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Give Your Yard A Face-Lift
Why the time is now to invest in your landscaping needs and wants


March 2018

Last year I visited the local garden center and bought everything I thought I needed to turn my backyard into a flowering paradise. And, just like every year since I’ve owned a home, the result didn’t quite live up to my expectations. My backyard will once again need a face-lift, but where to begin?

Laurie Lamm McGraw of Lammscapes says I’m not alone. “We hear that (story) from people all the time,” she adds. “To help, we first need to establish the customer’s level of commitment. We have the DIY person who just needs some help with the overall design. For them, we recommend that they bring in some pictures and measurements, and we’ll make some quick design sketches and help them pick out the plants and accessories that they then install. For people who would like a more detailed (approach), we send a designer out to take measurements and pictures and then put together a proposal. They can then purchase a design drawn to scale with a 3-D computer landscape design (program) and do it themselves, or we can do it all, from start to finish. It really depends on the customer.”

Jeff Hershberger, a landscape architect with David J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc., says the first step is to set up a simple Q&A session with the client. “The idea is to find out the customer’s likes and dislikes,” he explains. “Color preference? Formal or informal? Straight lines or curvilinear? Traditional or contemporary? Plant material likes and dislikes? Level of maintenance they are willing to assume?”

Understanding these components is key to delivering the right design for that individual. “After this (Q&A session), we do a site analysis to find out what could stay, what needs to be removed, and how it will all tie into the existing style of the home and surrounding areas. We also look at available light or shade. Once these are determined, we can start incorporating the client’s wishes and putting a plan together.”

“I’d start by asking several open-ended questions, with the goal of understanding exactly why they are currently disappointed,” says Andrew Herndon, a landscape designer at LandCrafters Inc. “For example, many clients are not satisfied with the size and quality of their existing entertaining space. The space lacks the charisma and charm of themselves and their home. By carefully choosing materials and developing shapes that reflect the client’s personality and their home’s quality, we take the intangible and make it a reality.”

“Before we can begin, we need to establish a budget,” notes Gary Urban of Hawks Landscape Inc. “This is often a very hard question for clients — one they don’t like to answer. But the design of the space, to some degree, is dictated by how much a client is willing to invest. Once we know what the client is looking for, we can begin putting rough numbers together for their wish list. This is a good way to narrow down what they really want and what they want to spend. Clients often underestimate what quality landscaping really costs; it is an investment in their home. This process really helps everyone get on the same page.”

The good news, I assume, is that we still have plenty of time, right? “Wrong,” says McGraw. “Winter is probably the best time for planning and designing. It is not as busy, so designers have more time to help make plans and get materials ready so they can start as soon as the weather breaks. Taking time to plan properly and get things ready will help you enjoy your garden this summer.”

Hershberger says the sooner you start, the better. “Waiting until spring to start the planning process will likely push your project to mid- to late summer,” he adds.

“Don’t wait,” encourages Herndon. “I think of it like a new year’s resolution to dress better and be more stylish. If you have been continually dissatisfied with your look and how that reflects on who you are, making a change cannot happen soon enough. The same is true for your landscape.” 

This story ran in the March 2018  issue of: