Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wannabe landscape designer

One of the drawbacks of new construction is that there's zero landscaping to start with - no patio, no deck, no gardens... just a whole lot of empty, ugly space. In our case, we've got trees in the backyard (which, as I've mentioned, is currently in 'jungle' status), and the remainder of the yard is bare dirt. It's a little overwhelming, and I've definitely been having trouble visualizing ideas for what we might want to do. Because the first floor is just a few feet above the ground, we knew we just wanted a patio rather than a deck in the back, but I couldn't picture at all what that patio might look like. And the front yard is massive (at least by DC area standards), so I had no idea what to do with that either.

But this weekend, I found a new time waster (not that I have to search too hard to find those...). I downloaded the free trial version of Realtime Landscaping Pro 2013. The full version is $100, and there is a 'Plus' version (instead of Pro) that is $80, but I found the free version suited my needs perfectly... this version was awesome for designing a general landscaping and hardscaping layout - to help me plan where we'd want a patio, walkways, mulch, etc. and to help me visualize what that layout might look like. If you've already got your basic layout and just want to plan more specific details like what kinds of plants you want, then this free version is not for you - the options for specific plants and materials are pretty limited in the trial.

Our virtual front yard

I wasn't terribly exact in creating my plans, but it's fairly close in terms of the size of the lot, size/shape of the house, and shape/placement of the driveway. The house I created isn't exactly a perfect match for ours, but it gets the idea across.

Top down view of the full lot
The software allows you to view your design from three perspectives: a 2D top-down view, a 3D perspective view (which you can scroll around and view from different angles), and a walkthrough mode that places you on the ground and allows you to walk through the yard and look around as though you were actually there (although you get a big ugly 'Trial' watermark plastered across the walkthrough in the free version).

Top down view, zoomed in on the more interesting stuff
Patio in the back - I'm chilling by the fire pit about to pop out of my top
(seriously, this chick's tube top looked like it was about to fall off)
View of the patio from the other side

Patio version #2 - I actually prefer this less traditional patio with two separate areas, although it would be less practical and more cost/labor intensive, so I'm guessing we'll end up going with something closer to the first design

Perspective view of patio #2

Using this software has made me crazy excited about our yard! I couldn't see it as more than a big empty space before, and whatever I tried to visualize looked all wrong in my head. But now I feel like we have some sort of plan to work with, and I can't wait to get started on building our outdoor space and actually getting to use it (and of course I'll make sure to wear my loosest tube top for both of those efforts).

Of course, there are a couple of things that are easy to overlook - first, you can set the maturity of each of the plants...most of the ones I've included here are pretty mature already. Our plants are going to be young and puny for a long time, and not looking anything like this. Second, there's that minor little factor of cost...I have a feeling if I took these plans to a landscaper and said 'give us this', we'd be way, way out of our budget. However, piece by piece, most of this is doable ourselves. It might take a little while to get there, but it gives us something to work toward, and if nothing else, I'm still really excited to have some sort of vision in place! I'm sure this vision will change (drastically) by the time we actually get to it, but at least it's a start!


  1. What fun software! I love gardening so I would spend a ton on time playing around with the various designs :)

    1. Yeah it's a lot of fun to play around with! I haven't had a yard as an adult yet, so I'm not sure how well I'm going to do with gardening. I kill most of my potted plants pretty quickly - one of my husband's first reactions to this was 'Looks great... but who's going to keep all those plants alive?' lol. Hopefully I'll do better with the outdoor variety!

  2. I am at such a loss when it comes to designing my yard! I definitely need to do something with the front, it seems so uncared for compared to some of my neighbours, with their rock, mulch, and flowers.

    I like the double patio idea too, but I get your reasoning why it wouldn't be the best.

    1. Yeah it's tough! For some reason I just find it so much harder to think about the design for outside rather than inside.

  3. Wow, it's great that you've got a such a big yard. I'm sure, bit by bit, you'll get there - all the best! Here from Hump Day.

  4. I found your blog when searching for information about ANV. Do you have any updates you can share? How is your final product? How was your experience with ANV? I'd love to see a new blog post with pics of your new home if you have time! :)

    1. Hi there! Yeah I am long overdue for a post with an update on the house! We still haven't moved in yet but are really close now and should be moving in a few weeks. The house itself is basically done and we're down to the final exterior stuff - final grading, driveway, walkway, etc. The whole process has been a lot longer than expected but that is completely because of delays with the county at the beginning. The actual construction has gone quickly and smoothly. We've been really happy with ANV - both with the whole process of working with them and with the end result. We're loving the house and can't wait to move in! Feel free to email me if you have more questions or want more details!