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Acreage Landscaping Part I

Wow! You have just purchased your acreage and you are so excited about all the gardening opportunities all that extra space gives. But as you gaze about your new domain the sheer amount of space suddenly becomes overwhelming. Where do you start? It is actually easier in some respects to design a city lot than it is a larger property because with the city lot the house already sets up boundaries for different garden rooms with different exposures. However, the concepts behind designing larger spaces are no different than those of small space design.

Design Process

One of the first things to do is to live in your new space for a while and determine what the climatic conditions in your area are: sun exposure, wind directions, soil type and quality and existing plant material. Then the next step is to sit down with all members of the household and determine what the wants and needs of everyone are, practicality, budget and a timeline in which to achieve these. Once these guidelines have been established it’s time to make a base map of your property. To scale, make a sketch of your property outlining borders (real property reports are wonderful for this), land contours, views and existing features. This base map will be your most useful tool when you start to design your property so attention to detail is important. Your map can be blown up in size so you will have a large surface to sketch out various designs (place sheets of tracing paper over top of the base map so you can sketch out multiple designs).

Design Principles and Concepts

With any size of property there are design principles that should always be kept in mind. Order includes the concepts of creating balance with symmetry, asymmetry and mass grouping. This principle focuses on the overall picture or the skeleton of your property. Unity includes the concepts of dominance, repetition and interconnection. This principle focuses on the overall harmony or relatedness of the garden elements to each other. The third principle is rhythm. This principle focuses on how a garden’s design flows and changes with time. Rhythm takes into consideration the observer’s experience of the garden’s dynamic qualities.


One of the biggest challenges to overcome is the concept of how much space is actually available to garden. The urge to go wild and design every available inch is tempting but the ability to maintain and water everything becomes a limiting factor. As well the ability to finance the volume of plant material required becomes an important issue. With so much space the impact of each plant is reduced. When designing an acreage think more not less when ordering or purchasing shrubs and trees. Groupings of shrubs and trees will have more of a visual impact than individual specimens dotted about.

Wind is a factor of life for most acreage properties so before planning garden areas focus on creating shelter first to buffer the effects of the wind. Wildlife tend to be an issue when out in the country. As the saying goes “If you plant it they will come!” Depending how fanatical you are about your gardens some serious thought needs to be given to how much damage you are willing to accept and if not how will you keep the critters away.

The most difficult challenge to adapt to is the reality of where you live. Most acreages tend to be exposed sites initially and therefore are more prone to the effects of climate, the limitations of watering, wildlife predation, budget and time. Until your shelter matures stick with plants that are tried and true. That way you will save yourself the disappointment of major plant losses each spring.