Photo by Melody

Garden Design on Your Computer, Part 2: choosing the best software for you

By Jan Recchio (grampapaFebruary 24, 2008

It's time to choose your garden design software now. There are some things you need to consider before you make your decision. When I was first contemplating such a purchase, I was in the process of having a new home built and had a completely unlandscaped 3/4 acre lot that was purely mud and rocks; a blank canvas, if you will. You may be in a similar situation, or you may have 25 acres, or possibly a tiny city lot that's already planted and you just want to rearrange. Your software should be tailored to your needs.

Gardening picture

Some things to consider:

  This is non-negotiable.  You must choose a package that is compatible with your hardware/software platform.  So if you have a MAC and they do not make a MAC-compatible version, you are out of luck.  Similarly, if you run VISTA on your PC, you will be limited to the few that have advanced beyond Windows XP.  You should review all of the hardware requirements carefully and be sure that your PC meets all the mimimums. 

How important is price to you?  If you only plan to use the software for a limited period of time or for only one project, you should probably keep the cost down.  However, if you are like many gardeners and are constantly building new beds, moving plants and redesigning existing garden space, you may want to spend more and be sure you have all the features you want.

Do you have a dial-up internet connection or limited on-line access?  One package requires you to be online to access their objects database even though the application is installed on your PC.  And some programs are totally web-based. 

Image Are you interested in building a scale model of your home (or using a pre-built model similar to your home), or would a photo be sufficient?  If you, or other family members, are interested in interior decorating or remodeling, you might want to expand your search slightly and be sure you get something that allows you to plan the interior of your home as well.  I planned my kitchen exactly as I wanted it and then gave it to the kitchen designer to see if he thought it would work. 



Are you a very visual person who would like to see the whole plan in more realistic 3D, or would you be satisfied with a 2D planting diagram to scale?

           Image      Image    Image                  

                  2D line drawing                            2D garden plan                            3D garden plan

Image Do you want to be able to indicate changes in terrain such as hills?   The image at left illustrates the drop-off at the end of my lot as you approach the water and also the raised bed of the Heather/Dwarf Conifer garden.

Image Do you have plans to build a deck or pool that you will want to landscape around?  At right is the fencing and landscaping that surrounds my pool.

 Do you plan to include a water feature, such as a pond, stream or waterfall at any time?  Below is a small pond I'd like to have inside my pool fence someday.  Well, maybe not quite this ambitious. Embarassed


ImageYou should prioritize your list and match your needs and wants to what is available.  By the time you finish it should be fairly obvious to you which package is the right choice.

Next week I'll try to help you get your feet wet so you can get started on that new garden plan.




The table below from Part 1 of this series is included again for your reference.










in enc

# Plant







Pre-built homes













DiComp* 3D Garden ComposerWin 2000,XP PC2D/ 3D 15,000800>500  modify pre-builtyes only for XPponds patios sheds  yesno no parts of tutorial $39.95
FLOWERscape*FLOWERscape Win 95-XP, MAC(see site)  PC 3Dunkunk  n/a  no no no none no no no yes$34.26
IDEA SpectrumRealtime Landscaping PROWin XP, Vista PC2D/ 3D32003200> 1600  exterior yes yes

pools spas ponds decks patios sheds w'falls

 yesmaterial list no yes$99.95 
Individual Software Total 3D Home & Landscape Design Suite 9.0 Win PC 3D460046001000's  yes a few
 yespools spas ponds decks patios sheds w'falls yes yes no no$39.95
Plan3D*Plan3DWin 2000, XP, Vista  PC2D/ 3D  unk unk 5,000 inc plants  yes yes yespools spas decks patios yes unk no yes$2.95 mth
PlangardenPlangarden Any Web 2D 45 45 vegs 0  no no no no no noyes-45 days yes $20 yr/ $36 3 yrs
Punch!Master Landscape Pro and Home Design vs 10Win 95-XP, Vista PC2D/ 3D >2,000  unk  unk  exterior yes yespools spas decks yes yes no no$69.99 
RiverdeepTurboFloorPlan Landscape and DeckWin 2000, XP, Vista PC2D/ 3D 7,500 unk unk  no no yespools decks sheds  yes yes no no$49.95
** 3D Home Architect Design Suite 6 n/a PC2D/ 3D n/a n/a n/a yes, full featured no  yespools ponds decks patios sheds  yes  no n/a  n/a  n/a

  About Jan Recchio  
Jan RecchioI'm a 'dabble' gardener. Been gardening since I was a child. I will plant anything that will grow for me and some things that won't, indoors or out. Outdoors I have theme gardens: roses, butterfly/hummingbird, heathers/dwarf conifers, a rock garden (in progress) and a new English-style cottage garden with an herb garden at it's 'heart'. Indoors I try to concentrate on orchids, African violets, anything that will flower or has lots of color and unusual houseplants. I try to stay organic and keep chemicals to a bare minimum. My non-gardening interests include quilting, counted cross-stitch and watercolor painting. I am a proud grandma, recently celebrated my 40th anniversary and before my retirement I was a clinical systems analyst (computer geek) for 24 years.

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