Start by making a plan that takes into account your yard’s soil type and acidity, drainage patterns, and sunlight exposure. Match plant types with areas where they are likely to thrive. Your plan should show how your property will look right away, and how it will look years from now when your plants have grown. Without a plan, you could wind up with an assortment of plants that do not complement each other in size, shape, or color. You might end up with shade where you want sun and with the view from, or of, your house obscured. Worst yet, you might pay for expensive plants when inexpensive ones would do just as well.

It’s easy to make a rough drawing showing your house, other structures, property lines, and desired plants. Get guidelines and ideas from gardening websites, friends with attractive gardens, and the experts listed below.

You can also hire a landscape architect or garden designer to provide complete service, including consultation, design, assistance in selecting a landscape contractor, and supervision of plant selection and contractor performance. Or get only the consultation or the design. Your first conversation with an architect may be free; after that, fees are set in various ways.

For more information on landscape designers and landscape contractors, see our article on landscaping help.

Your county’s cooperative extension office has master gardeners you can call for advice and help with diagnosing plant problems if you bring or send them specimens. Other local sources of gardening expertise:

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension
531 South College Avenue
Newark, DE 19716
302-831-2501
http://extension.udel.edu

Rutgers Cooperative Extension
88 Lipman Drive
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
www.njaes.rutgers.edu/extension

Penn State Extension
201 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802
215-345-3283
www.extension.psu.edu

Bartram’s Garden
5400 Lindbergh Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19143
215-729-5281
www.bartramsgarden.org

Camden Children’s Garden
3 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ 08103
856-365-8733
www.camdenchildrensgarden.org

Chanticleer
786 Church Road
Wayne, PA 19087
610-687-4163
www.chanticleergarden.org

The Del-Chester Rose Society
http://mhuss.com/dcrs

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
100 E. Northwestern Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118
215-247-5777
www.morrisarboretum.org

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
100 N. 20th Street, 5th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215-988-8800
www.phsonline.org

Tyler Arboretum
515 Painter Road
Media, PA 19063
610-566-9134
www.tylerarboretum.org

The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081
610-328-8025
www.scottarboretum.org