How to landscape a backyard – the essential guide to creating your dream outdoor space

Make the hardworking elements of your backyard a visual feast by combining a range of materials for paths, walls and raised beds

How to landscape a backyard
(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

‘True gardening is as much about the bones of a garden as its planting,’ remarked the late, great garden designer Rosemary Verey. 

And of course few backyards are complete without some form of hard landscaping. The materials used – from paving, aggregates and decking, to decorative edging and the hard  materials employed for raised beds and walls – add texture and character to a  garden, marking out the structure and leading the eye through the landscape.  

The best time to undertake a wholesale backyard redesign is in winter, when the space is dormant, but the summer months are the time to analyse the ways in which you use the space and to understand what you need from your future design. 

However, if you are simply planning to modernise your backyard with new surfaces and finishes, you can of course start now and reap the rewards before the end of this summer.

How do I landscape my backyard?

How to landscape a backyard

(Image credit: Future / Jan Baldwin)

Whether you decide to use a garden designer or to create your backyard yourself, there are many decisions to be made regarding materials so it pays to understand the pros and cons of each. 

Your first priority will be to establish the functional spaces, from patios to paths. The expanse of an area and its use will dictate which materials are most suitable. 

For instance, a hard standing for a table and chairs needs to be flat and stable, and you might want to keep granular aggregates such as gravel or bark away from the entrance of the house so they  are not trampled inside.  

Think about how materials combine to add color, texture and interest, and how they will interact with plants, and don’t forget how they will complement the house when viewed from the garden. 

Sleek, smooth stone that continues inside the house is a chic option if you have a modern extension or folding doors, but it could look too harsh, butted straight up to a red brick period home or a rustic cottage.

There is no shortage of hard landscaping style ideas for gardens, from the charmingly rustic to something more sleek and modern, with everything in between.

In general, hard landscaping tends to be the star of modern backyard designs, and the range of materials suitable for such spaces is more extensive –  mirror, metal, concrete and painted walls, to name a few – but there are no rules to say that you could not consider using these in the most traditional herbaceous gardens as well. The trick is to create a single, homogenous design. 

‘Simple, elegant detailing is often the key to a successful space,’ explains garden designer Robert Myers. ‘People often over-complicate design by putting too many ideas and patterns into a small space, making it look busy and fussy.’

What is the cheapest way to landscape a backyard? 

How to landscape a backyard

(Image credit: Future / Richard Powers)

The cheapest way to landscape a backyard would be to do it yourself, however, if you are not a qualified gardener, we do not recommend that you go down this route. It would cost a lot more to rectify a mistake.

Every construction project involves a fair degree of upheaval and expense so plan meticulously to make sure work goes as smoothly as possible.

You many need Planning Permission if you lived in a listed property, so be sure to check this first before you begin construction. 

No one wants their garden peace disrupted by building work so do be considerate and keep neighbours informed every step of the way. 

Check the ownership of every boundary when erecting fencing and walls. Where dividing lines are shared, by law you must involve the neighbor in the design decision and ask for their permission to go ahead in writing.

What is the average cost to landscape a yard? 

How to landscape a backyard

(Image credit: Future / Annaick Guitteny)

It is hard to decipher a ballpark figure when it comes to landscape design. On average, you can expect to pay between $2,000 – $30,000 onwards, depending on the size of your yard, the complexity of your design and the quality and durability of your chosen materials. Not forgetting the cost of labor. 

If you have a large space, or want an intricately-designed backyard, it is always recommended that you hire a landscape architect. 

If you are planning to employ a professional to help with your project, it’s important to establish what level of service you require. 

Garden designers and landscape designers are known by various names, which, confusingly, are often interchangeable. 

Where domestic projects are concerned, if you are creating a new scheme from scratch or radically altering the structure of your garden, you can either employ a garden designer, or do the job yourself. 

In both instances, the designer’s role is to look at the design as a whole, including the layout,  structure and the planting, and to call in a landscape contractor – or landscaper – to deal with the hard landscaping features – the walls, beds and paths.  

If you decide to take on the design job yourself, it is good to know that most landscape contractors can also help with some aspects of design, and in particular, advise you on the best use of space and the most suitable materials to use.

Does backyard landscaping add value to your home?

How to landscape a backyard

(Image credit: Future)

According to a trusted survey, having a well-designed backyard can add on upwards of $20,000 to your property price.   

It is unsurprising that people are looking for more outdoor space since lockdown. 'Having a bigger garden or at least access to one was the number one thing that lockdown had changed for what buyers are now looking for in their next home,' the survey suggested.