Start with a list of needs and wants. Are you looking for a space to grow vegetables? Do your kids need a spot to play? Prioritizing your landscaping will help you see how much yard you really have to work with.Consider things you can’t control – sun and wind patterns, for example. You might like a patio on the east side of your property, but once you see how much afternoon sun it gets, it may change your mind. (Remember, sun patterns differ in the winter).
Sit with your landscape for a while… and hopefully it includes a nice seating area where you can actually take-in your creative design. After living with the set up for a week or two, you may change your mind and shift things around.
Find a focal point. An easy design principle for beginners is to have a center piece (a stunning tree, sculpture, fountain, plant, etc). This will help direct your eye around the landscape.
Remember to scale your design; using variations in size, shape and color. Start with tall plants at the back and remember to space each plant properly. Repetition in the garden creates cohesion but keeping a few elements different prevents monotony.
The best tip to keep in mind, is to start small. Its fun to watch makeover shows on tv, but keep in mind, when they do the big reveal after just a few days work, they also had a crew of 30 people to meet those deadlines. Gardening and landscaping is supposed to be enjoyable. Go back to your master plan from the beginning and work on one element at a time.