Lawn and Garden

Drawing a Landscape Plan

By John Jett, WVU Extension Service horticulture specialist

This section describes how to draw a landscape plan that embodies the elements of good design. These steps are for those who want the fun and satisfaction of preparing their own plan. The steps are:

  1. Preparing the map.
  2. Deciding how the ground area is to be used.
  3. Placing use areas on the map.
  4. Developing the landscape plan.
  5. Preparing a planting plan.

Completing these steps will enable you to develop a final plan that can be implemented over several years as time and money permit.

Step 1 – Preparing a Baseline Map

Prepare a scale map of the home grounds on graph paper. One square may equal so many feet, or you can draw to scale using an architect or an engineer’s scale (Figure 16-9).

Baseline Map

Suggested Scale
Small Lot Large Lot
Engineer 1 inch = 10 feet 1 inch = 20 feet
Architect 1 inch = 4 feet 1 inch = 16 feet

The map should include:

  • Property lines
  • Undesirable features of home grounds or adjoining property
  • North point
  • Views – point arrows in direction of each good view
  • House, garage, and other buildings
  • Doors, windows, porches, and location of rooms
  • Existing trees and rock outcroppings
  • Walks and driveways, if already constructed
  • Contour of the land; use an arrow to show direction of surface water flow
  • Scale used
  • Location of septic tank or sewer lines

Step 2 – Deciding the Ground Area

Items listed below are most often included in the final plan. Make a list that suits your individual needs.

  • children’s play area
  • cooking and eating area
  • driveway, guest parking, and turnabouts
  • flower beds
  • front lawn area or public area
  • garage
  • garden pools
  • laundry area
  • outdoor living or private area
  • small fruit
  • vegetable garden
  • walks
  • other items particular to your land area

Step 3 – Placing Use Areas on the Map

Place use areas on the map. Fit them together with two considerations, traffic flow and use. How will people move from one area to another or from the house to an outside area? Will traffic flow be functional in relation to the house? Will it make use of existing features such as views or changes in the terrain? Try different combinations in relation to rooms in the house, surrounding areas, and potential views (Figure 16-10).


Step 4 – Developing the Landscape Plan

Design driveways, parking areas, and walks. Indicate where plant masses are needed for:

  • separating areas
  • screening undesirable views
  • providing shade, windbreaks, and beauty

Do not attempt at this point to name the trees and shrubs, but think in terms of plant masses that will serve a purpose and help tie the various areas together into a unified plan that considers the design elements previously discussed.

In preparing the plan, use landscape symbols to indicate trees and shrub masses.

Draw symbols to scale to represent the actual amount of space that will be involved. For example, a white pine tree at maturity will have a spread of approximately 20 feet. In this case, make the scale diameter of the symbol 20 feet. Indicate on the map where paving, plants, and structures will be.

In developing the plan, check to see if the proposed scheme is practical and if you can answer the following questions satisfactorily:

  • Is the driveway design pleasing, useful, and safe? Have the following been provided for: safe entrance? turnaround? guest parking? Will guests use the front door? Is the wood pile or oil tank handy to the driveway but screened from public view? Will the proposed drive be too steep?
  • Are the walks convenient?
  • Will the view be attractive from the living room? The picture window? The porch? The dining room?
  • Has a living area been provided, and is it screened from neighbors? The service area? The buildings?
  • Is the clothesline close to the laundry?
  • Do all the parts fit together into a unified plan?
  • Have a good setting, background, and privacy been provided?
  • Are the house and major plants set back in case the highway department widens the street?
  • Will proposed locations of septic tank and drainage fields interfere with planting needed shade trees? (Figure 16-12)
landscaping plan

Step 5 – General and Specific Planting Plan

First, for each tree or shrub mass in the plan, make a set of specifications to include:

  • Height – low, medium, tall
  • Form – spreading, upright, arching, globe
  • Purpose – shade, background, hedge, screen, accent, mass
  • Seasonal interest – fruit, flowers, foliage
  • Type – evergreen, broadleaved evergreen, deciduous
  • Maintenance – subject to insects or plant diseases
  • Cultural needs – shade, sunlight, moisture requirements

Then select a plant or group of plants to meet the specifications. Consult garden books and nursery catalogs. Visit a local nursery. Become familiar with plant material and discuss your plants with nursery staff.

Designate specific plantings on the map developed in Step 4.