Coming Up With Backyard Designs

By Tom Hoff
Lead landscape designer of Modern Landscape

When thinking backyard design, I first think theme.

There are many themes you can achieve in your landscape.

Whether you want the feel of a tropical paradise or the rustic look of a Tuscan landscape, you will need to know what plants to use. Here are a couple of my favorite themes and the plants I use in them.

A Tuscan backyard design will create the feel of the old world. This style looks great in just about any size yard but looks best when a large area needs to be landscaped. I always like to start with trees because of the space they need. Here is a list of trees that work well within a Tuscan themed garden.

Olive tree, Italian stone pine, oleander tree, lemon tree, fig tree, Leyland cypress tree, canary island date palm, Mediterranean fan palm, Italian cypress, and the vitex or chaste tree.

Once I have chosen the trees for my design I can now add plants and palms that will compliment them. Here is a list of the plants and palms for that Tuscan feel.

Sago palm, windmill palm, asparagus fern, iceberg roses, Tuscan rosemary, creeping rosemary, red geranium, dietes, garlic, jasmine, dwarf mock orange, dwarf bottle brush, xylosma, foxtail fern, boxwood, gold coast gazania and of course lavender.

If you have a pool in your backyard, its hard not to love the idea of a tropical theme. Everyone knows that palm trees are a big part of a tropical paradise, but there is so much more. Here are a few of the palms and plants I include in my tropical backyard designs.

Again I start with trees such as:

  • Queen palms
  • California fan palm
  • hurricane palms
  • Mediterranean fan palms
  • mimosa trees
  • jacaranda trees
  • Japanese blueberry trees
  • golden bamboo
  • black bamboo
  • bougainvillea
  • Arabian jasmine
  • dwarf mock orange
  • Japanese boxwood
  • camellia
  • hibiscus
  • dwarf bottlebrush
  • asparagus fern
  • austrailian tree fern
  • ice plant
  • cape plumbago
  • white geranium
  • tropical bird of paradise
  • xylosma
  • dietes
  • mondo grass
  • giant lily turf
  • loquat tree
  • nandina
  • euonymus
  • silverberry
  • flax
  • cordyline

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If you want more of a Southwestern feel to your landscape try starting with trees like the Mesquite or Palo verde, these two trees are very attractive in a desert landscape. Now add a few agave, aloe, yuccas and a few cacti to give the yard some texture. Add in just a few plants for color like lantana or red bird of paradise, remember, too many plants in a desert landscape wont look natural.

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