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Irrigation Info

Planning & Designing Your Landscape

Your home and landscape are as individual as your personality. The pictures in a book may look great, but if they don’t fit your lifestyle, and your environment, they won’t make a good basis for planning your garden. Here is a step-by-step for getting started in planning the home landscape and selecting the professionals who will help you have a beautiful and successful garden.

Benefits of Landscaping

Investment in your property always provides you with pleasure, but some investments actually pay you back by enabling you to recover your cost when you sell the home. An article in Money magazine listed these recovery values for usual home renovation projects:

Landscaping recovery value: 100-200%
Kitchen recovery value: 75-125%
Bathroom recovery value: 80-125%
Deck or patio recovery value: 40-70%
Swimming pool recovery value: 20-50%

Selecting Your Landscape Partners

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you likely can tackle smaller projects with ease but may want the services of a designer or contractor for major work. Either way, you'll benefit from a relationship with a retail nursery or garden center for purchasing your plants and equipment. Many nurseries have designers on staff to assist in your planning.


Whether tackling it all on your own, hiring someone to do it all, or a combination of both, there are several types of professionals available to help you are each stage of your project. If possible, ensure your success by doing business with a qualified professional. TNLA recommends choosing a certified professional if possible. But what does it mean to be certified?

Retail Nursery & Garden Center
Texas Certified Nursery Professional (TCNP)

What does it mean to be certified? Retail nursery employees, managers, and owners take a self study course consisting of 4 parts: Plant Culture, Plant Identification, Merchandising, and Landscape Design. Maintaining one's certification requires completing continuing education from year to year.

Texas Master Certified Nursery Professional (TMCNP)

Individuals who have earned the TCNP designation and want to take the next step in professionalism attend the TMCNP program consisting of a 4-day study course taught by professional instructors and industry professionals, followed by an exam. This course offers advanced training at Texas A&M University using TAMU facilities and laboratories. Certification requires continuing education.

Find a retail nursery in your area that employs certified professionals by visiting the Find a Vendor section of this web site.

Design Assistance is Available From a Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect.

A landscape architect is licensed by the state after university graduate work and a qualifying exam administered by the state. A landscape architect will produce a blueprint and may work with landscape contractors to complete a project.

A landscape designer specializes in designing outdoor spaces, but is not a landscape architect.

A landscape contractor is qualified to read a blueprint. The contractor can lay drainage pipes, use earth-moving equipment, and supervise stonemasons and carpenters. Some landscape contractors employ landscape architects in their design departments.

Texas Certified Landscape Professional

This is a peer-reviewed certification administered by the Texas Nursery & Landscape association. Landscape contractor supervisors, owners, and managers take this self-study course followed by an exam covering 20 topics including management, landscape and irrigation design, resource efficiency, building materials, botany, turf, and pruning. Continuing education is required for maintaining this certification.

If you decide to hire a professional, once you have identified several potential landscape partners it is wise to conduct interviews and make your decision based on more than just price. Be sure the individual you hire is qualified to do the work you need and is properly licensed by the municipality and state of Texas. Irrigation contractors are required to be licensed by the state of Texas. To verify the qualifications of contractors, visit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality web site

Do It Yourself - New Landscape

Landscape Basics
Just starting out in gardening? Among other things you will need the following basic tools:

  • Rake
  • Spade
  • Watering can
  • Garden hose
  • Leak-free sprinkler
  • Extra pots for container grown plants
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Gardening gloves
  • Hand-held trowels
  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw
  • Lopping shears
  • Bulb planter

Good quality tools pay off in the long run because they last longer, and they are safer and more effective. To find a TNLA member nursery or garden center near you that sells gardening tools, visit the “products and services” page.

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How Many Plants Will I Need?

For masses of color in a flower bed and most other layouts, use the charts below to decide how many plants you need.

You are planting petunias in a flower bed with a size of 8X10’ (or 80 square feet). Based on the spacing recommendation below ("Common Plant Spacing"), you see that it is recommended to space Petunias 10-12 inches apart. When you look up this spacing recommendation in the "Spacing Calculator", you see that you can plant 1.4 plants per square foot. So with a garden of 80 square feet, you can thus plant 112 petunia bedding plants.


Spacing Calculator


Plants per a square foot

















Common Plant Spacing

Plant Spacing in Inches
Sweet Alyssum 10-12
Begonia 7-9
Dusty Miller 6-8
geraniums (full sized) 10-12
Impatiens 8-10
Impatiens New Uinea 10-12
Marigolds(full sized) 3-6
Pansies 6-8
Petunias 10-12
Salvia 6-8


For other helpful tips and ideas for that perfect landscape or garden, see Landscapes - Texas Style, Gardening with Kids, Home Garden Food Crops, Specialty Gardens, Watering, and Lawn Problem Solver.

"What else should I know about what it means to be a nursery or landscape professional and how do I find one?"

Landscape Professional Review:

A landscape designer specializes in designing outdoor spaces, but is not a landscape architect. A landscape contractor is qualified to read a blueprint and may also do design. A landscape contractor can lay drainage pipes, use earth-moving equipment, and supervise stonemasons, carpenters, and laborers. Some landscape contractors employ landscape architects in their design departments. A landscape architect is licensed by the state after years of university graduate work and rigorous testing and will produce a blueprint as well as hire contractors to complete the project.

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What criteria should I use in selecting a Landscape Professional?


  • Does the firm have Texas Certified Landscape Professionals, or Texas Certified Landscape Technicians on staff?
  • Do they have a federal identification number that designates it as a real business?
  • Are they insured?
  • Professionals arrive on time and take pictures or draw sketches of your property while there.


  • How many years have they been in business?
  • Ask for customer references and follow up by calling referrals.
  • Who will be supervising the installation - problems can result from communication gaps between estimator and installer.
  • Are the installers trained, and what proof of training do they offer?


  • Ask for an itemized estimate listing materials and plant sizes.
  • Who is responsible for cleanup?
  • The estimate should detail products essential to the desired result: weed control, edging, mulching, etc.
  • A reputable firm provides a contract specifying starting and completion dates (making allowances for weather).
  • If a deposit is required, the contract should show that the money is held in escrow at a specific bank.


In most regions, landscape professionals find the best time to plant doesn't necessarily correlate with the busiest time. A reputable firm will make recommendations about planting times, while trying to accommodate your timing needs.

Commitment to Communication

Communication with the consumer is one of a landscape professional's most valuable assets.

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What should I do to work successfully with the Landscape Professional?

  • Be frank about the amount of money you intend to spend. A "time plus materials" arrangement is one way to set prices.
  • Interview several professionals. Ask to see their "before and after" portfolio of completed jobs.
  • Check references.
  • Go see a completed project
  • If you have trouble visualizing the job, ask for a sketch.
  • Seek guarantees that faulty structural work and plants that perish within a year will be repaired or replaced without charge.
  • Remember that a newly finished landscape may look a bit sparse until the plants have a chance to grow. The end result will begin to show in two to three years.

Where do I find a Landscape Professional?

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