Add Value to Rural Property with Expert Landscape Design

Mar 26, 2024 - By Hayden Outdoors

Spend some time talking with Co-founder and Principal Designer of Garland Design Group, Susan Garland, and a few words catch your interest. Words like flow, functionality, circulation, and longevity. Susan’s expertise in landscape and interior design – and seamlessly marrying the two – extends from coast to coast. She began her landscape design career on grand estates in the Hamptons before migrating west where she received an MBA from CU Boulder before launching Garland Design Group. Today, Susan specializes in unified design – flowing exterior elements into interior design, and vice versa, and maximizing beauty and functionality throughout all corners of her clients’ properties. 

She loves the work – especially when it comes to rural properties. “I love larger scale projects that have a land aspect to them. There’s so much to think about even as you’re placing buildings or structures on a property. How does it all flow well? When you’re incorporating plants and trees that will last 80 – 100 years, you’re envisioning what that will look like for multiple generations of a family.” It’s this generational influence – truly understanding how clients of every age want to enjoy a particular property – that drives Susan’s talent for capturing the essence of both indoor and outdoor spaces. She sat down to give us a few tips on how to add value to rural property with flawless landscape design. 


Garland Design Group T-Kay Wineland Exterior View add property value with landscape design
Photo courtesy of Garland Design Group.


Understanding the Importance of Landscape Design

The most exquisite property can easily go unappreciated if it’s surrounded by overgrown brush, neglected trees, and dilapidated out buildings. Susan encourages clients to consider landscape design as vital an aspect of a property’s value as interior elements or the buildings themselves. When thinking about landscape design from the 30,000-foot view, keep these key factors in mind: 

  1. Quality landscape design enhances curb appeal, and first impressions matter. From the driveway material you choose to the natural trees, shrubs, and stonework that frame your entryway, it’s important to thoughtfully incorporate landscape design into your property.
  2. Consider landscape design an investment in long-term returns. As Susan points out, one aspect of a property’s natural elements people love is fully grown trees. “I always recommend planting new shade trees early on and maintaining the existing trees onsite.” This is an example of the generational impact of quality landscape design. Planting trees today will provide shade, privacy, tree forts, and natural beauty for decades to come. 
  3. Use landscape design to create functional outdoor spaces to maximize utility and enjoyment. A well considered patio, fire pit, bbq area, or portico extends living space and year-round value of your property. 


Assessing Your Property and Identifying Needs

The first step Susan takes with her clients when establishing the landscape design is understanding what the property currently offers, what it lacks, and what her clients want to accomplish. So, how does she start? “I go to the property and I walk it. It is so telling. I can start to see and feel the land. Land is living. I can see how and where the sun falls. Are there certain mounds that will work for a build site? Do certain aspects offer better views than others? It allows me to notice things that are already existing that we can foster and create special moments around. It allows me to literally get a feel for the land.” 

From there, she considers the actual elements that make up the property, such as sunlight, soil, and climate. It’s important to identify native plants that grow well in the area and be mindful of how much water is available and how much the landscape might need. It’s important to talk with a landscape architect or designer before investing in plants and materials to ensure any landscape elements you do incorporate into your property will be maintainable and have a good chance of success.

Finally, Susan talks with her clients about their lifestyle needs and wants. “I like to work with my clients to design for longevity. For example, what are their goals for the next five, ten, and twenty years?” If they enjoy pickleball and basketball, it’s worth considering placing the courts close together for easy access. People looking to use their property for large events will need to think about multiple outdoor structures and where to put them. Long-term vision helps ensure minimal changes as the property ages. 


Designing for Long-term Sustainability

One of the best ways to landscape your property in a way that will last is to incorporate native and low-maintenance plants. These species are naturally equipped to handle the soil types, climate, and elevation without requiring too much effort or resources. Talk with your landscape design partner or local native plant supplier to learn more about which plants thrive in your area and how to combine them for a beautiful look with minimal effort. 

As long-term droughts become more common, especially in the West, water conservation within your landscaping is becoming more important. Look for ways to conserve and capture water, as well as opportunities to incorporate water-saving elements. “In Colorado especially, it’s not sustainable to have a bunch of lawn on your property. Native plants won’t need as much care, water, or maintenance, and they can help keep costs low.” Also consider eco-friendly materials that occur naturally in your area and on your property. Susan looks to materials as creative opportunities. “Local stones and rocks are a great way to incorporate color into your design – color that can flow from interior to exterior spaces.” 

When it comes to plants and materials, it’s also important to keep scalability and durability in mind to help plan for future growth and maintenance. Rare materials might be hard to scale while untreated wood can be prone to rot and decay, depending on where it is and how it’s incorporated. Materials like concrete and engineered wood can add definitive, usable elements to your landscape design that will wear well over time. 


Open farm house pergola with rustic bench, chair and flower pots
A rustic pergola on a farm.


Enhancing Value with Strategic Design Elements

Turning to landscape design is a great way to elevate the value of your property as well as infuse unique design, creativity, and utility into your outdoor spaces. Creating a welcoming entryway not only entices people into your home, it provides access – a concept near and dear to Susan’s heart.

She explains, “I like to talk about access and future access with my clients. We consider which vehicles will need to access certain areas of a property. So for example, let’s say you want to put a basketball court and a tennis court on your property. Maybe it’s better to put them close to each other. If someone in the family wants to play some tennis while everyone else is playing basketball, you have the same circulation and same pathway to those areas. Even if you don’t need to access certain areas of the land right now, if you’ve planned well, those decisions can be easier to make down the road.” 

Your property is the perfect place to build what you love to do, and that’s a huge benefit of owning larger tracts of land. From archery ranges to adding a gun range, pools and waterfalls to entertaining areas, it’s really up to what your mind can envision and your pocketbook will allow!

Landscape design also offers a fun opportunity to incorporate color and texture into your outdoor spaces. Plant and material combinations can create vibrancy and visual interest without taking away from natural vistas and established property aspects. 


The Beauty of Unified Design

Perhaps one of Susan’s favorite elements of her design process is “the beauty of unified design.” This comes in the form of balancing hardscape (built materials that are incorporated into a landscape) and softscape (the landscape itself) to create harmony in design composition. “COVID really encouraged people to think about outdoor living spaces. A lot of what I do involves creating areas that are good for congregating, like a fire pit, bbq, hot tub, or patio.” Working with a landscape architect or designer allows for the seamless integration of softscape and hardscape to create an outdoor venue that is welcoming, functional, and beautiful to look at. It’s also a great way to address any fencing your property might need to help protect plants, gardens, or trees and shrubs. 


Maximizing Functionality and Enjoyment

To that point, these outdoor living spaces have become just as important as indoor gathering hubs like kitchens and dens. Susan and her team work with clients to design outdoor living spaces that cater to lifestyle. If you’re considering adding a pool, playground, sporting area, gazebo, or other outdoor venue on your property, working with a landscape designer can help ensure the seamless assimilation of recreational features and natural elements. In some cases, one can become a part of the other, such as a natural element playground, pool waterfall, or rockwall-backed patio. 

And don’t forget about exterior lighting and irrigation. Adding outdoor lighting to these exterior living spaces can extend their use, convenience, and functionality throughout seasons. Irrigation can also play a part in maximizing your al fresco gathering spot. Sprinklers and misters can make a patio much more enjoyable on warm days. Adding a TV to a shaded eating area results in a fun place to catch the latest game. Tea lights strung from tree branches over a fire pit add just the right amount of ambient light to your family’s s’mores sessions. 


Maintaining and Updating Your Landscape Design

Like any aspect of your home, your landscape design requires consistent attention and maintenance. Establishing a regular maintenance routine will help preserve the beauty and health of your property. It’s important to understand required maintenance before you install your landscaping to ensure you can keep up with the upkeep of your property’s flora. 

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that landscape design is a living, growing aspect of your property. Make sure to integrate a design plan that allows for flexibility and new plant selection as things grow and mature. Consider refreshing and upgrading elements as needed, helping to keep your property current and appealing. 


Garland Design Group T-Kay Wineland Exterior View add property value with landscape design
Photo courtesy of Garland Design Group.



To wrap up our conversation, Susan takes things back to functionality and circulation. “I really focus on understanding flow from interior to exterior spaces and how it will affect views throughout the house and outside of the house. Also, I love to bring the outdoors in, thinking about materials used for the exterior that can be incorporated into the interior. I guide our clients in the broader aspect of the landscape.” 

It’s an important consideration – landscape design is much more than a few plants, garden, or patio. The outside is the foundation of your property. It’s a place to play, gather, connect, or take in the sunset with friends. It’s a way to conserve resources, and enrich the health of your land. It’s a unified design that expands your family’s home from thoughtful interior choices to every aspect, and every acre, of your property.