On this page I will do my level best to share with you 23 of the best landscaping design ideas that I’ve used over the years. Many of these photos are from my yard, but I will probably include designs from other places that I’ve been involved with as well. Let’s start with this. A Landscape Design Idea for the Outside Corner of a Sidewalk.
Contrary to popular believe landscape designs don’t always have to be balanced all in proportion. A couple of important aspects of landscape design are specimen plants, accent plants and repetition. Repetition is really important. You can repeat themes and switch out plants and it will “feel” different but at the same time fit together seamlessly.
This design features two Japanese maples as specimen plants and a variety of color plants as accent plants, with repetition. The Japanese maple closest to us in this photo is a Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Red Maple. The variety is ‘Crimson Queen’. The Japanese maple in the back of the photo, the one furthest from us is an upright Japanese Maple, the variety is ‘Butterfly’. Even though ‘Butterfly’ is an upright growing Japanese maple it is a slow grower and in this situation my wife and I keep it trimmed so it doesn’t hover over the sidewalk and block the view as you walk down the sidewalk.
Left untrimmed or lightly trimmed, ‘Butterfly’ would grow to a height of 10′ or more. The greenish blue evergreens that you see repeated in this design are Table Top Juniper. There are a lot of Junipers to choose from, and most of them I do not like at all. ‘Table Top’ is an exception to that rule. It is low growing, slower growing than many, and very easy to maintain. Two of my other favorite Junipers are ‘Blue Rug’ and ‘Green Mound’.
I urge you to not select plants that “look just like” any one of these. Chances are they will not perform the same and in my very opinionated opinion many of them quickly become “Jungle like”! Blue Rug Juniper and Green Mound Juniper are very low growing and ground hugging. They both grow into an evergreen ground cover, much like carpeting. They keep the weeds out and look great. I often use them under Japanese maples.
Blue Star Juniper is another nice Juniper. I used Blue Star Juniper in this planting at the nursery.
Back to the landscape design photo shown above.
Notice that I used the Table Top Juniper on both ends of this planting and I used three of them in each place. Plants are much more effective when you use them in multiple numbers and it’s usually easier to work them into the planting if you use odd numbers. A “loose” landscape design rule to follow is . . .
Plant in Groupings of Odd Numbers and Repeat the Groupings When Possible.
Like I said, this is a “loose rule to follow”. Don’t get all caught up in trying to make it perfect. If you follow my suggestions loosely it will look great! I promise!
From another angle you can see the Japanese maples and the accent plants used in this design. The colorful plants used as accent plants in this landscape design are Coral Bells, botanical name Heuchera. Now this is where the so called landscaping or plant experts like to slap me around. They say things like; “Mike, you can’t plant Coral Bells in the sun!” And they are usually pretty mean about it. I know that. But I did, and I do and it works out just fine for me and the Coral Bells. So here’s my advice about that. There are rules written by so called experts, then there are proven, practical, boots on the ground, things that people like me know work, because we’ve actually done it and not just researched and written about it.
Using Heuchera, Coral Bells, in a Landscape Planting.
Coral Bells are shade loving, shade tolerant plants. But those with dark colored leaves do perfectly fine in the sun. as a matter of fact, most Coral Bells do fine for me in the sun except the ones with a lot of yellow in the leaves. I have some with a burnt orange colored leaf and they love the sun! Those with yellow, yellow leaves like Huechera Citronelle will not tolerate the sun. Amber Waves did okay for me in the sun, but not great. Heuchera ‘Caramel’ which is burnt orange loves the sun! There’s a photo of ‘Caramel’ at the top of this post. Looking at the photo below you can see some Heuchera ‘Caramel’ in the planting on the other side of the sidewalk.
Using Evergreen Azaleas in a Landscape Design.
To me, Evergreen Azaleas are amazing plants. They are like a sleeper in the landscape. If you look closely you can see the Evergreen Azaleas in the center of this planting. There they are, nondescript, just “chillin in the landscape”, doing nothing to attract any attention to themselves. Then all of a sudden, around Mother’s Day, boom! They burst into bloom with a display of the most striking, vivid flowers imaginable.
I’m serious when I say that Evergeen Azaleas totally amaze me. I’m in northern Ohio, zone 5. The USDA says I’m in zone 6, they recently changed it, and they are completely wrong about that. We are still zone 5. Sure we had a number of mild winters, until the winter of 2013/2014. This winter? Bitter cold, 15 degrees below zero, below zero many days, down in the single digits much of the winter, even mid March. To me that is zone 5 for sure! Good. Got that off my chest! Looking at the Evergreen Azaleas in this landscape planting it’s easy to wonder why they are even there. At the end of winter the leaves are always brown, burnt from the cold of the winter, the plants look dead, then all of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, they explode into bloom commanding attention, proving they’ve earned a place in the landscape planting. I need to add some photos to this page of the azaleas in bloom. Remind me of that in May will ya?
Using Butterfly Japanese Maple in a landscape Design.
I have to devote at least on paragraph to this ‘Butterfly’ Japanese Maple. This is by far one of my favorite plants, but then again, I have a lot of “favorite plants”. Butterfly Japanese maple is an upright growing variety. It has green and white, variegated, delicately cut leaves with pinkish edges. The growth comes out pink then turns to pink, white and green. This is a crazy beautiful plant. Like most Japanese maples it is rated for hardiness zones 5 through 8. In zone 8 most need some shade, but in zones 5 and 6 most do pretty well in full sun after they are established. If you have a really small Japanese maple, put it in an area where it can get a little shade for the first few years. Hey look what I found! This is a video of my favorite Japanese maples. The sound wasn’t great, it was windy, I think I shot this video by myself, but what’s interesting is that many of the plants that I’ve just shown you you will see in this video when they were smaller.
Mike McGroarty’s Favorite Japanese Maples.
Landscaping Ideas for an Island Planting in the Front Yard.
Island plantings can really add some sparkle to any front yard. This is an island planting right in front of our house. After this photo was taken we made some minor changes to this planting so I’ll explain how it was when this photo was taken and what improvements we’ve made to it.
This planting is pretty simple. Two specimen trees, three different kinds of Huechera and some tulip bulbs that you can’t see in this photo. The green tree to the left is a Lavender Twist Red Bud Tree. Very much a weeping tree with green heart shaped leaves all summer, but covered with Tiny Lavender flowers in the spring.
The little red tree to the right is a Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Red Maple, the variety is ‘Crimson Queen’. There are three different kinds of Heuchera in this planting as well. To the right the dark ones are ‘Midnight’ in the middle ‘Caramel’ and to the left a variety with green and white variegated leaves and I don’t remember the actual variety, I planted these a long time ago and they were patented so I don’t propagate them.
After this photo was taken we removed a number of thee Heuchera because they had gotten so large and we opened up some areas where we are likely to plant some Blue Rug Juniper. On this page, almost to the bottom of the page you can see a thick planting of Blue Rug Juniper under a Japanese maple tree.
Landscape Design Ideas for a Large Corner Planting Bed.
Our home sits on a corner lot. This bed sits in the corner, just a few feet from the sidewalk. This is a large bed, probably at least 40 or 50 feet in length by 15 or 20 feet wide.
You can’t see it well in this photo but the large tree closest to us is a Royal Red maple tree. Royal Red is very much like Crimson King maple. So much so that few could ever tell them apart. As you will see in the rest of the photos and I bordered the front side (street side) of this bed with Variegated Lirope. Those are the little flowers you see in the foreground of this photo.
This is a better photo of the Royal Red maple tree.
This bed has a little bit of everything. Group plantings of a number of different Heuchera, roses, miniature roses, two unusual Japanese maples and a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick trained into a single stem plant. You can see the Harry Lauder’s just on the right hand edge of the above photo.
In the above photo you can see the single stem Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick and the Goshiki Shidare Japanese maple. Goshiki Shidare is a weeping Japanese maple with variegated leaves. Early in the spring it looks almost pink.
With this photo we are looking at the opposite end of the bed from the Royal Red maple tree. The little yellow tree you are looking at in this photo is an Orange Dream Japanese maple. I love this tree! On this page you can see a close up of the leaves of this amazing little tree. Since this photo was taken Pam and I removed the Caramel Huechera from this end of the bed because after a few years the bed looked just way too cluttered and we the Orange Dream Japanese maple is the specimen plant at this end of the bed. We wanted it to really stand out and show itself off!
Again you can see the Variegated Lirope as they wrap around each end of the bed. The photo below shows them across the front (street or sidewalk side) of the bed.
Isn’t that Goshiki Shidare just a wonderful little tree? I have three of them in the landscaping around our house. If you look closely you can see another against the garage wall. That one is a bit taller. As you can see there are many Miniature Roses throughout this landscape design.
But there are five sleeper plants in this planting as well. Have you noticed them?
It’s difficult to see in this photo, but if you watch the video you can probably see them better. There are two Endless Summer Hydrangea in the middle of this landscape design and there are also five Evergreen Azaleas. The Azaleas are planted in an arc that somewhat wraps around the Goshiki Shidare Japanese maple. Most of the time they are unnoticable, but when they are bloom they jump out and say; “Look at me!”
When designing landscapes I almost always use shrubs planted in an arc. It’s important to use an odd number, I usually use 5 or 7 plants to make my arcs. The odd number really helps because you really need a back, center plant in order to lay the arc out easily. In an arc I often use Japanese Holly or English Holly like Blue Boy and Blue Girl or Blue Prince and Blue Princess.
With English hollies you need both male and female plants but you really only need one male plant in the arc. I make that the center plant in the arc, the rest are all red berry producing female plants.
This video below is something that I recently shot at the house that we built in 2018. It’s a simple landscape design and I’m also installing Landscape Lighting in this Landscape as well.
Okay, I am going to wrap this post up. I hope you’ve found it useful, mildly entertaining, but most of all I hope I’ve given you some landscape design ideas that you can use.
As always, by any and all means stay inspired!
Questions or comments? Post them below and I’d be happy to answer questions for you.