Landscape Literacy

Doubters end up Pouters

Most landscape professionals would agree that the best gardens and outdoor spaces are those that are well planned – those, which begin with a professional landscape design.

Unfortunately, we still encounter some doubters of this critical step. As a landscape designer, I hear too often, “You charge for just getting a design?” As a homeowner, I completely sympathize with being budget-conscience for home renovation projects of any kind. And, I understand wanting to cut any unnecessary costs along the way. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that in my professional experience, as well as within my own homeownership, a design proves time and time again to be a must.

Let’s start with the basics. What happens if you hire a landscape designer?

Click here to read about D & A Dunlevy Landscapers’ full Design Build Process.

A landscape design starts with a conversation and simply listening to what the client wants and needs. Our process always starts with an onsite consultation in order to see and understand the property and its context, get a feel for the client’s personal style and tastes, as well as learn the intended use of the space. Discussed topics vary from patio materials to how many children the client has to budget and timeframe to favorite colors and even how long they anticipate owning the property or which neighbors they do or do not get along with. The more information the better.

The process continues with in depth site analysis including, of course, measuring the property- the house, important features to remain, locating mature trees and property lines, other site limitations, etc. However, this step also includes note of adjacent indoor spaces, drainage issues and patterns, utility information, elevation changes, borrowed views (good and bad), and a lot of reference photography.

Back at the office, the designing begins. The plan shows a detailed overhead view of the property drawn to scale. It plots all of the existing conditions per the site analysis and then begins to develop and locate the new construction elements. These may include retaining walls, pools, patios, steps, walkways, among many additional features in order to create and define space. Furthermore, materials are selected, often with specific construction methods including details such as patterns and borders. Lawn areas and plantings also start to take form. These begin with general planting bed locations and shapes, key features like hedge rows, and specimen plants of key interest. Eventually, full planting beds are specified with trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers carefully selected to compliment the style and tone throughout the property.

And, why is it important to spend time on all of this?

If you are after a beautiful finished landscape, then solid landscape plans, via the services of a landscape designer, are definitely worth the investment and time they require.

When conceptualizing from layouts to details, a designer considers both aesthetic and pragmatic values with every decision. Designers must bear in mind a wide array of factors in order to achieve a cohesive design that fits the client’s personal style, the existing architecture, and the target feel and use of a space. A quality design will enable your outdoor living areas to flow from one space to the next with smooth transition. It offers well-planned circulation, identifies material choices and construction methods, and unfolds the progression of construction and installation. It is the expertise of a designer that directs the success of the project and final outcome.

In contrast, poor planning makes for a choppy layout where aesthetic and practical values both suffer. This is especially true when a project is constructed in phases. Similarly to house renovations, you do not want the next phase to look like an addition. The goal is to have everything blend and flow as one design, perhaps with separate spaces but still connected through material, method, and style.

A detailed landscape plan also allows for proper and accurate pricing to be generated. Of course, unforeseen situations can always occur. However, the design provides a well-thought through plan that helps eliminate any such factors that can and should be avoided. There is no need to guess and figure later. For example, it is determined ahead of time the number of steps needed to make up a change in grade, how tall a wall needs to be, or how many zones of irrigation will be required. Too often, a poorly planned landscape incurs additional costs that well exceed the cost of just having had the design completed in the first place.

Landscape plans are far more than pretty pictures. They are quiet fundamentally the building blocks of your garden. Whatever your space, budget, or timeframe, it is smart to start with a plan. This comprehensive approach will save you time, money, and headache. After all, this should be a fun process that leads to the outdoor living experience you have been waiting for.

Arboretum Design Custom Stone work