There are lots of philosophies out there concerning landscaping and gardening design. Whether it is residential landscaping or commercial landscaping, selecting the “best design” of plant material is subject to interpretation. While it is important to place plants in appropriate environments to optimize their growth potential, the creative placement of plant material is not. You don't need to be a “professional” singer to enjoy singing and to love music, it is for everyone to enjoy. I always wished I had perfect pitch. Oh well. I love to sing, what can I say. The same is true for gardening and landscaping, it is for everyone to enjoy and interpret however they want. While I love to tour an arboretum and stroll the grounds of beautifully manicured gardens, I also love to see the backyard gardens of the weekend warriors who have put some of their heart and soul into their piece of the earth. They may not remember the names of the plants but they bought them for a good reason.
The “principals of design,” used universally in art genres, most people understand and use with discrimination, whether they learned them in school or sense them through observation. Even children who are provided crayons, pencils and chalk to use at will for the development of fine motor skills, will demonstrate these same principals learned from their own observations. Without even knowing the principals of design or their relationship to each other, children develop an unspoken sense of balance, color, texture, space and scale. The refinement of this relationship in art genres becomes important in landscape architecture as an art form but in everyday residential landscaping the principal that matters is what the homeowner likes and thinks is appropriate.
There are houses with grass all of the way up to the foundation of the house, not a tree, not a shrub. This is a homeowner who clearly relishes the efficiency of the lawnmower to get the weekend chore done! There are other houses that picked one plant and repeated the theme all of the way across the front becoming the homeowner who knows what he/she likes and went with it. The gamut runs from homeowners who couldn't make up their minds and planted one of everything to those who do not want to rake any leaves and have only grass and evergreens, to those who don't change a thing and just take over the plants left by the former owner and let the plants do their thing. All of these scenarios exist, all are okay, most important they work for those who live there.
There are those homeowners, however, who have a greater sense of adventure. They want to plant shrubs they saw at their parents house, or flowers their grandma loved. They always wanted to have irises and a house with a Kwanzan cherry. Some homeowners want a garden they can eat from while others want flowers they can go out and cut and make beautiful dining table arrangements. The only limit is your imagination.
It is your option to follow the principals of design in planning your house's ultimate landscape and the shortcut is to surely hire a landscape architect who can help with the “hardscape” decisions. The hardscape includes retaining walls, sidewalks, patios, stairs, fencing, etc. They can also help if there are drainage problems or city/county code enforcement issues.
If the hardscape is to remain status quo, you are free to do your own creating. There may be some guidelines to pay attention to as you are rearranging the yard around your house.