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:

San Francisco Botanical Garden
9th Avenue at Lincoln Way
San Francisco, CA 94122
415-661-1316
www.sfbotanicalgarden.org

Regional Parks Botanic Garden
Tilden Regional Park
Berkeley, CA 94708
510-544-3169
www.nativeplants.org

Filoli
86 Cañada Road
Woodside, CA 94062
650-364-8300
www.filoli.org

UC-Berkeley Botanical Garden
200 Centennial Drive
Berkeley, CA 94720
510-643-2755
http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu