The Landscape Design Process
Questions to Ask Yourself
• What challenges does your site present?
• What opportunities does your site present?
• How will you be using your outdoor living space?
• Do you have important factors that present safety concerns in your landscape?
• What’s your budget for designing your landscape project?
• What’s your budget for maintaining it?
We can help you work through these questions and create a design that’s tailored to your answers.
A Complete Walk Through
After some deep thinking and answering all the important questions, the first step in the landscape design process is a complete walk through of the landscape site. The walk through should not only take an aesthetic perspective it should also be a thorough analysis of your site’s strengths and weaknesses, including soil condition, sun and shade, hills and slopes, The analysis will help your designer create a design plan that complements your home and your personal style. It will also help dictate steps that need to be taken before installation to ensure a healthy, successful landscape. This walk through is also where you’ll talk about budgeting, scope and phases and timelines. You should always have a rough project budget in mind. You never know what a professional can help you accomplish, even with limited resources to spend on it.
Gather landscaping inspiration from books, magazines or Pinterest and share them with your designer. Every little bit helps and could communicate volumes to your designer. Once you and your designer have talked through your ideas, he or she will return to their office to begin drawing up a preliminary design for your new landscape. Whether your designer presents you with old-fashioned paper drawings or a realistic 3-D modeling program, these should give you a good idea of what your outdoor space will look like when installation is complete.
The Landscape Construction Process
The plants you select to fill out your beds and your containers will be what literally brings your landscape to life. Aesthetics are important, it’s even more important to choose plants that work in your climate. Your home’s location — as well as the degree of sun and shade, and soil moisture and drainage, are all crucial considerations if you want plant life that will thrive long-term. Maintenance is also an important factor to consider when choosing plants. Your landscape designer is a wealth of knowledge and will be able to help you select plants based on their color, growth habit, water and sun needs, and care requirements.
Hardscaping is any design element that isn’t a plant. And unlike plants, as long as you’re willing to maintain them regularly, you’re really not as limited by environmental factors when choosing them. Here are a few hardscaping elements you might consider.
• Patios: Whether you choose a patio with brick pavers, natural stone, this is where you’ll spend much of your time in your landscape. A patio is the common denominator for many homeowners’ outdoor landscape entertainment area.
• Decks: If you have a multi-story house and love the feel of wood under your feet, a deck may be a perfect addition to your outdoor living space. Decks are constructed from treated wood or composite materials or even plastic.
• Paths and walkways: If your landscape has several elements, you may want to consider a walkway to connect them. Paths not only provide a developed way from one area to another; they’re also another opportunity to get creative with hardscape materials, plants and even landscape lighting.
• Walls: Walls made from natural stone, brick, rustic river rock and other materials can create visual separation among different areas of your landscape, as well as offer seating.
• Fireplaces and fire pits: Create a cozy place to relax when the sun goes down, or add warmth to your landscape even after prime outdoor season is over. Whether you install a built-in outdoor fireplace or fire pit, fire features can be a beautiful addition to the landscape.
• Driveways: Don’t forget the front yard! A beautiful driveway or front walkway can exponentially increase your curb appeal and offer a warm welcome to visitors. Driveways are a perfect opportunity to create a cohesive, coordinated look between your landscape and your home’s architecture.
All homeowners hope for enough rainfall to keep their landscapes healthy each season, but no matter how much moisture your area gets, it’s important to ensure proper drainage to divert water to the right places and keep your plants and outdoor living spaces in good condition. If you’ve noticed puddles throughout your property or areas of streaming water during storms, that may be a sign of a drainage problem. But a professional assessment of your drainage is the best way to know for sure. Once you’ve determined where your site’s drainage issues are, there are many ways to address them. Here are a few:
• Grading: On an improperly graded site — a problem that stems from initial construction — water runs every which way (except for the right way). A landscape professional can alter your landscape in a way that encourages water to run in the correct direction.
• Dry creeks: Dry creeks are a lovely addition to many properties with drainage problems. Usually shallow trenches lined with small stones, dry creeks divert water in the right direction while adding a beautiful natural element to the landscape.
• Trench drains and French drains: Both trench and French drains are subtle, structural ways to correct drainage problems. Whether you’re looking to protect a heavily paved area or keep your basement from flooding, there’s a drainage solution available for any property.
What good is a beautiful outdoor living space if you can only see and enjoy it for a few hours out of the day? You can design landscape lighting to highlight areas of visual interest after the sun goes down, but it’s also a great way to keep your home safe from intruders at night. As with many landscaping features, things have really changed and become more beautiful. No longer are homeowners relegated to flood lights that cast a wide glare over the entire backyard! A landscape design professional can help you create a lighting system that transforms your outdoor living space into something truly special once the sun goes down.
• Patio lighting: If you’ve made a big investment in a beautiful patio where you and your family spend a lot of time, it makes sense to illuminate it by night, too! Whether you’re creating a space to dine and enjoy company after sundown, or illuminating landscaping elements with night blooms or glowing, silvery foliage, a lighting professional can help you create a plan that highlights your landscape’s most beautiful elements by night.
• Pool lighting: If you have a backyard swimming pool, you’ll want to be able to enjoy that investment as often as possible. Standard lighting within your pool’s walls is just the beginning!
• Walkway lighting: If you’re creating a series of outdoor “rooms,” you may want to add lighting that connects them for safe passage once it gets dark. Walkway lighting can also create a soft, magical view from your back door of a constellation of landscape elements.
• Security lighting: Whether you live in a city, cluster of suburban homes or the middle of the countryside, keeping your family safe is always a primary concern. Motion-sensor and other security lighting, combined with fencing and other precautions, is a great way to keep intruders at bay. Lighting can even be controlled in a number of ways now, whether you want solar lights, manually operated illumination or a full-featured lighting system operated from a single control panel.
Caring For Your Landscape
After making a significant investment in designing and installing your new landscape, the next logical step is creating a plan to care for it so your investment is one that lasts long into the future. What will that landscape care plan look like? It’s different for every homeowner: Some are DIY types who love spending every moment of free time in the yard, dirt on their hands. (We love those types!) Then there are homeowners who want a beautiful home but don’t necessarily want to work to keep it beautiful themselves. (We love them, too.) And, of course, there’s everything in between. To figure out what type of homeowner you are, there are definitely some questions you should ask yourself about maintenance before you even start planning your new landscape:
• Are you looking for a low-maintenance landscape or one that requires significant care?
• How manicured will you want your turf and plantings to look?
• How much time are you willing to spend on maintenance?
• Are you prepared for the care required to transition your landscape between seasons?
• Will you be able to do it all yourself — or will you need to hire some help? Once you’ve answered those questions, take a look at some of the different types of landscape care you might need to consider.
Lawn care begins with selecting the right type of turf grass for your climate and environment, watering it properly and mowing it to the appropriate height for the season. Comprehensive turf care also means applying fertilizer and pest control when needed, and taking preventive steps to manage disease and other turf conditions. If you run into problems like thatch or brown spots, you may need to consider aeration and over seeding to keep your lawn growing well and looking lush.
Tree and Shrub Care
Taking care of your trees and shrubs involves not only watering them regularly, but also monitoring them for pests and diseases — and treating them when necessary, of course. Seasonal pruning is also important, not just for aesthetics but for your plants’ overall health. If your trees and shrubs are losing color, dropping leaves or shedding bark, you may have a problem. A professional can often diagnose the issue with a single glance; others may require a soil sample or more thorough investigation.
Maintaining Your Hardscapes
Many hardscaping materials used in landscapes today are more durable and weather resistant than ever, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require regular maintenance to keep them in beautiful condition. Depending on the type of material you choose, your hardscape maintenance will vary.
• Decks: These wooden (or wood-like) structures are usually made with treated woods or composites that resist swelling and cracking, but you may need to scrub, sand or re-stain a deck periodically to keep it looking new.
• Patios: Time can be hard on a patio, whether you’ve chosen natural stone, brick pavers or another material to pave it. Erosion and shifting, weeds that grow between pavers, mold and mildew, and fading and discoloration from the sun are among the problems you might run into. Regular sealing can keep all these issues at bay.
There are a lot of steps in the landscape planning process. Preparing for and executing your landscape’s design, installation and maintenance are huge undertakings, but you’ll come away with a landscape you can enjoy for years to come — and an addition to your home that could offer a considerable boost to your property value, too. There may be several aspects of planning your landscape that you can handle on your own. But if you need a professional to help guide you through any part of this often lengthy process, consider giving the landscaping professionals at Noble Garden Design a call. Our experienced designer John Noble and crews can help you at any point in your landscape’s design, installation or maintenance. We’ll work with your tastes — and within your budget — to create and care for the landscape that’s 100 percent tailored to you and your family’s needs.