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:

Brookside Gardens
1800 Glenallan Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20902
301-962-1400
www.brooksidegardens.org

Horticultural Society of Maryland
4915 Greenspring Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21209
410-821-5561
www.mdhorticulture.org

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
1550 Anacostia Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20019
202-692-6080
www.nps.gov/keaq

U.S. National Arboretum
3501 New York Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002
202-245-2726
www.usna.usda.gov

University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center
12005 Homewood Road
Ellicott City, MD 21042
410-531-5556
http://extension.umd.edu/hgic