Going through a landscape overhaul can be stressful. Even if you’re still researching potential landscapers, you’re probably already wondering whether you’ll get what you really want. You may be wondering if the end result will be worth the time and money – and how much time and money, exactly, will you need?
When you don’t know what to expect, the process can seem daunting. You may hardly even know where to start – there are so many things to think about!
Those feelings and concerns are exactly what a landscape design consultation is for. Your consultation is the first step in getting to the bottom of what you really want, walking you through what to expect, and showing you how your outdoor space can go from the ordinary yard that it is into the dream space you’ve always imagined.
These are some of the questions we ask during our landscape design consultations so we can design and build the perfect outdoor living space for each unique and individual person we work with. And they’re questions that you can start to think about as you prepare for your own landscape redesign.
1. What Are Your Interests?
You want your outdoor space to look great, but it’s more than just a pretty face! It should be a functional part of your lifestyle. After all, why spend time and money on an amazing landscape if you’re not going to get outdoors and enjoy it?
In designing your landscape, your outdoor interests and activities should come into play – not only how you use the space now, but how you’d *like* to use it, given the chance. You may not have a great patio for dining now, but if you’d love to have one, then it should be part of your master plan.
Do you enjoy certain backyard sports? They should be figured into the plan.
Do you entertain outdoors – or would you like to? What type of entertaining will it be? Small, intimate gatherings of a few friends, or big neighborhood bashes with lots cocktails? Will you need to prepare those cocktails outdoors? How about full meals?
Your answers will determine things like what kind of seating you’ll need, how the space can be best divided into useable areas, and whether you’ll be best served with an outdoor kitchen, running water, a wine refrigerator, or other amenities.
If you plan to cook, would you be better served with a stovetop, a wood burning fireplace, or perhaps a patio fire pit for toasting some marshmallows and hot dogs?
Do you love to swim, or wish you had a place to cool off during the dog days of summer? Do you get your exercise by doing laps or are you more of a “lounge on a float with an iced beverage” person?
The amount of space you have will affect what you can do, but with the right design, even the smallest of yards can accommodate a swimming pool if that’s important to you.
Even if your favorite outdoor activity is sitting on a lounger with a book, it’s important for your landscape designer to know so that your space can accommodate you.
2. Who Are Your Family Members?
You may have a pretty good idea of what you want in your outdoor space, but how about the rest of your family members? That includes the furry ones!
If you have children, it will be important to create a play area for them. The good news for you is that a play area doesn’t mean some beat-up part of the lawn. Play can be designed right into the aesthetic of your landscape, from natural sand boxes, to kid-friendly seating and climbing areas, and even designated spots for games and sports.
A pond can be a great child-friendly addition, too. From koi-gazing to swimming, kids can take advantage of the beauty a pond offers and use it to explore and learn about the world around them.
Do you have pets? What kind, and what sort of space will they need? Your dog may need a place to run, your bunny a hutch to sit in. If you have pets that roam freely in your yard, you’ll want to be careful to ensure that plants are non-toxic if Spot takes a nibble.
Your landscape designer will be able to work with your family dynamic to create an outdoor living space that has something for everyone.
3. What Existing Elements Will You Use Vs. Replace?
Just because you’re going through a major landscape design doesn’t mean your designer will raze everything to the ground and start over. There may be existing elements that you’d like to work with, and others worth preserving.
If you’ve got a great deck or patio, or already installed a pool that’s exactly what you want, there is good reason to want to keep those elements in place and incorporate them into your new plan.
Sometimes you may have a natural element that you’d like to (or have to!) work with. It could be a big, natural boulder or an old-growth tree. It could be a favorite plant, or protected woodland. All of those things can be included in your master plan just as they are.
Sometimes, you may want to consider moving something. Perhaps your favorite plant would do better if it were placed in a sunnier spot.
Other elements may simply need to be replaced. Old, battered fencing. A collapsing retaining wall. Even a pond that was never quite installed correctly and has done nothing but turn green every summer since you moved in.
Point out the things you want to keep and the things you want to replace and your landscape designer will be able to create your master plan to accommodate those needs.
4. What Are Your Outdoor Living Preferences?
Preferences go a step beyond interests to include other components that make up your overall outdoor lifestyle. For instance, if you plan to relax or entertain on your patio, would you like to include music when you do? And no, we don’t mean popping on some headphones, or putting a stereo speaker in a window so you can hear it outside, or even running an extension cord to a radio near the pool.
We mean music built right into your landscape – the kind you can turn up for special celebrations, or let emanate from flowerbeds as background melody during quieter times.
Your preferences also include décor and artwork. You’re not limited to garden gnomes. There’s a whole world of outdoor artwork, from sculptures and statues to columns, water bubblers, wall hangings, pillows, decorative lighting fixture and more.
How about a pond? Or a vegetable garden? You may not have originally thought about those things but they can add tremendously to your enjoyment.
Depending on how you imagine using your space, you may choose to include other features. If you’re planning to host pool parties, for example, you may consider a cabana or outdoor shower.
If you’re looking forward to watching movies or your favorite sports teams with friends, an outdoor TV and seating area would serve you well. You may even consider a full outdoor room – equipped with TV, sofas, ceiling fan and wet bar. In essence, everything in an indoor living room except the walls.
From lighting, to preferred colors, favorite flowers and activities, your preferences will help define the details of a space that will suit you perfectly.
5. What Practical Considerations Should Be Addressed?
Up until now, we’ve talked about the fun side of landscaping – everything your dreams and hopes are made of. Practical considerations are not nearly as much fun, but they are equally important to your enjoyment and use of your space.
For example, if you have allergies to specific types of plant materials, you certainly don’t want your landscape designer including a bed of them in your master plan!
Other practical considerations include the type of water system you have, whether it’s town water or septic. That will matter for irrigation, potential water restrictions, and even where certain elements can be built. Placing a patio smack on top of a septic tank will come back to haunt you on the day that you need to clean the tank out. Better to accommodate for that eventuality before the patio is built.
If you have trouble spots, like areas that are very wet or very shady, it’s better to work with them than to constantly try to fight them. It could be as simple as planting the right materials, or moving plantings into container gardens, or even turning those “no-grow” zones into beautiful hardscapes.
If you live in a community with by-laws, your designer will need to know what sort of restrictions there are.
If you have privacy or noise concerns, your landscaper can mitigate them with strategic design, by including things like bamboo screens or other barriers.
You may not be daydreaming about how to accommodate s septic tank or the best way to irrigate your new landscape, but taking these practical considerations into account up front means that you’ll be able to enjoy your new space without those nagging headaches popping up down the road.
All of these questions – and more! – will help your landscape designer get to know you and what you really want out of your outdoor space. They’ll be the foundation for a four-season landscape that you can enjoy as it changes throughout the year. You may learn things you didn’t even know, whether it’s how to turn an existing problem into an asset, or how a pond can be an incredible addition to your lifestyle.
If you’re thinking about a new landscape and want to explore what you want and need, get in touch with us for a consultation. We’re here to listen to your dreams, and find ways to make them all come true.