HomeownerEducational: A-M



Importance of Planning

Landscaping is an integral part of a home’s beauty and can increase its value and functionality. However, composing the right landscape can be a complex process. Trained landscape architects can help clients craft a vision for their landscape by first identifying wants and needs. Some questions they might ask are: Will entertaining take place outside at the home? Is privacy a large concern? Are play areas needed? Is any upkeep or a water restriction an issue? What type of look is desired? The answers to these questions form the foundation for creating a beautiful and practical landscape. Landscapes are an integration of both hardscapes and softscapes. Hardscapes are permanent structures that require installation and construction, such as patios and retaining walls. Softscapes are the natural components, like plants and trees.

Hardscape Components

Areas for entertaining. Decks and patios are great for entertaining and for simply enjoying the time spent outdoors. Typically, they are positioned adjacent to the house to allow easy access. If a house is built on a hill, terraces provide a creative way to turn an unusable slope into a series of beautiful steps or step gardens. Terracing can be accomplished with natural or manufactured stone retaining walls and may incorporate patios, seating areas, and other spaces to enjoy the outdoors.

Features. Landscape designs now commonly incorporate one or more water features as a pleasing focal point. Ponds, waterfalls, and fountains are designed to enhance a garden or entertainment space. Ponds can incorporate bridges, fountains, and a variety of aquatic life. Boulders can be used to anchor a lawn or garden, and smaller rocks are popularly used to edge planting beds and create walkways. Features like water and stone elements will add a striking texture and dimension to any landscape design.

Lighting. Lighting is an integral part of landscaping. Lighting can create an elegant nighttime atmosphere and can draw attention to particular aspects of both the landscape and the home. Moreover, homeowners who plan to do a lot of outdoor entertaining should make sure that their lighting design is adequate for evening events. Lighting also serves to make walkways and steps safer.

Outdoor Fireplaces

An outdoor fireplace enables the homeowner to enjoy the yard even in the cooler months of the year. Fire features can be custom built or premanufactured. A custom-built fireplace can be specifically tailored to suit the homeowner’s vision.

Fire pits. Fire pits are contained areas used to build an open fire. With wood- or gas-burning options, fire pits can be either built-in or portable, and they can be finished in a variety of materials, most commonly concrete, stone, or brick. With no side enclosures, a fire in a fire pit can be enjoyed from any angle.

Fireplaces. More substantial than a fire pit, there is the option of a full-scale fireplace with a hearth and chimney. Such a fireplace can give an outdoor entertaining area the coziness of an indoor living space. As a sturdy, permanent feature, outdoor fireplaces are usually constructed from masonry elements and finished in brick, tile, stone, or concrete.

Softscape Components

Climate, type of soil, amount of light, drought frequency, and water restrictions are all considerations when planning softscapes. A professional landscaper will know what to grow and where to grow it in order to suit the needs of the project.

Grass. If children live in or frequent the home, at least a portion of the yard should be grass. There are several varieties available, and some grasses are hardier than others. Certain grasses flourish in particular climates; consult with a landscaper when choosing which grass or mixture of grasses would work best for your property.

Trees, shrubs, and flowers. Combinations of a variety of trees and shrubs will create a visually pleasing scene characterized by contrasts of texture and scale. Flowers can add seasonal color to the landscape, and many homeowners will want to incorporate both perennials and annuals into the garden design. In addition to selecting trees and plants whose appearances you like, consider choosing species native to the area; they are typically easier to care for because they have adapted to the particular soil and climate.

Vegetable and herb gardens. Edible gardens are economical and practical, but they can also be visually appealing. Always plant edible gardens in areas receiving a lot of sunlight. Consulting with professional landscapers for the specific needs of your plants will help to ensure that the garden thrives.

Mulch and ground covers. For unused sections of the yard, easy-care options like mulch and native ground covers may be preferred over grass. Mulch helps the soil around plants and trees retain moisture, and it also provides nutrients to them and inhibits weed growth. Because organic mulch will decompose, it typically needs to be replenished once a year. Both pine straw and shredded hardwood make excellent mulch. Native plants that work well as ground covers include a variety of ferns, low-lying shrubbery, and wildflowers, among many others.

Drought Resistance

With ever-increasing demands on water, homeowners should consider drought-resistant measures when planning their landscape. Water restrictions are a fact of the present and likely the future. Some plants require more water than others and may fail if not watered regularly. A landscaper should strive to match the softscape components to the level of watering and maintenance that the homeowner can provide.

Landscaping Firms

References. Any reputable landscaping company will be happy to provide you with references, which are key for evaluating the suitability of a particular contractor for your project. Additionally, you might want to look at some of a landscaper’s jobs in person. Ask to see completed projects as well as works in progress.

Designs. Get a fully detailed design before starting construction to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Once the details of the project are finalized, the designer should give both you and the foreman or project supervisor a plan or drawing of the project.

Contracts. Be sure to sign a contract with the landscaping company before any work begins. You should also make sure that the scope of work described in the contract matches the drawings you received from the designer. Typically, you will need to provide an average down payment of 30 to 50 percent prior to the start of the project.