The Best Landscape Design Styles for Your Climate

Landscaping
By Contractors.com Team June 08, 2021

A great way to personalize a home and make it uniquely yours is to create a landscape design that is specific to you and your home’s surroundings. The design and style of your landscape can vary depending on a variety of factors, the biggest of which is climate. California is divided into 16 different climate zones, each one with its own nuances which you will need to consider if you wish to create a landscape that can thrive around your home. 

California, being a state of such diverse biomes and weather conditions, is also home to a wide range of microclimates. One very simple example of microclimates is the side of a hill. Depending on which side of a hill you live on, there may be a microclimate that sees less sunlight than its surroundings. Naturally, this means the plants and foliage that grow there are going to be different from those on the opposite side. 

Landscaping Based On Your Microclimate

Landscaping Based On Your Microclimate

With these ideas in mind, you can take advantage of your local oasis instead of focusing on its limitations and create a truly organic design full of synergies.

The Elements of Landscape Design

The Basic Elements of Landscape Design

The Basic Elements of Landscape Design

Before we can get into landscaping ideas for specific microclimates we should first establish a few general principles of landscape design. 

Lines

Lines are where your eyes take you and how your vision flows through a particular design. Go out to your garden and just take a look. Follow your gaze and see where it takes you. Does your vision guide you along the stone path in your garden? Or maybe your vision bounces along the fence, as you follow the neat shrubbery below. If you find there isn’t an intuitive journey for your eyes to take, this may be one of the first things you can focus on in creating your landscape design. If you do have a bit of a flow, turn the areas that catch your gaze into focal points by enhancing the design where more attention is naturally given.

Form

Forms and Shapes In Landscape Design

Forms and Shapes In Landscape Design

Form refers to the shape of your landscape, as well as the shapes within it. Use forms to create shapes and give your garden varying degrees of dimension. This can be achieved by using the organic forms of the landscape features. If you have a big boulder or tree trunk in the middle, work around it or use it in your design. Many backyards also come with pools, and there are tons of swimming pool landscape ideas, such as surrounding the pool with grass to make it look more organic.

Mass

Then there’s mass, which focuses on size or visual weight. Essentially, you don’t want one huge element overpowering your garden and hogging all the attention for itself. There needs to be a balance in the visual weight, to allow for all parts of the garden to be visible. A balanced mass is accomplished by avoiding excessive repetition and maintaining a basic format of organization. Don’t overcrowd your landscape, but also don’t leave it bare.

Dry Climate Landscaping

Dry Climate Landscaping Solutions

Dry Climate Landscaping Solutions

The Microclimate

Deserts, such as the Mojave in Southern California, are very dry and arid patches of land, with very little moisture. This doesn’t mean plants and wildlife are unable to live there though. A wide variety of plants have adapted to the harsh conditions over thousands of years. Creating a stylized desert landscape will take significantly less time than that. By landscaping in arid climate areas, you can create a little desert in your backyard.

How Your Microclimate Should Effect Your Landscaping Choices

How Your Microclimate Should Effect Your Landscaping Choices

Landscaping

Desert landscaping ideas work with water conservation in mind. Since in deserts you’ll find little to no rain, covering your lawn with grass may not work, as that would require regular watering. Instead, you can try using drought-tolerant landscape covers, like a mixture of cacti, stones, and gravel. You can also use natural stone pavers to create paths through your landscape, blending the organic aspects of your garden with the inorganic.

Dry Doesn't Mean Drab

Dry Doesn't Mean Drab

Planting

Some popular plants in similar climate zones are the ghost plant (one of the most popular succulents at the moment). If you want to add a little color to your patch of desert, there’s the pencil plant, with its vibrant red hue. 

Desert plants are very picky when it comes to soil, as they’re used to it having high levels of alkaline. If this is not the case, they may not survive very long. Your best option would be to plant anything local to that area. 

The Perfect Addition to Arid Climate Landscapes

The Perfect Addition to Arid Climate Landscapes

Less Sun and Colder Climate Landscaping

The Microclimate

There are actually some very cold areas even in states like California; typically in areas that don’t get enough sunlight, such as under a mountain range, or on the less sunny side of a hill. However, there are plenty of plants and landscaping ideas for colder climates.

Colder Climate Landscaping Ideas

Colder Climate Landscaping Ideas

Landscaping

One problem with cold climate landscaping is the cold itself. Sure, some plants can withstand the cold a little more than others, but this doesn’t mean they’ll be bright green while it’s freezing outside. You need to take proactive measures to protect your gardenscape from the cold and keep the plants from being damaged.

Landscaping In Colder Climate Cities

Landscaping In Colder Climate Cities

Your closest friend in cold climate gardening is mulch. Use it to cover the ground near some of the trees and shrubbery to keep that area nicely insulated. Whether you buy mulch or make it yourself, use as much of it as possible. Also, avoid de-icing using salt. While it is a very practical solution for slips and falls, salt is a very effective way of killing your plants and grass.

Evergreens and Other Plants Perfect for Landscapes with Less Sun

Evergreens and Other Plants Perfect for Landscapes with Less Sun

Planting

Among the most important cold climate gardening ideas is keeping the plants that are sensitive to the cold wrapped up. Use special burlap or tree wrap to cover them up and keep them from getting damaged by frost. 

For planting consider anything that’s evergreen. Some flowers bloom even in the middle of the winter, like snowdrops and winter aconites. You can use their early blooming to start your garden off as early as possible. However, planting in the winter takes a little more experience, so be ready to call upon the help of a professional gardener to keep all your beautiful flowers from dying out.

A Landscape that Dances with the Wind

Windy Cities and The Landscaping They'll Love

Windy Cities and The Landscaping They'll Love

The Microclimate

While the southern portion of California is home to interweaving climates, from tropical coasts to freezing mountains, to scorching deserts, the northeast and northernmost areas of California are quite flat. This means a lot of wind. Windy microclimates can be very difficult to garden in, but luckily, there are many solutions.

Landscaping Solutions for Windy Climates

Landscaping Solutions for Windy Climates

Landscaping

Gardening and landscaping in windy areas is nothing new to professional landscape architects across the country. While California is blessed to only have a few windy microclimates, some homeowners are able to create gorgeous gardens that don’t fear the wind. This is all thanks to the use of windbreakers. 

Chances are you have seen gardens with windbreakers, which can also function as a fence. Once the windbreakers are up the wind loses a lot of its speed before it reaches your plants, thus keeping them safe. So, with enough windbreakers around even the strongest winds in the country won’t pose a threat to your garden.

Unique Windbreaker Ideas

Unique Windbreaker Ideas

Planting

As with cold weather, many plants are resilient to the wind. If you’re looking for a more simple and rustic appeal, you can’t go wrong with dandelions. Thanks to their strong stems, they can withstand strong winds.

A fine addition to any windy garden is wisps of grass which not only provide some extra green, but also that relaxing sound of the grass rippling through the wind. The Stipa tenuissima is a very dense grass shrub that fits perfectly in any windy garden, both visually and in terms of sound. 

Plants That Work Well In Windy Zones

Plants That Work Well In Windy Zones

You can even use plants to form windbreaks. A majestic and effective option is trees like the evergreen. They have varying foliage types (pointy, wide-leafed), and with your choice of staggering their positions or lining them up as a strong hedge you can break the intensity of winds or block them altogether

A Tropical Paradise in Your Backyard

The Microclimate

North Californian cities are some of the most humid in the entire state. Humid microclimates are typically caused by a denser collection of trees than in the surroundings. These small wooded areas see a lot more rain than the drier climates around them. It’s no rainforest, but the humidity is most certainly higher than in other areas.

Landscaping that Can Withstand a Lot of Rain

Landscaping that Can Withstand a Lot of Rain

Landscaping

Always take moving water into consideration when landscaping in humid conditions. If there’s going to be plenty of rain, that water needs a channel to leave through. Have all the right vessels and canals dug through the landscape to ensure that no excess water gets trapped and drenches your plants or turns your garden into a swamp because of stagnant rainwater. 

Tropical Microclimate Landscaping Ideas

Tropical Microclimate Landscaping Ideas

Planting

In humid conditions, where there’s going to be a thick canopy of foliage blocking sunlight from making its way to the ground below, you should plant the kind of flowers and shrubbery that can grow in these kinds of conditions. There are even some plants out there that can grow high up in the air without having to be planted in the ground.

These air plants can survive by simply being suspended from a bigger “host plant”, usually a tree. They catch tiny particles from the air, which help them grow. Using other plants as “ladders” to get to higher positions. These can work perfectly in your garden as they like to grow in humid areas. Air plants can be another aesthetic addition to your backyard jungle garden.

Tropical Climate Landscaping

Tropical Climate Landscaping

Growing a few Giant or cardinal air plants can be the perfect way to liven up your humid landscape and give it some extra flair. Other plants you can grow in humid climates are Blue Camassia, the Lily of the Valley, and Iris, all colorful additions to your little oasis. 

The Urban Jungle

Creating An Urban Jungle In the City

Creating An Urban Jungle In the City

The Microclimate

Climates don’t have to be defined by those small patches of oases in the middle of a desert or a few hot springs in a mountain range. Humanity has been artificially creating urban hot zones, which are their own microclimates, and have created their own heat cycles. As a result, the air in urban environments tends to be smoggy and hot.

Most urban areas aren’t going to have as much grass and dirt for you to work with. Sure, some cities are pushing to incorporate more biophilic design, like Singapore, but if you live in downtown LA, you’re going to have to make do with what you have.

Landscaping

What you have are rooftops. If you can get access to a flat roof, you have the potential of creating your own little urban jungle. Before you can even think about planting a single flower, you need to first speak with a contractor or structural engineer so they can check the roof to see if it’s safe enough for a rooftop garden. Luckily you can easily find plenty of them on Contractors.com to help you with all the permits, regulations, and requirements. 

Once you’re all set and the contractor confirms the project and brings in the necessary permits, you can start building the garden. Most rooftop gardens use raised garden beds, as they don’t cover the roof’s surface with soil. It’s also recommended to install windbreakers on the sides of the garden since the wind can get very strong so high up and especially when it’s funneled up between buildings. By installing windbreakers, you’re keeping the plants safe from strong gusts of wind.

Softscaping for Urban Rooftop Gardens

Softscaping for Urban Rooftop Gardens

Planting

There are certain kinds of plants that are tolerant of pollution. If you wish to cover your rooftop with plenty of foliage, there’s the 'Big Daddy' Hosta. Its big, beautiful leaves will camouflage the cement of the roof, effectively acting as a canopy. In the mood for some vines? Why not wrap some Japanese Wisteria around the windbreakers, which will not only strengthen them but also give your garden a more oriental feel.

Plants That Work Well In Urban Garden Beds

Plants That Work Well In Urban Garden Beds

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team