Why Winter's a Great Time to Start Your Landscape Project


Landscape design in winter? Seems crazy. Well, actually crazy smart. Cold rain and wind typically don’t inspire people to think about outdoor patios and flowers. Usually, most people enjoy their outdoor spaces during the warmer months and their attention strays from their yards as the first rain and snow arrives. So you might be surprised to learn  winter is actually a great time to kick start your outdoor space design.

Yardzen is the brand-new way to design your outdoor spaces, all online. Starting with just your address and understanding of your lifestyle, taste and how you want to use your outdoor spaces, Yardzen designs the perfect yard for you without ever stepping foot in your yard. Then, should you choose, we connect you with vetted landscapers and contractors who can bring your design to life. Depending on your local climate, clients who start the Yardzen process in late fall and winter can choose to take advantage of all of the upsides of starting your design now, or go full force and get your plan installed, too.

Here are just a few reasons why now’s a great time to start your landscape design:

It allows ample time: Starting a design in late fall or winter allows you to take your time when creating your vision for a space. During spring and summer, there’s a rush to start and finish the design process quickly, which can lead to sacrificing key details. Since there’s plenty of time to design in winter before building begins in the spring, it’s best to have a set plan that you’re confident in. Any sort of home improvement can be stressful, so why not give yourself more time to breathe and create the design ahead of time? Pour over Pinterest, take a stroll through a nursery, drive around your neighborhood and assess what you like.

See your outdoor space through winter’s lens: During late fall and winter the leaves fall from your trees and your garden is generally less sparse. This is a huge advantage in that you’ll see which spaces require hardy plants that will withstand the cold season and your design will be better informed, ultimately becoming a plan that looks good year-round.

If you live in the western U.S. or any other location where the climate is moderate and snow is rare, getting your plants in the ground now has its perks.


Here are a few reasons why winter’s also a great time to have your plan installed.

Discounts! Due to the drop in demand for landscape services in the winter, there are frequent opportunities to save money. Landscaping projects have a rep for being quite pricey, however that doesn’t have to be the case. Contractors are much more liable to giving special discounts during the slower months, as are lots of nurseries and materials suppliers.

Everyone has more availability: Regardless of where you live, you’ll get more attention from contractors in the winter. The demand for contractors is much lower in the cold weather, therefore it’s easiest to get on the priority list for pros before the actual building season. Beating the curve in the winter provides an opportunity to make sure you’re compatible with the contractor and that all of your goals will be met.

See how your new landscape stands up to winter conditions: According to Pacific Outdoor Living, “observing your yard in the winter to see how it handles the rain, cold and foot traffic is a good idea and can even be an eye-opening experience.” You’ll see first-hand if there are any irrigation, drainage or runoff problems that need to be addressed.

Rain instead of irrigation: The rainiest months of the year in most places are winter and spring, so why not let your plants soak up those nutrients and grow big and strong for summer? By treating them to a rainy season they’ll be more resilient to harsh, dry summer conditions.

Get your Yardzen landscape design started today by completing your design profile.

Five questions with a Yardzen Pro: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Editor’s note: Welcome to a new feature on the Yardzen blog where we interview a Yardzen Pro: a contractor in the Yardzen Pro Network helping to bring our clients’ Yardzen designs to life. We hope you enjoy it! And if you’re a contractor interested in joining the Pro Network, get in touch.

YZ: Let’s start at the beginning. What’s your backstory? How’d you find your way to lighting design?

IR: I was introduced to lighting design in a round-about way. It began with a need to use up-lighting for my art glass, a hobby of mine. I wanted to create a dramatic edge-lit effect. It was more of an intuitive move. My father, who’s an architect, introduced me to all kinds of materials and glass constituted a large part of his architectural designs. I would hold up different colored samples of plate glass to the light and try and position it for the best light penetration and effect. I guess one might call it a natural progression, experimenting with translucent materials and light. Iterating and self-critiquing is how I became a lighting designer.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting

YZ: What’s your favorite thing about your profession?

IR: Definitely the problem solving that’s a fundamental part of the role. Every project involves problem solving. I’ve learned to allow myself space for it and over time developed a confidence that I’ll come up with the right solution. I‘ve learned to be patient, too.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

YZ: . Tell me a story about a specific job that really stands out where lighting really made all the difference in the space.

IR: It was a custom house in Mill Valley, CA with a steep-pitched, open-beam ceiling that was 25-feet high at the highest point. Compounding the problem was the fact that there were no walls separating the kitchen, dining and living room areas. After experimenting with many different types of fixtures, we used small high-tech projector lamps, the same type that are used in fine art galleries and museums. The projector lamps enabled us to change focal lengths so we could frame just a wall painting or just a seating area. At night it looked like a theater stage. We could manipulate the projector lens and create a very dramatic and mysterious look. The quality of light made everyone and everything look softly Illuminated.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

YZ: Why is lighting so important to outdoor space design?

IR: I like to make my outdoor lighting designs serve as a welcome mat of sorts, so people can truly enjoy the beauty of the outdoor space. If it’s done correctly, outdoor lighting increases the living space. Example: put subtle up lights in the corners of your landscape’s parameter and your eye will automatically go to the farthest corner that has light. I call it “quiet lighting.” And in a project done well, quiet lighting should exist throughout the entire project.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

YZ: What trend in lighting design has you most excited right now?

IR: Mobile technology. The ability to dim and control a single light in the garden using an app on your phone. It’s amazing! Each individual light bulb is controllable.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Thanks, Ian!

Who: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Where: San Francisco, CA

What: Expert lighting designer and contractor, whose number one goal is to help you get more out of your outdoor spaces. (Hey! That sounds familiar!)

About Yardzen: The brand new way to design your outdoor spaces, all online. Starting with just your address and an understanding of your lifestyle, taste and how you want to use your outdoor space, Yardzen designs the perfect yard for you without ever stepping foot on your property. Then, should you choose, Yardzen connects you with vetted landscapers and contractors who can bring your design to life. Learn more.

How the Yardzen Botanical Makeover Works

Yardzen's Botanical Makeover ($249) gives you a professional landscape design for one area of your yard, coupled with a shopping list and a planting plan you can either tackle on your own or hand off to a landscaper. If you're looking to simply replace or update the plants in your yard the Yardzen Botanical Makeover could be perfect for you.  Here's how it works. 


Step 1: Take a photo (or two) of your most challenging outdoor area. 

Complete your Design Profile, where you'll be asked some quick and easy questions about your style and preferences, and also to upload a couple photos of the outdoor area you've picked for the Makeover.

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Step 2: Your Yardzen designer gets to work.

Factoring your property's unique characteristics -- things like sun and shade patterns, your climate and planting zone and slope -- your designer creates a plan that's just for you. It includes not only plants that should thrive there, but plants that are uniquely matched to your style.

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Step 3: The big reveal

The step everyone loves the most: the one where you get your design. Unlike traditional landscape designs that show you a top-down view, making it hard to envision what it might look like planted, Yardzen's rendering gives you a life-like glimpse into how your design will look implemented. Your design also comes with a shopping list with quantities and a planting plan.

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Have questions before you get started? Our design team can't wait to hear from you.

How to choose the perfect spot for a playspace

Summer's upon us and now more than ever your kids will play outside. If you're like most parents who come to Yardzen to redesign their outdoor spaces, a cozy, creative playspace for your kids is at the top of your priority list. Here are some universal guidelines for choosing the perfect spot in your yard for your kids' dream playspace.

Start with the perimeter

To maximize use of your backyard and ensure you're left with room for the other elements you want — that gorgeous patio, the vegetable garden and the outdoor kitchen, to name a few — consider placing your playspace along the perimeter of your property. If you have a fence this serves the added bonus of providing a backdrop and, in effect, adding major coziness factor.



Work with the elements you already have

There's nothing like a good climbing tree if you're a kid, and if you're lucky enough to have one or a few, particularly along a fence line, this is likely your playspace spot. Incorporate the tree(s) in your design and make it look like your playspace not only belongs there, but has always been there.

Image: Active for Life

Image: Active for Life

Keep it in view

You could create the most amazing playspace for your kids, but if you can't see them playing from a convenient vantage point, it just won't work. Especially if your kids are small you'll be dragging a chair to where you can watch, or constantly going back and forth to check on them. So why not choose a spot where you can easily watch them play. From a patio, from a kitchen window, from the living room. If it's not obvious work with your Yardzen designer to choose the best spot where you can keep an eye on them as they play.



Work with topography

Maybe the slope of your yard is a thorn in your past design attempts, but here at Yardzen we say embrace it! Work with a hill to create a playground for your kids that you'd have loved yourself as a child. The possibilities for climbing walls and slides are limitless.

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Here's what you need to know about Xeriscape

Necessity is the mother of invention and in the 1980's when the Western United States were stricken with years upon years of severe drought but people weren't willing to part with their full gardens, xeriscape landscaping was born. Simply put, xeriscape is a landscaping technique that requires little to no water. (In Larin xero means dry and scape means view.) Here's what you need to know before you start your xeriscape design with your Yardzen design team.

Xeriscape doesn't mean zero water

Like any new landscaping, you'll need to irrigate a new xeriscape garden. But the good news is xeriscape gardens require less water to get established and in many cases you can turn off irrigation altogether once the plants' root systems are settled.

Photo: Xeriscape Design

Photo: Xeriscape Design

Natives should be the foundation of your design

You'll hear us say this a lot here at Yardzen - native plants are your friend. Particularly if you're seeking to establish landscaping that requires as little water as possible, natives are a great place to start because they're already adapted to your regional climate.

Photo: AZ Plant Lady

Photo: AZ Plant Lady

Rocks and hardscape elements are a great addition

One of the most user friendly rules of landscape design is to emulate vegetation as it naturally occurs. Pay attention to the vegetation and surrounding earth on your next hike and you'll notice rocks everywhere. Xeriscape is a great opportunity to make use of rocks and pathways to reduce the total number of plants you need in your design and also to make your garden look natural.

Photo: Landscaping Network

Photo: Landscaping Network

Just because you go xeriscape doesn't mean you need to sacrifice lush

We hear lots of clients share concern around xeriscape looking sparse and dry. This couldn't be further from the truth. Mature xeriscape gardens can be every bit as full and lush - if not more - than a water-guzzling garden. Refer back to the high likelihood these native gardens will thrive due to the pre-adaption to your climate.

Start your xeriscape garden today with your Yardzen team and cut your water bill by up to 50%.