Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why Hire a Landscape Designer?

I have often wrestled with the issue of designing my yard. I am a determined do-it-myselfer, and impoverished artist to boot, but some emerging wisdom tells me to give it up. I just want to jack up that vine maple and drive in a new low-maintenance-well-drained-fragrant-year-round-interest-shade-and-sun-tolerant-flowering-edible landscape underneath. There are so many variables: height, width, color, water and sun requirements, just to name a few. And then there is time! Bloom time, grow time, harvest time, maintenance time. Yeesh!

Hiring a landscape designer seemed intimidating too, at least until I talked to a few and did some homework. Here is what I found out:
  • Many designers have a whole range of services, from just an hour of advice, to a master plan to be completed over time, to an all-inclusive installation with plants and decks and retaining walls and art, all to meet your budget and timeframe.
  • A designer will choose the best plants (out of the thousands that happily grow here) for your site and lifestyle.
  • A well-planned landscape is easier to care for in so many ways: plants with similar requirements are grouped together, ultimate plant size is considered, messy or invasive plants avoided, etc.
  • A good design will enhance property values and livability.
  • There are many great designers in the area so you can easily pick one to match your aspirations and personality.
  • The cost of a design can vary widely. Some designers charge by the hour (mostly for consultations), but most charge by the job. The cost will depend upon the size and scope of the project, and could be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Be sure to ask the designer for a quote.
  • A professional landscape design can add 20 percent to the value of your property (rivaling the return on a new kitchen or bath) and save up to 25 percent in heating and cooling costs with a well-placed tree or three.

Still think you want to do it yourself? There is always the ten-square-foot model of garden renovation: only focus on revitalizing one finite area at a time. You can do a couple of spots a year and feel good about accomplishing something. But then you could wind up with a disorganized feel and there is usually so much more to consider! Lighting and irrigation and pathways – oh my! Suddenly I am out of my ten-square-foot comfort zone. As if those things weren’t enough to put me right over the edge, Roger Miller of Homescaper Design created this handy inspiration for hiring a designer. For even more details, download Roger’s informative brochure.

Design and landscaping installation process, by Roger Miller (from

  • Provide protective fencing for plant materials that are to remain in the garden.
  • Clear site and dispose of unwanted hardscapes and plant materials.
  • Excavate and grade the site.
  • Install drainage pipe if required.
  • Layout planting beds and hardscapes.
  • Install irrigation sleeves (if necessary) below driveways, walkways, patios, etc.
  • Install hardscapes.
  • Install irrigation system: trench, layout pipes, install valves and backflow devices, install risers, test the system, backfill trenches.
  • Improve the soil as required.
  • Install plant material: start at the furthest point from the front of the house, begin with largest material (trees and large shrubs).
  • Final grade.
  • Install sod or seed lawn.
  • Complete installation of irrigation system: install and adjust heads, program controller.
If you ask me, doing it right involves entirely too much digging and hauling (and the associated pleading with the ex-husband to borrow his truck). Two websites give lists of qualified landscape designers: the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. I’m headed there now!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for discussing this. I am a do it yourselfer, and even a master gardener, but I have hired a landscape designer from, and am very very happy to have an expert on my side. i don't buy random plants any more -- i consult my PLAN, that she made me.

    thanks thanks thanks for this.