Creating Your Design: Lay out a rough overview of your project responding to your answers to the questions below. Begin with a practical layout of pathways, beds, lawn areas and terraces and then develop your planting themes. Aside from aesthetics group plants with similar needs together for easier maintenance. At this point I suggest naming and spacing only a few of the larger plants, leaving details until structural elements are built and it is easier to visualize the plants you want.
Key Questions to Answer Before Beginning:
- How much do I want to spend over time in my landscape installation? How does that break down into yearly cash flow until complete?
- How many hours per week do I want to spend maintaining my landscape once complete (count on spending triple that for the first two years unless you mulch well for weeds and have an irrigation system).
- What are the practical and aesthetic site problems I want my landscape to resolve?
- Are there deer or rabbits in my neighborhood and what measures will I take to prevent plant damage? (see the article on preventing damage from Deer, Rabbits and Slugs)
- How do I plan to use my site? Make a list of the functional things such as compost, garbage area, parking (how many cars?) as well as the recreational activities you want to engage in.
- Where is my septic system and what can I do to preserve or enhance its function (stop by the web page for the article on landscaping over septic systems).
- What are my growing conditions in terms of light, wind, drainage, soil nutrients/ pH and winter low temperature?
Managing Cash Flow: For most of us creating an exceptional landscape depends on successfully breaking it down into bite size pieces corresponding to our cash flow. Below are a few guidelines for doing this:
- On new construction integrating landscaping into a low interest mortgage loan is often more economic and less frustrating than breaking things up and drawing the project out for several years.
- Divide the project into planting and hardscaping costs. Doing the hardscape first and sowing beds with wildflowers until you are ready for your permanent plantings is a great way to break the project up.
- If dividing the hardscape you can do so by area, priority or efficiency. I suggest this is one area a landscaper could provide you with helpful advice.
Saving Money with Professional Help: People without gardening experience will usually spend more money over time redoing things than by hiring a professional designer and doing things right the first time. For those wanting to participate in the creation of your garden work with a landscaper/designer to develop your plan and break the project down practically into pieces you can do. Let them help you locate materials and help install areas of the landscape as needed.
New Construction: You can create a more functional home and save by integrating landscaping with the construction process. As your house is being built there are several decisions affecting your landscape cost and function. These include clearing, house and drive location, placement of propane and septic tank, utility depths and grading. Developing a rough landscape plan in conjunction with the house plan will help you and your builder. Hold a preconstruction meeting between builder/ architect, site contractor, owner and landscape designer before any work begins to develop a joint site action plan.