What features does your home possess that might give you a theme for your garden? Using existing features can help reflect the location and history in your area. Many times the borrowed landscape (hills, trees, or water) can give you an idea for creating an overall theme for your garden.
Sometimes materials found on a property can give the garden a sense of place. Local stones were used on the patio floor and seating wall. Stone and water are two of the most powerful things that can evoke mood in a garden as seen in this pleasant garden room off the homeowners' living room.
Architecture often drives the garden design. If your home is a particular style; Eichlar, Italian, French or English, let the plant material accent the style of the home. Italian Cypress are a natural for this Tuscan Palazzo in Atherton.
This home in Los Altos Hills incorporated an existing water tank, circa 1850, and a pair of gates that had been on the owners Grandmother's Home in San Jose in the 1850s. These features help give structure and a sense of continuity to the new garden.