So you’ve got a modern shed (or have perused some new shed inspiration)—but need to design the landscape surrounding your structure? Let’s dig into tips from our landscape design team for getting the most visual appeal and function from the yard space around our garden sheds.
Goals for Shed Landscaping
Before digging into specifics, it’s worth aligning on the big picture goals for design around backyard sheds:
Landscape design should make it easy to use your shed, however you intend to use it. Each flavor of shed comes with its own functional requirements:
Storage sheds, tool sheds, or potting sheds for gardening tools and other yard items need wide doors, a clear staging area in front, and an absence of trip hazards. Tree canopy coverage mitigates heat exposure to keep stored contents from frying. Ideally, the shed would connect to a driveway via a durable, smooth walking surface, without too many bumps or cracks that would make it challenging to navigate a wheelbarrow or lawnmower into the storage space.
Playhouse sheds should be easy for parents to keep an eye on, and safely distant from steep slopes, sharp/toxic plants, or other hazards. They also benefit from dappled shade to provide a comfortable play environment around the playhouse.
Sheds for yoga, meditation, or private guest or residential getaways do best with some privacy, which can be gained from canopy trees, thoughtfully-designed screening plantings, vine-laden trellises, or a bit of fencing.
While the specifics for landscape design around sheds are as varied as the ways people use sheds, all shed landscapes should allow access on all sides for routine weatherproofing and maintenance.
Sheds should look like integrated, cohesive parts of the overall landscape design.
By default, sheds run the risk of looking objecty, like a thing plunked down in the yard with no connection to its surroundings. Fortunately, thoughtful design can dodge this pitfall.
You can make the shed itself look cohesive by drawing from the same palette of paint colors, finishes, and hardscape materials as the main home. On a similar note, you can make the landscape around the shed feel cohesive by using a similar planting palette, repeating species and layout patterns from elsewhere in the yard.
It’s fine to include elements that are unique to the shed and its immediate surroundings—an accent plant with a pop of color, a new groundcover material, a new, complementary paint color—but the overall design language of the main home and yard should also be expressed by the shed and its landscaping.
Shed Landscaping Ideas and Tips
With these goals in mind, let’s walk through a few tips for designing functional, beautiful shed landscapes.
Outdoor Spaces should suit the use and style of the shed.
Scale outdoor spaces to the group size: small for a party of two at a guest house, larger for a crowd congregating at a cocktail shed. A paver patio or small deck elevates the appearance of a tiny house or guest room shed, while a gravel or decomposed granite gathering space signals a more rustic, casual feel.
Regardless of size or style, gathering spaces adjacent to sheds should prioritize comfort. Orient the space to avoid glare, and use shade trees and layered screening plants to provide pleasant, dappled light. Surround it with planting to soften the space, but maintain some long sight lines to preserve an open feel.
Location is key.
Whether you are hiding it away in a remote corner, or showing it off as a focal point, your shed’s location should look intentional, not haphazard.
Nicer sheds with architectural detailing are great as an eye-catching, sight-line extending feature at the far end of a yard, not unlike the faux medieval castles placed as focal points in distant reaches of English estate gardens. Less flashy sheds may be better off stepping back and letting new, adjacent trees and planting steal the spotlight.
When choosing a location for your shed, look for features to react to—an exterior window, a mature tree, the framed space between two planting areas—and place your shed in a deliberate spatial relationship with these features. Connection to circulation and functional viability are also key considerations for siting.
Planting should be installed at the base of shed walls (or rather, a few feet removed from the base of those walls) to soften the transition from vertical to horizontal, and help visually stitch the shed to the landscape.
The planting can be any style, though it’s best to go up at least a foot in height to achieve the visual trick of absorbing the shed into the earth.
Planting need not surround the entire shed, but large, door-less facades do well to have a few plants placed in front of them to keep things feeling natural and inviting. Place your tallest plants closest to the walls, and your shortest plants in front.
Trees command even more visual power than ground-level planting.
Smaller trees and large, tree-like shrubs like redbud, dogwood, serviceberry, and desert willow suit the scale of a shed. When placed nearby, they offer visual interest, cast comfortable shade, and help to define a small outdoor zones around the shed.
Trees are especially useful with humbler shed designs, where they can be dropped into sight lines to steal attention and shroud the shed from view.
Anchors are features in a landscape that a shed can essentially team up with to look like it has a reason to be where it is. If you need a little help getting your shed to look intentional in its location, anchors are your friend.
Trees are excellent anchors, expressing permanence and natural order. Place trees close to sheds to create a composed scene, or site a shed framed tastefully among existing trees.
Sometimes a yard is just an open field, with no overt features to spatially respond to. In this case, a series of landscape features can band together to anchor each other and express intentionality. A patch of ornamental planting, an adjacent gathering space, a tree, a water feature, even a decorative boulder—you don’t need to pile too many things together, just create a nice scene that, as a whole, manages to look like it has a reason to be exactly where it is.
Lighting can boost the utility and visual appeal of sheds.
Wall sconces by the shed door goes a long way toward making a tiny house or guest room shed look properly styled.
Uplights on landscaping, particularly on sculptural, multi-trunked trees, create drama (just turn the lights off at evening’s end to avoid disturbing the local fauna).
A run of string lights are an affordable way to lend evening viability and charm to outdoor spaces around sheds.
A few path lights along routes linking the shed to principal gathering spaces helps to draw the eye toward the shed, setting it up as an evening focal point.
Get Started With Your Landscape Design by Yardzen
Yardzen’s award-winning online landscape design is tailored to clients in all fifty states in the US. Through the American Rewilding Project, we are committed to creating designs with climate-adapted and habitat-providing plants as well as water saving landscaping principles in drought-prone regions unless homeowners specifically opt out.
Our design process begins with understanding your space, your aesthetic preferences, and a discussion of your budget and vision to minimize surprises when it comes time to build.
Our top-notch designers then develop a personalized vision for your yard, shared through 3D renderings, 2D plan drawings, and plant and material lists. Your design will capture the look, feel, and function you are hoping for, all while keeping costs within range.
Once your design is complete, we’ll help you connect with a local contractor from our Pro Network of vetted professional landscapers to install your new design (if you don’t plan to diy).