Layered Landscaping


There can be a tendency with gardeners to plant in isolated “zones” – here’s where my spring bulb plants are, there’s my collection of roses, that bed is for my annuals.

It’s understandable to focus on specific areas, but there are some great rewards to be had if you step back and look at the total “canvas” of your yard or garden. You are an artist; trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses are your medium. And with them, you can create a layered, cohesive picture for your outdoor space.

This is where layered landscaping comes in. It refers to both the use of a variety of plants of different heights and sizes to make your garden lush, along with the use of repetition (a color, shape or type of plant) as a way to tie the picture together.

The basic principle behind vertical layered landscape design is similar to staging your family reunion photo – tall people in the back, shorter people in front. Except instead of Uncle Larry and Nana Elsie, you are posing Japanese Maples and beds of pansies.

Creating garden tiers with trees and large shrubs in towards the back, smaller shrubs and tall grasses in the middle, and perennials and ground cover in the front, will allow all your plants to be visible. It will also let them get optimal exposure to sun and water.

There are some basic guidelines that can help with creating a layered landscape:

  • Be aware of how large a plant will be when fully grown so that you can fit it into your design.
  • Make sure you have enough plants – your design will lack “flow” or even look a bit skimpy if you don’t have enough plantings.
  • Variety is your friend! And not just varieties of color, but also incorporate variations in shapes and sizes. If you have a robust, short shrub next to a tall, elegant tree, they will bring out the best in each other through the contrast.
  • Remember to use your whole canvas – don’t have your plants just hug your house or the outlines of your lawn. Fill in the spaces for greater depth, while still having enough open space for entertaining.
  • Think about when various plants bloom. Careful planting with respect to a plant’s life cycle can extend your garden’s season, letting you have blooms from spring through fall, while evergreens can keep the bones of your layered look alive through the winter.

You might want to consider doing a quick sketch of your house and yard, mapping out how you’d like your layered landscape to develop. Then come to Warner’s Nursery to bring it all to life.

Our experts can help you find inspiration while designing the look of your outdoor space, and can let you know which trees, shrubs and plants play well together. They can also help with the soil amendments, tools and supplies you’ll need to bring your plan to fruition and enjoy your layered landscape this year and for years to come.

Happy Gardening!