Lessons In Landscaping (Let’s Learn Together!)

I’m going to start by saying that until recently, Scott and I haven’t had a reason to landscape the outdoor spaces surrounding our home. Having lived in Chicago for close to 10 years, we’ve been the happy renters of a third floor walk-up, and then the owners of a second floor walk-up. Both buildings have had nothing more than a tree lawn, which meant that our spring and summer tasks of adding greenery to the outdoors included a few simple container gardens on the back deck.

When we purchased our house—with a yard!—almost three years ago, we were both excited and nervous about landscaping. We’ve learned a lot since then, and we’re still working on honing our skills, but I can promise you this: you can landscape.

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We’ve been guilty of choosing our plants at the nursery and being flabbergasted by the cost once we cash out. After learning from a few of those repeat experiences, we now keep a budget in mind, and, most importantly, we start small! Before we go overboard buying every plant we love, I’ll sketch a few layout ideas before we shop. We’ve lived and learned, and here are my best tips for landscaping a yard you’ll love spending time in—that is, after you’ve set a budget and sketched, of course! All the photos in this post are from our own humble garden—our little work in progress.

Know your climate, and work with it. We’ve felt frustration when the gorgeous plants we love aren’t hardy enough for Chicago’s winters. To top it off, we receive shade on our front lawn for a larger portion of the day, which eliminates those flowers that crave sunshine! Even still, it’s better to work with what you have than work against it, for your investment’s and sanity’s sake. Bonus: Consider the blooming schedule of your plants and watch your garden bud for as long as possible!

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Play with height and layers. If you have room to plant in rows, consider larger shrubs or smaller trees along your home’s perimeter, and work your way forward with flowers, grasses, and ground cover.

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Shake it up with color and shapes. Using a mix of wide-leafed and spiky-leafed plants feels playful and fun. When choosing these plants, pay attention to their color varieties, and be mindful of the palette you’re creating. The purple buds of our dianthus, below, were just about to pop when this photo was taken:

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Seek out pattern and repetition. When creating walkways, add interest by repeating a pattern of the same handful of plants to keep things from feeling too chaotic.

Don’t forget the wide open spaces! With all the hard work you’re planning on putting into the garden areas, you’ll want to polish up the larger spaces, too! Seed your lawn, lay down pavers, or build in gravel pathways to set the tone for the whole home. Below: the beginnings of our front yard.

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Most of all—this should go without saying—have fun! When in doubt, strike up a conversation with your local nursery. Before you make that trip, snap a few photos of your yard on your phone, and share them, along with your ideas, with the friendly nursery crew. A favorite finishing touch of ours is to flank the front door with pots or hanging hooks of cascading flowers, and then, of course, we toast a refreshing drink to celebrate!

Be sure to hop over to the Bali Blinds Pinterest page for outdoor inspiration!

For more tips from Kim, check out her blog Yellow Brick Home.

Get Ready, Get Set, Create–with Bali! There are so many options to explore. . .So many colors, fabrics, styles, and features. . . so much potential for bringing a little zing into a room, or injecting your style into a whole house. So . . .where do you start? Start here. With Bali. 

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