Q: We want a new landscape. Where do we start?

A: Your first step toward creating a new landscape is fun and simple: gather ideas! Clip photos of especially appealing gardens from gardening magazines such as Home and Garden. Go to Home Depot or Lowe's and peruse their collection of gardening and deck handbooks. Buy the ones you like. Save money by doing the same at used bookstores or by checking out your local library. Take photos of the landscapes around town that you find attractive, or which incorporate elements you want for your own garden.

Any landscaping work you do is likely to be a substantial investment. Moreover, as with any investment, you will want the finished landscape to justify the money you spent to get it. Nothing could be worse than feeling you haven't gotten your money's worth or finding that your finished landscape has failed to meet your expectations. With this in mind, it is clear that the second step toward creating a new landscape is simply to ask "Why?" Why do you want a new landscape? How do you expect your finished landscape to serve you?

There are many possible reasons for wanting a new landscape. Perhaps you are planning to sell you home and simply want a basic landscaping package to enhance your home's 'curb appeal'. Maybe you are looking for an outdoor area within which children can safely play. You might want an attractive outdoor garden within which you can entertain guests to your home. You might want a backyard garden that enables you to make the most of your gardening skills. A sitting area within which to lounge and suntan. A deck upon which to enjoy family barbecues. A garden with a water feature that helps to lessen the obtrusive noise of distant motor traffic. An attractive, maintenance-free xeriscape. A small, lush 'getaway' from everyday hassles. Possible reasons for wanting a new landscape are truly endless!

Once you have determined why you want a new landscape, you will be able to easily decide how much money to spend on it. You will know what you want the completed landscape to do for you, and know whether or not your expectations have been met.