Government of New Brunswick

Agdex No. 271.17

Landscaping a property creates a comfortable, useful, attractive outdoor environment. Landscaping gives a home individual character which is especially important in areas where all houses have a similar design.

A properly planned landscape can benefit a property by providing a natural canopy in the summer while conserving energy in the winter. Trees and hedges reduce road noise and give privacy while providing a windbreak against cold winter winds or channeling summer breezes. Landscaping requires an investment of time and money but there are many rewards such as a more enjoyable outdoor environment and increased property value.

Developing a Landscape For Your Needs

The first step to developing a home landscape is to draw a scale drawing of the property and house. It should show all existing buildings, trees, the septic and water system, power lines (both above and below ground), street, sidewalk, slope of the land and the north/south orientation of the property. See Figure 1 Planning the landscape.

All distances between objects should be measured accurately. Location of doors, windows, the driveway and existing service areas (clothesline, garbage bins, etc) should be indicated.

Using the scale drawing, develop a plan for the use of the land area. Draw oval shaped areas on the plan to define areas for specific purposes such as the patio, play area, flower bed, shrub bed, service area, hedge, lawn, etc. Once the basic plan is developed, the specific plant materials can be chosen that best suit the use and conditions of an area.

Site and Soil

The land around a house should have a slight slope away from the house so water will drain away. Lawn areas should be smoothed so mowing is easier.

Soils surrounding houses are sometimes very poor and will require amending to improve them. Improving the existing soil with organic matter, etc. can be a time consuming and expensive job. It is often more economical to slow down the planting schedule and purchase good quality topsoil than to have extensive plant losses due to poor soil.

Driveways and Walkways

A necessary part of any landscape are driveways and walkways these make the house and property accessible. Driveways should be straight, wide enough for two cars and have a place for turning, if possible. A walkway should be 1.0-1.25m wide to allow two people to walk abreast. Plantings near walkways and driveways should allow enough room for snow removal without damaging the plants.

Developing the Public Area

The public area of a property is the area visible from the street. It includes the foundation planting, the lawn, the background trees, the foreground trees and accent plantings.

The public view of the house should focus attention at the entrance of the house. Therefore, there should be no trees obstructing the view, and the center of the yard should be open lawn. Limit the use of flower and shrub beds as too many tend to draw attention from the house. Place massed plantings, trees and hedges to the sides of the front yard.

The placement of trees on a property can change the effect created by a house. Tall houses appear lower when there are large trees as a background (planted behind the house) or foreground (planted in front of the house). Low spreading houses appear taller if pyramidal evergreens are used to alter the horizontal lines of the house.

Foundation Planting

The purpose of the foundation planting is to link the structural materials of the house and the surrounding landscape. The foundation planting should be balanced and fairly simple to accentuate the building. Usually two or three different plant species are sufficient to achieve this effect. Often large shrubs are planted at the corners of the house, accent plants are used by the front door and lower growing shrubs are planted under the windows.

To make a house to appear wider the large shrubs are set just clear of the front corners. Moving the foliage closer to hid the corners will make a wide house appear more compact.

Evergreens are often chosen for foundation plantings because they retain their color throughout the year. Deciduous plants also have a lot to offer as many have interesting foliage, colorful bloom, berries or bark. A combination of evergreen and deciduous shrubs can make an attractive foundation planting.


Foundation plantings should not be planted closer than 1m to the house and large shrubs should be planted further away if necessary. This distance provides shrubs with adequate room to grow so they do not bend away from the house and minimizes possible damage to shrubs from snow falling off the roof. If a house has very wide eaves, the plants can be planted under the eaves but since these plantings are inside the drip line they should be mulched to retain moisture and watered during dry weather.

Shrubs that are properly spaced may require a few years to fill in but when these plantings are mature they will not be crowded. Choosing a plant whose mature height is correct for the planting reduces the need for excessive pruning. Wild evergreen species usually grow too large to be effective in a foundation planting.

Developing the Backyard

The backyard is usually the most active area for many families. It should be planned for the convenient use of all outdoor facilities. This area provides space for outdoor cooking and entertaining, a play area for children, a garden, a clothesline, garbage bins, etc. It is often an area where privacy is preferred. Privacy can be obtained through the use of informal or formal hedges or fences.

A patio should have easy access to the house and be large enough to accommodate several people and pieces of outdoor furniture.

A child's play area should be easily visible from a window. Unobstructed lawn areas left in the center area of the yard provide room for outdoor activities and border areas can be used for other plantings. Great imagination can be used in the arrangement of flower and shrub beds and accent trees. This creates an attractive back yard environment and an interesting view from inside the house.

The service area of a backyard is where the clothesline, garbage bin, and woodpile are located. It should be easily accessible to the kitchen and laundry facilities and if possible screened from the entertainment/activity area. A low maintenance surface such as crushed gravel or paving stone can reduce the amount of time spent keeping the service area neat and allow more time for more enjoyable activities.

Professional landscape designers and architects are available to help plan an attractive, useful landscape. With experience and imagination a landscaper can develop a property that will enhance the appearance and increase the value of a home. A professional landscape contractor can be hired to implement a design or a homeowner may prefer the do the work on his or her own.