The Ultimate Backyard Landscape Design Planning Guide

Your backyard landscape design has a big impact on your lifestyle. A beautiful, well-designed backyard can provide the perfect setting for outdoor activities with the kids, family gatherings and romantic late-night dinners. Whether you prefer a backyard that’s designed for entertaining or just relaxing with a good book, you can create an outdoor environment where you’ll love spending your time year-round.

With some creative planning and the help of a Bergen County landscape professional, you can create your dream backyard landscape design. Whether your backyard is small or large, it needs to have both functional and aesthetic appeal. To create that, your backyard needs to have proper height and depth, hard and soft surfaces and interesting textures and colors.

Make a Grand Entrance

First impressions count, so it’s important to pay special attention to your backyard’s entry. If your entryway consists of a rusty, old iron gate that’s off it’s hinges or a wooden door that needs new paint, the first impression of your backyard may be less than great. If your guests have to walk through wet grass or down a muddy path to reach your backyard, they’re likely to be unimpressed with your backyard landscape design.

To make a grand entrance, consider building a beautiful rose-encrusted arbor or trellis covered in scented climbing vines like honeysuckle or jasmine. Create a lovely pathway to the backyard with concrete pavers, flagstone pieces or wooden stepping stones. Line the pathway with soft foliage or colorful flowers and

Line the pathway with soft foliage or colorful flowers and light it for safety with beautiful pathway lights. A grand entrance will make a lasting first impression for your backyard landscape design.

backyard-landscape-design-northern-new-jerseySet the Stage

A beautiful backyard begins with great landscaping. Selecting the right trees, shrubs and plants will give your yard good height and depth, soften hard edges on adjacent structures and create a comfortable backyard atmosphere. Good landscaping will set the stage for everything else you do in your backyard. Here are important landscaping tips:

Create Depth and Height

When designing your landscape, create interesting layers. Plant tall trees and shrubs at the back of the yard or along the property line to create privacy, then stair-step shorter shrubs, plants and flowers toward the yard. Layering plants will create proper scale and emphasize height and depth in your backyard.

Use a Variety of Plants

Select a variety of plants with different sizes, shapes, textures and colors. Place plants with broad leaves next to those with slender, spiky leaves, and those with bright green leaves next to those with variegated or darker leaves. Contrast will make your landscape look fuller and add visual interest.

Choose the Right Plants

When selecting landscape plants, choose plants that fit the size of your yard. If you plant seedlings or young trees, shrubs and plants, consider how large they will get when they reach maturity. If you plant the wrong size plants, it will create constant care and maintenance problems.

Choose the Right Grass

Most Northern New Jersey lawns contain cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, bentgrass, ryegrass and fescue. Lawns require regular care, maintenance and water. To conserve energy and resources, consider using native plants and grass alternatives in your backyard landscape design.

Before planting, study your backyard. Look for sun and shade areas, fertile soil, adequate drainage, pest problems and any existing landscape conditions that may impact growth and maintenance requirements. If you need help selecting plants, talk to a Bergen County landscape professional at Borst Landscape & Design who can choose plants that will thrive in your backyard landscape design.

Plan for Shade

Your backyard won’t be very enjoyable without some shade, especially during hot spring and summer months. By planting several trees, you will provide adequate shade and a comfortable backyard atmosphere for family activities and entertaining.

Trees not only create comfortable shade, they also give your house a look of permanence, soften hard materials and provide more privacy. Trees, whether tall or small, create good scale, height and depth and create impact in your yard.

Trees provide interest, shape, texture and color throughout the year. If you plant two or three trees, harmonize the shapes of the canopies with landscape plant such as round, pyramidal, weeping, and vary the size and shapes of leaves. This will create continuity, as well as contrast. For special texture and color, add smaller accent trees like dogwoods, crape myrtles, redbuds and Japanese maples.

backyard-landscape-design-njDesign Flowing Walkways

By creating flowing walkways in your backyard, you will add both functional and aesthetic appeal. Backyard walkways can create stunning footpaths from the front yard to the backyard, safe footpaths from the house to the pool or winding pathways to colorful garden areas.

Whether you prefer the elegant look of stone pavers, the traditional look of brick, the modern appeal of concrete or the natural appeal of gravel or stepping stones, flowing walkways will provide hardscaping that contrasts the softness of trees and plants and increases visual appeal with interesting texture and color.

When planning walkways, follow these design tips:

  • Follow natural access patterns within your backyard, otherwise, children and dogs will create their own pathways through your grass and flower beds.
  • Create straight paths whenever possible. Although they are less charming that winding pathways, they create the shortest path to a destination and are the least expensive to build.
  • Use curves, jogs or steps only where there is a reason, not just to meander through the yard.
  • Provide practicality, safety and visual appeal by making walkways at least 36 inches wide. If scale and yard size permit, 42 to 54-inch walkways will allow two people to walk together. For an illusion of extra length and width, widen one end and add extra width at curves.
  • Never slope walkways more than 10 percent, one to five percent is ideal. If your backyard is sloped, incorporate curves, jogs, steps or ramps in your backyard landscape design to compensate for the slope and provide safe footpaths.
  • Make steps as wide as the walkways they connect to. Never use just one step, two or three steps provide more safety. Make steps emphatic and noticeable with plant borders, contrasting textures or landscape lighting to prevent falls and injuries. Use materials on walkways and steps that provide slip-resistance when wet.
  • Keep hedges and border plants next to walkways low and well-manicured so you don’t crowd the pathway. Create a 2-foot buffer zone of ground cover, grass or mulch next to your walkway for better movement.

Create Eye-Catching Edges and Borders

Edges and borders will create a neat, well-manicured backyard landscape design with great form, contrast, texture and color. Interesting edges and borders next to decks, patios, terraces, walkways and fences add a lot of visual appeal to any yard. You can create eye-catching edges and borders with landscape plants, as well as interesting building materials.


Borders created with interesting ground covers, soft greenery or colorful flowers will create stunning visual appeal in your backyard. Select plants and flowers that bloom during different seasons for year-round color or foliage that’s hardy in Bergen County weather and climate conditions. Before you plant, consider size and spread and don’t set plants too close to structures and walkways. Give them adequate room to grow.

Hardscape Materials

Edges and borders created with hardscape materials will provide permanent form and neat outlines in your backyard, as well as interesting contrast and texture. You can design edges and borders with a variety of hardscape materials like wood, brick, stone and concrete.

Create visual interest by setting brick or stone diagonally or on end. Create natural appeal with wood timbers or flagstone tiles. Although metal or rubber edging is less stylish, it is practical and inexpensive.

backyard-landscape-design-bergen-county-njBuild Container Gardens

For added visual appeal and height, build unique container gardens within your backyard landscape design. You can design container gardens around the backyard perimeter to create property boundaries or set them along walkways and patio areas. Container gardens can be built in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials that will complement the style and atmosphere of your backyard.

When selecting plants, choose varieties that grow well in Northern New Jersey landscapes. Note that soil in container gardens dries out faster than in-ground soil, so consider plants that need less water and less fertile soil. The landscaping experts at Borst can help you create lovely container gardens for your Bergen County backyard that will thrive in your landscape conditions.

Don’t Ignore the Side Yard

Most back yards have side yards where utilitarian items like garbage cans, garden tools and firewood are often stored. Many side yards are narrow areas that are hidden from the rest of the backyard, but they can still be practical and pleasing.

Install a walkway that provides a practical passage for moving trash can from the backyard to the front yard on trash pick-up day. Design a small garden shed with a potting table and storage for garden tools and firewood. Install pathway lighting for added safety and an arbor or trellis with a gate for added privacy. If you have dogs, a side yard can provide the perfect place for a dog run.