Wannabe landscape designer

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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!

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