Get More Bang for Your Buck With Your Landscape

It’s March in Colorado, which means it’s time to start seriously thinking about your landscape for the spring and summer months fast approaching. Yes, we might get a few more snowstorms before spring is truly here to stay, but now is the time to get your ducks in a row if you want to enjoy your very own fabulous outdoor spaces with friends and family.

Do you have to go all in when crafting the perfect patio or designing a yard fit for a king? Not according to landscape architect Dan DeGrush of Lifescape Colorado, who says there are myriad ways to ensure your dollars are spent efficiently. With careful thought to objectives, layout, materials, and hierarchy, you can successfully cherry-pick landscape elements to pack a powerful punch this spring and summer—without breaking the bank.

Here, four key ways to getting more bang for buck when it comes to landscape design.


You might be tempted to install an outdoor kitchen or incorporate a long harvest dining table into your outdoor living space, but are you going to cook and entertain outdoors frequently? Or would you use an in-ground pool more often? While all high-quality and well-thought-out design is seductive, make sure you’re choosing the elements that will get the most use and add the most value to the way your day-to-day activities, objectives, and priorities.

Review past springs and summers—how did you spend your time outdoors? What made you feel most satisfied with your (or someone else’s) outdoor spaces? What plantings and/or hardscapes caught your attention? This way you can start to tailor your design and layout to a specific element or activity—a design that suits you and your family.


Once you have all your objectives in place, it’s time to create a master plan. Create a list of all the elements and features you want implemented into your landscape. By taking the time and money to invest in a meticulous master plan, you'll be saving time, money, and headaches down the road. You definitely don't want to have to spend money fixing your landscape later. Give it extra thought up front, work with talented landscape architects/designers, do your research, and save yourself the hassle of future crisis management.

Get efficient with hardscapes and overall layout. “Something I see often that people regret (and then have to remedy) is the layout of patios,” says DeGrush. “They’re either way undersized or oversized. The area might be too big for just a chair or two, so they’ll feel compelled to place a table there. But the space will be too small for a four- or six-person table. The layout has not been well designed.”

To avoid this common mistake, be aware of traffic patterns. How much room do you need for chairs to encircle the fire pit? How can you ensure the space isn’t cramped once your outdoor dining table and chairs are placed in the desired location? Where do you envision people gathering, and how many people do you want the space to hold on a daily basis? These are all concepts that need to dictate your layout.

And if the layout requires a large patio, there are ways to get smart with materials. “There are so many materials to select from these days,” says DeGrush, “from pavers and porcelain tile to long-lasting stone that can fit every budget and style.” In the end, since you’ve given careful thought to the layout, any indulgence you do take with materials and hardscapes will go that much further in its visual impact and overall luxury factor.


In every good design, there is hierarchy:

  • A focal point, where your eye is drawn to for orientation
  • A layer of interest that doesn’t compete with the focal point(s)
  • A fill-in layer, where your eye can rest

“With too many focal points, your space will feel busy and cluttered,” DeGrush says. “Carefully consider all the angles from which your focal point(s) can be seen—the kitchen or living room, the driveway, etc.—and then choose your focal elements and their locations from there.”

Focal points can be a fireplace, large fire pit, pool, water fountain, planting container on a pedestal—even a distinct tree. “Once you decide what your focal point(s) will be, you can design pathways, plantings, and secondary elements around it.”

Examples of secondary layers: plant beds, repetitive shrubs. Examples of lower layers: Sod, smaller repetitive shrubs, grasses.


Hierarchy needs to exist among your plantings, too. You want to have different layers of plants: trees in critical locations, then a shrub layer, perennial layer, and ground cover layer. Layers should be higher the farther out they are, and lower the closer your eye is to the planting. Since perennials can be more costly to preserve and/or replace each year, you shouldn’t place them within all layers—instead, display them in secondary layers closer to the eye for hard value.

Another concept you’ll want to consider to get more bang for your landscape buck: Plants native to Colorado are going to be more beneficial to your pocketbook. “If it’s something tried and tested in Colorado,” says DeGrush, “it’s going to last and require less attention, maintenance, and cost.” Plants that do well in Colorado? Feather reed grass, dogwood, lilac shrubs, serviceberry trees, and black-eyed Susans, DeGrush says, just to name a few.

Want more information on how to get more bang for you buck with your landscape design, construction, or maintenance? Contact landscape architect Dan DeGrush and Lifescape Colorado at 303-831-8310 or

Categories: Landscaping & Gardening