For $2.99 plus a good measuring tape, iPhone and iPad users can design their own backyard (or front yard) dream retreat. Created by Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio (JMMDS), the new Home Outside Design (HOD) app offers 280 landscape elements that can be arranged to fit outdoor spaces of any size or shape. The items can be clicked-and-dragged into a representation of the user's yard, which is mocked-up to include their house and existing landscape features. Hand-drawn representations of trees, shrubs, and flowers can be placed alongside water features, sheds, patios, or play structures. There's also a section of green design elements including clotheslines, compost bins, and vegetable gardens.

JMMDS created the app in conjunction with a new online service the firm provides for those less inclined to design an outdoor space themselves. The online version of HOD provides instructions and worksheets for measuring outdoor areas, as well as a questionnaire to determine clients' style preferences. Then, starting at $500 for a 5,000-square-foot yard, the company's professional landscape designers will create two proposals. Customers can then opt to implement their preferred design on their own, continue to work with JMMDS to make it reality, or hire a local landscape contractor.

Both electronic tools were inspired by Messervy's 2009 book, Home Outside, Creating the Landscape you Love (Taunton Press). The Vermont-based landscape architect says she wrote the book and developed the online applications to help homeowners discover how the impression they create with their houses also can extend into their outdoor spaces. The app can be purchased at the iTunes app store, and HOD online can be found on the JMMDS website.