Landscape Design Basics: 3 Steps for First Time Homeowners

After living in our first home for two years, my boyfriend and I have finally gotten our backyard prepped and ready for landscaping.  We have spent the last two years resloping the entire backyard which was initially sloping towards the house causing water damage to our wood floors inside. At last, we are to a point where we are ready to have sod laid. We are looking forward to looking out to our backyard and seeing green rather than dead boring brown dirt.  I have created a series of diagrams that we plan use to build the backyard of our dreams.

STEP #1: Create a Diagram of Your Current Landscape Design

Before Landscape Design

SmartDraw Tip: You’ll notice that the side of the house has dirt in a unique shape. In SmartDraw you can only “fill” a closed off object with a color. To fill the backyard and side of the house brown I used a combination of shapes. 

SideyardI created the shape of the side yard by using two rectangles.  A wider rectangle at the bottom and a thinner rectangle at the top right.  In order for the shapes to appear “seamless”, I made sure to not only “fill” them with the same color, but I also changed the line color to be the same color as the fill.  As you can see in the below picture there is a gold glow around the perimeter of the rectangle placed on the top right, showing that they are two separate shapes:

Border Glow

But as soon as I deselect the rectangle, they look seamless, as if they were a single object.  Refer to diagram below.

Seamless Border

STEP #2: Determine the Gas Line, Sprinklers, and Drip System Design

We have had quite some time to think about what our ideal backyard would be. Initially, we wanted it all . . . a pool, a spa, a fire pit, and the list goes on.  But of course, we needed to take in to account not only the financial implications, but our space restrictions.  Could we fit a pool, spa, and fire pit? Yes, but would we have room for anything else?  So, we downsized our initial plans and decided to go with the fire pit with a gazebo.

With a variety of fire pits to choose from: portable, built-in, wood burning, or gas, we decided to go with a built in gas fire pit with glass rocks. In turn, we would need to determine the location of our gas lines, sprinklers, and drip system before any of the landscaping can begin.  I used the current backyard landscape design diagram to display where the gas line, sprinklers and drip system will need to go.

Sprinkler & Gas Line Drawing

SmartDraw Tip: I used the Layers feature to create the sprinkler layout. The Layers feature allows me to create the design elements in a single layer.  They can be that is to be display or viewed when needed.   To create a layer navigate to the Page Ribbon’s Layers drop-down menu.  Select New Layer.


When you select this option a small dialog box will appear that allows you to name your layer and apply properties.  Click OK.

Add New Layer

Note: The term “Visible” means that regardless of which layer you are on you will be able to see any objects placed on that layer.  The term “Clickable” means that regardless of which layer you are on, you will be able to select and move any objects placed on that layer.  You can change the properties of the layers at any time. In fact, I continuously toggle them on and off depending on what I want to display or do with my diagram.  You can toggle the properties of the layer on and off by right clicking the tab associated with that layer that appears at the bottom of your work area.  You can see below my two layers for my landscape visual (Gas, Sprinklers and Drip & Landscape Design):

Layer Tab

STEP #3: Finalize Your Dream Backyard Landscape Design

After the gas line, sprinklers and drip system are all in place, it will be time to pour cement. Once the cement is poured we are going to have some stone work done. We are choosing to do this prior to laying the sod because there will be a lot of traffic coming in and out of the yard. Once the flag stone is set, we can start in on the rest of the yard.

After Landscape Design

SmartDraw Tip: In addition to the wide variety of color options, SmartDraw also provides you with the option to fill objects with “texture”. The textures range from grass and wood grain to fabric and stone.


SmartDraw Tip: You can also import your own custom images if you cannot find the correct texture or symbol already existing in SmartDraw.  I did this with the flag stone used in my final landscape design.  First, save the image to your computer. In the Insert Ribbon, select Picture.   You can then browse your machine for the image you want to insert.  Once the image has been inserted into the work area you can then resize it. 

Insert Picture

SmartDraw Tip: You can save an imported image into your Symbol Library. To do this, drag and drop the symbol into the library. The SmartDraw dialogue box appears.  Click OK. In the Edit Symbol dialog box (see below) enter the appropriate value in the Symbol Name field. Change settings as you see fit. Click OK.  That newly saved symbol will now live at the bottom of your Symbol Library.

Edit Symbol

Where We Are Today

That’s where our landscape design ends for now. I’m sure we will be continuously adding, rearranging and upgrading.  We have learned that owning a home is expensive, time consuming, yet very rewarding.

To learn more about landscape designs, read a few of our other blog posts Save Water with These 5 Landscape Planning Tips,  Cut Through Landscape Planning Red Tape with SmartDraw, and Can a Good Landscape Design Increase Home Value?