The process of creating a truly beautiful landscape for one’s residence can be daunting! Whether one is starting with an empty lot or an existing landscape that no longer inspires us, the idea of making major changes can be overwhelming. And then there is the question not only of who to trust to help you through this artistic process, but who will build that landscape of your dreams? Landing the right team of landscape architect and landscape contractor is so important!
One of the first things to address when embarking on the redesign of your landscape is to realistically define your budget. For some people this is very flexible, and for others not at all. We have clients happily triple their budget, as they realize that what they would like will cost more than they anticipated and that there were more features that they wanted of which they had not yet considered. Others are grateful that we firmly adhered to their budget and optimized what they received within those parameters.
Landscape work is rarely as simple as the plan. Most reputable landscape architects always include a 10% contingency to their estimated costs. Whether one encounters unforeseen problems, or the client would like to upgrade an aspect of their garden, it is always a good idea to include a financial buffer. Then there are times when a whole plan gets scrapped because of the level of unforeseen costs such as if you have to blast rock when you were expecting to be able to dig.
Landscape architects specialize in different landscape or design styles and price ranges. Therefore, peruse pictures of landscapes that a company has completed, and if they resonate with you, talk to them! Some designers tend to employ an Asian style, while others might adopt a more European style. There are also firms who are proficient in many styles. Some offices design up to three different plans for you, and you choose the one that suits you the best, while others employ a co-creative design process that enables you to become an integral part of the design team, potentially even designing the rough plan together with the client at the table, our preferred mode of operation here at Altgelt & Associates. Most companies also have a price niche; some execute a suitable quality of work for a very reasonable price, while others do extraordinary work for a higher price tag. If you are looking for an extraordinary garden, it is always worth spending the extra money on a qualified landscape architect! Your end product will show the difference both early on and especially into the future.
It is always useful if you are on a budget to list your priorities and clarify your program. This will include obvious basic needs such as preventing water from getting into the basement the next time it floods and a path to the front door, followed by the things you want, such as a water feature, fire pit, or more mature planting.
Your landscape architect should ask you a lot of questions such as if you have (or are considering having) children or pets or if you have allergies to bees or if your property is open to passing deer, bears, or mountain lions. The former will affect the design features, while the latter will affect plant selections.
A good landscape architect will also pay attention to microclimates around your property. A practiced landscape architect should easily be able to ascertain the most important considerations on the first visit. As example, placing a patio on the south side of a building with no shade trees would make it impossible for you to enjoy that space during the height of a summer’s day. Likewise, the way water is directed on your property is another large concern for a landscape architect and is one of the more important points for them to address.
You will notice that a well-designed garden feels good. This is in part accomplished by scaling everything correctly for the space in which it resides. The proportion of open space versus planting has a large effect on the way you feel. We hear many homeowners complain about a previous lack of consideration regarding the eventual size of the plant material! A good question to ask is, “how might this look in thirty years?” Though one might assume that all landscape architects are well versed in plant material, most only have an education in designing large parks and cityscapes, and not residential landscapes where the individual plants play such a vital role.
The key to a beautiful garden that meets or exceeds your expectations is to find someone who is qualified and whom you trust to make your dreams come true! Your garden will be a space that you will live with for a long time, and it is important that it inspires, uplifts and rejuvenates you!