.
  12. Will the design be done by you or a professional landscape designer?
    • Working with a designer who has many years of educational and real world training and can design your garden is less time than it would take you to figure it out. They also know what materials are truly sustainable and what native plants would work best in your garden.
  13. Will the installation be done by you or a licensed landscape contractor?
    • Landscape contractors are licensed, bonded and insured and most likely have a crew that can install the design in less time thus giving you more freedom to enjoy life with loved ones.


This landscape questionnaire is designed to give you a better understanding of what you would really like to do with your outdoor space and it will also give your landscape designer a better sense of how to design your garden. This will ultimately lead to a beautiful space that was exactly what you were looking for that did not dent your wallet.

I’ve tried to include everything in my checklist, although I may have left something out. If you have question that you think should have been added to my list then please let me know by dropping me a comment. Until then, keep a look out for part 2 in this series on landscape planning.

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