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Homeowners Guide: Planning a Successful Landscape Design

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Homeowners Guide: Planning a Successful Landscape Design

Homeowners Guide:

Planning a Successful Landscape Design

Planning is the most important part of a successful landscape design. Some of us have had to learn this lesson the hard way.

Succesful Landscape Design

I remember it like it was yesterday, my company was ¾ the way through a full scale hardscape and landscape project.

One of the biggest landscaping projects my company had ever undertaken.

It was set to be an award winning project.

What started as a $75k project had ballooned to double that in scale, the homeowner upgraded every facet of the landscape design; the best lighting fixtures, stainless steel irrigation heads, and lushest mature bushes shrubs.

My team was so excited to be part of creating this landscaping masterpiece.

But then, it all fell apart.

The feeling of excitement and accomplishment was soon to be replaced with disappointment. The homeowner informed us that they had run out of money,

Sadly, we had to wrap up the project short.

Long story short, we did return a year later to complete the landscaping job, but it ultimately cost the homeowner even more money to reopen the project and finish.

But, all of this pain could have been easily avoided, 

Use what I have learned to help you avoid the mistakes we made and here’s how….

When consulting with homeowners, 

I recommend at a minimum taking this 4 step approach when developing a landscape plan.

  1. Budget
  2. Design layout and Plan Drafting
  3. Contractor(s) Selection
  4. Job Completion, Maintain, Enjoy

1. Budget

Budgeting is critical to your project's success is proper budgeting, plain and simple.

A proper landscape design budget should balance what the project of your dreams looks like vs. what you can afford to do now. Those beautiful magazine and HGTV landscapes are very inspiring, but you can’t let them make you blind about what you can actually afford.

Don’t fret you can have the landscape design of your dreams with proper budgeting and planning. Large scale projects can be broken up into phases and installed over several years one phase at a time.

2. Landscape Design and Plan creation.

This is an important step that many homeowners skip, and it later comes back to haunt them.

It can end up costing more due to in-effectively run projects. You end up doing things twice, and ultimately not getting the finished project you envisioned.

My recommendation is if your project is over $20k, that an independent 3rd party Landscape Architect (LA) needs to be commissioned. The ASLA is a great source to locate Landscape Architects in your area.

When interviewing these professionals make sure they work on residential design-build projects as many only work on commercial projects. A good LA will require an investment of 5%-10% of the total project budget, however, this is money wisely invested. Especially if your project will require the creation of a master plan with multiple phases, executed over several years.

LA’s typically are more knowledgeable, creative, and will best incorporate many disciplines into one comprehensive landscape design plan. It is foolish to just call several landscapers and get “estimates” as you will get 5 different sets of opinions based on each landscapers “best guess”.

3. Contractor(s) Selection

Next, the most important step is selecting who you are going to partner with to install the project; and this can be extremely tricky to get right. It is very important to conduct your due diligence and interview contractors recommended to you by your LA, your neighbors or friends that have had similar work of similar scope completed, and quality landscape contractors you discover in the BBB or possibly observe working on similar projects.

Characteristics of a skilled contractor:

  • Can they execute ALL facets of the project IN HOUSE? Do they have the proper experience and track record to install the irrigation, the lighting, the ground prep, grading and dirt work? Anyone can dig holes for plants, but it takes a seasoned professional company to pull together all the different disciplines and resources to complete an extensive project. If not, you’ll be managing all the different contractors, i.e. the irrigation company, paver company, landscape installer, and grading contractor. This will be a nightmare. There are great companies out there that do it all, you just have to find and qualify them.
  • Next, vet your contractor: does he have the licenses, insurances, references etc. Talk to his recent landscape clients whom he has completed similar jobs for. If you get a majority of good feedback that’s a good sign, if you talk to a person who has negative feedback, take it into perspective, no contractor is able to please everyone.
  • Does he have a big enough team? If it’s just him and couple guys doing lawn care then probably not. Conversely, if you’re talking to an outfit with 200 men, then you’re probably not going to get quality personal service. My recommendation is to look for an operation with 20-50 men.

4. Job Completion, Maintain, Enjoy

If you follow this approach, you will substantially increase the chances that you’ll have a positive experience implementing your landscape design. The project will actually be fun! Upon nearing completion, of your new landscape make sure you have a solid game plan in place for how you are going to maintain your landscape investment. If your installing contractor offers ongoing landscape maintenance services that is naturally the option to lean towards. However, its my experience, that most solid landscape installation companies are not very good at ongoing landscaping maintenance. Make sure you vet that aspect of whoever you partner with, as landscape maintenance is a whole different animal altogether. 

Be prepared to invest the proper money needed per your installing contractor’s, landscape recommendations such as plants, pavers, irrigation systems, mulching, and lighting systems that will all need ongoing maintenance forever. There are some things you can do so maintain your new landscape design as well like trimming the hedges, like a pro.


  • Cheers!


About The Author


About The Author

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