Plan the shape of the lawn, which is usually the biggest feature in a yard. The lawn's shape should set the tone for the shape of the beds. If it's designed with straight or gradually curving lines, the lawn can make a pretty picture and remain easy to mow. Avoid sharp turns, wiggly edges, and jagged corners that are irritating to the eye and extra work to mow. Your lawn is an important part of the landscape. However, if space is tight you can replace lawn with pavement or decking for your outdoor living area or with ground covers and paths.
The shapes of the garden beds, paved areas, and lawn areas all contribute to the overall look of your garden. Don't muddy the design with too many small shapes or too many kinds of shapes; make sure shapes relate to one another and the property itself. Rectangles alternated with kidney bean shapes can get pretty weird looking.
A sloping, hilly property usually is easiest to landscape with simple, flowing, curved bed and walkway shapes that relate to its contours. To do otherwise could involve lots of professionally built, straight-edged terraces, steps, retaining walls, and other expensive hardscapes. But the landscape does not have to be all one shape. Most plots of land are rectangular, with a house in the middle somewhere. The garden beds at the edges can either be gently curved or follow the straight lines of the overall plot. Or a large circle or oval of grass can be completely surrounded with pavements and plantings out to the edge of the property line.
Proportions in a garden are perhaps even more important than shapes. On the next page we have set up a few easy-to-follow guidelines to size your garden features appropriately.