5 Words You Need to Know Before Designing Your Landscape

Several things have stuck with me from my landscape design education at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. One was the this string of letters: FMECV.  What does it mean, you ask? Well, it's the order of priorities for designing a landscape. Read on to learn more about how to apply these key words to your landscape design project.


For any landscape to be great, the very first aspect to consider is function. Is the space easy to use? Are the elements of the landscape arranged in a way that makes sense for daily use and with your specific microclimates within that space? How can the space be arranged to achieve multiple goals at the same time?  


Is the landscape designed in a way that is easy to maintain? One very basic but super powerful design trick is to create your open space first (ex: lawn, patio, deck, gathering space, etc.) and leave the remaining space for your garden. Why? A pleasing open space will establish the structure of your landscape and the surrounding planting areas will compliment that space. Plus, if your open space is lawn, it's much easier to mow one continuous lawn that has a very clear border than to mow around shrubs and trees dotted throughout the grass. This will also help protect your trees and shrubs from mower and trimmer damage.

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Environmentally Friendly

In what ways can you design your landscape be more friendly to the environment?  Some ideas:

  • Plant a lawn alternative (which requires less water, mowing, and fertilizing)

  • Create a pollinator and/or wildlife garden

  • Incorporate organic veggies and fruits into your landscape (to help take a little pressure off food transportation)

  • Use reclaimed and/or renewable materials for garden borders, structures, and mulches

  • Mulch your garden heavily with natural wood chips to help keep moisture in and weeds out

  • Group plants based on their water requirements

Cost Effective

When designing a landscape, I always keep the client's budget in the back of my mind but I never let it take control of the design process. I've found that any design can be adjusted to meet clients' budgets. This can be done by considering a variety of materials choices, creating different levels of design - a more basic plan with trees and shrubs vs a highly detailed design that features trees, shrubs, and wide perennial borders, etc., and creating a phased installation plan that can be installed over a number of years.

Visually Pleasing

You'd think that this would be the number one concern, right? Well, the truth is that if you've focused on creating a design that's functional, easy to maintain, environmentally friendly, and cost effective, it will be visually pleasing.  

I'd love to hear from you!  What is the biggest challenge you've faced with your edible landscape project?