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

Rutgers Cooperative Extension
88 Lipman Drive
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Penn State Extension
201 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802

Bartram’s Garden
5400 Lindbergh Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Camden Children’s Garden
3 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ 08103

786 Church Road
Wayne, PA 19087

The Del-Chester Rose Society

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
100 E. Northwestern Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
100 N. 20th Street, 5th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Tyler Arboretum
515 Painter Road
Media, PA 19063

The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081