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Mobile Me: A Landscape Design App That Gets Personal

The problem with many landscape design apps is they really are not interested in your garden. Instead, they expect outdoor spaces to conform to their idea of what a garden should be: a perfect, empty rectangle of land with no prior commitments.

But real-life gardens have as many personalities as the people who own them. They’re awkward shapes, have micro-climates of sun and shade, and play host to an underground web of roots from the next-door neighbor’s trees. What real-life gardens need is a design app–or app designer–who can take all those variables into consideration and come up with a personalized plan useful for only one gardener’s plot. Yours.

Home Outside Palette, created by Vermont-based garden designer Julie Moir Messervy, may be the answer. The app gives you drag and drop tools to create a garden design idiosyncratic to your garden. Compatible with an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, the basic, free version of the app allows you to choose hardscape materials, design paths and patios, and arrange furniture in your outdoor space. With add-ons, available as bundled packages for prices ranging up to $14.99, you can sketch free-hand shapes, tag and annotate design elements, and choose from four plants palettes.

Ms. Moir Messervy, the author of eight books on the subject of landscape design, is no stranger to the design challenges of any particular garden. Through her company, Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio, she also is offering her services to app users who live in the US. Using the app, you can upload details about your property along with a wish list and, in return, receive a personalized landscape design for a discounted price.

The app is so much fun to play with that even someone like me who lives on the second floor of a San Francisco apartment building can enjoy creating a garden design. I’m plotting my future backyard:

Home Outside Palette App 2 gardenistaHome Outside Palette App 2 gardenista

Above: The end result. A drought tolerant garden designed using the app–and the landscape service provided by Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio. I spy agave and magenta bougainvillea. 


Above: Using the app is as simple as drag and drop. You can add paths, pick hardscaping materials, and arrange patio furniture. 


Above: With in-app purchases, you can choose from four garden palettes: perennials, shrubs, grasses, and container plants (or you can free-hand sketch anything you want). 


Above: Among the features included in the latest version of the app is the power to lock layers to make it easier to select and move elements. To make the process even simpler, the Home Outside Palette app allows users to import an aerial view of their property through Google Maps. 


Above: Julie Moir Messervy has more than 30 years experience as a landscape designer. During the last decade, she’s written several books including Landscape Ideas That Work. Here, a garden in Vermont designed by the studio before the release of the Home Outside Palette app. See Julie’s personal garden here. Photograph by Bill Sumner. 

For more of our favorite gardening apps, see: 

  • Trend Alert: 10 Essential Gardening Apps to Download Now.
  • Identify Leaves and Flowers (There’s an App for That).
  • Garden Tech: Botany and Plant ID Apps for Citizen Scientists.


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