The Making of Your Landscape Design

Clients often wonder what exactly is involved in the process of creating a landscape design. What does the designer have to do to go from nothing to a completed plan?

Landscape designs are a critical part of a successful landscaping project. However, it’s not necessarily easy to make one. A lot of time, skill, and effort goes into the creation of a landscape design.

To give you an idea of what’s involved, let’s take a look at the design process at Greener Environments…

Step 1: Education & Experience

The first step happens over the course of years, long before you even meet with the designer and continues on after you project is completed. This is the education, experience, artistry, practice, and dedication to the craft that is part of the designer’s journey towards mastery. This is why you hired someone in the first place, and it’s why the designer’s opinions, ideas, and suggestions must be given your full consideration.

Step 2: Design Meeting

The design meeting is where your particular design begins. At this meeting, the goal is to get a sense of what your objectives are for your new landscaping. The designer asks specific questions that are meant to draw out your ideas, preferences, and details on site conditions. This is also typically the time where measurements and photos are taken, which will help the designer lay out the landscape plan.

Step 3: Layout & Modeling

The next step can be quite labor intensive. It’s the initial layout and modeling of the site. The designer needs to create an accurate representation of the landscape area, house, other outbuildings, and any other existing aspects of the site. The designs created by Greener Environments are produced using a CAD (Computer Assisted Drawing) program for the overhead plan, and Sketchup, a 3-D modeling program, for the perspective views.

Preparing the initial layout takes time, a lot of patience, and skill. Line by line, your property is mapped out and modeled. From a blank screen comes the framework for your new landscape.

Step 4: Topography

After the layout is complete, it’s time to prepare the topography. This includes the existing topography, as well as any changes that will be made to it. Graded areas, berms, swales, and slopes are added to the design. This determines what the land itself will look like when the landscape is finished. It is also the first step in addressing drainage issues or any changes that must be made to incorporate patios, walkways, or retaining walls.

Step 5: Hardscape Design

Next, any hardscapes that will be part of the new landscape are designed. The shape, size, material, and direction are carefully planned to work with existing elements of the landscape, be functional, and be aesthetically pleasing. Patios, walkways, and retaining walls are typically focal points within the landscape, and are thus designed prior to plantings. This allows the plantings to accentuate the hard surfaces.

Step 6: Planting Design

After the hardscape design comes the planting design. Plants are carefully chosen for water efficiency, shape, size, texture, and color. Plants are also typically selected according to a geographic theme, such as California Natives. They are arranged to flow naturally and work with any hardscapes. They are positioned and spaced to allow for mature size. Client preferences are incorporated as the designer works to determine a plant palate that will produce a cohesive landscape.

Planting design is critical. This is one of those areas where your designer’s experience is very useful. The designer will have an extensive knowledge of plants, including different varietals, characteristics, maintenance and water needs, sizing, and soil requirements. They will know which plants look good together, which plants clash, and how to use the plants to produce particular visual effects within the landscape.

Step 7: Labeling

With the plants in place, the designer must now begin labeling. Plants and other landscape features are accounted for and notated on the design. Any specifications the designer chooses to include are inserted into the title block on the overhead plan.

Step 8: Packaging

After labeling is complete, the design needs to be packaged for delivery. Perspective views of the 3-D model are made, a video walkthrough of the model is produced, and the finishing touches are put on the overhead plan to prepare it for presentation.

At this point, with the plan complete, the designer works with the project manager to prepare a proposal with the scope of work and installation costs. Plants are counted, materials are priced, production rates are added for labor, and all aspects of the job are accounted for in order to produce accurate parameters and pricing for the work to be done.

Step 9: Design Review

The design is delivered either electronically or in person. At this point you can review the design and give constructive feedback. In some cases, the initial design captures the client’s wishes perfectly, other times minor adjustments need to be made, and sometimes the design misses the mark entirely. It’s important in this stage to give the designer feedback on what you like and do not like about the design. Remember, the designer’s experience is your asset, discuss with them the reasoning behind particular choices that were made. They may have insight that you had not considered.

Step 10: Revisions and/or Approval

At this stage, the designer will work with you to incorporate any changes that you would like to be made. They will continue to work with you by sending new ideas and concepts. The design will continue to be fine-tuned until you give final approval. This is exciting, your new landscape is now fully designed! Now you can look at it and imagine yourself relaxing on your new patio, or dream about the Salvia blooming in the spring!

Step 11: Proposal

After the final design is approved, a proposal will be delivered that includes all specifications for the installation as well as the final cost. If a proposal was sent with the initial design and changes were made, it will be edited to match the new scope of work. With the completed design and proposal in hand, the design phase of your landscaping project is now complete!

Summary

The landscape design process contains many other small details along the way – calling around for plant availability, calculating material requirements, and subsequent site visits – to name a few. Designs can vary greatly in their difficulty and time investment, but the basic steps remain the same. We hope this gives you an idea of what goes into creating a design. If you have any questions about hiring us for your landscape design, don’t hesitate to contact us.