Welcome back to Landscape 101 and a continued discussion of the thought process and design principles that are used to create an attractive landscape. This is the final article in the series, so I am going to begin with a brief review.
In the first article, we showed how your ideas about what you want are the starting point of design. Some example statements are “I want my yard to invite me out into it,” or “I love color,” or “I want to feel surrounded by the landscape,” or “I want to see green and color but open space and order.” These are quotes from past clients, and to me they describe a design, plant selection, placement and a hint at a theme.
Next, we took three editions to examine what a theme is and why it is important to design. Some example themes are Tropical, Mediterranean, Tuscan, and Asian. A theme gives the landscape a particular feeling, or mood. Theme is also used to narrow plant selection.
In today’s article, I am going to explore how your descriptions translate into a theme and how we move toward a specific design. If a client says, “I want something Zen,” I would lean immediately to an Asian theme. However, statements like, “I love color,” could find expression in many different themes. So to help my clients determine which theme they want color to be expressed through, I take them through our portfolio. This way, I am able to show what different themes might look like and explain how some themes lend themselves better to their comments. If you look at the many different themes in the slide show on our website, you will understand how the portfolio review gives clients an opportunity to talk very specifi cally about what they like or don’t like. Usually by the time we’ve finished looking at the book together, the client’s choice of theme is fairly clear. The portfolio is also used to spark ideas for the landscape. Think of it as a landscape catalog that not only shows different plant themes, but also different water features, hardscapes, retaining walls, etc. It helps you decide what features you want included in your design.
As important as it is to choose a theme and to think about desired features, any serious discussion about design must also include a discussion of budget. Here again, the portfolio is especially useful. I am able to use it to show what I call Volkswagen, Chevy and Mercedes landscapes and describe the differences. The distinctions are not a judgment, just a practical way to talk about expenditures. By describing landscapes in this manner, it makes it possible to effectively discuss cost, and what might be considered a later phase. For example, if there is a desire to have a water feature but it puts the job over budget, we can pre-plumb for it and add the water feature in phase two.
Going through this whole process together gives me a thorough understanding of the client’s desires and expectations. When I understand the “all” of the job, I am able to give the client a rough estimate of cost. Nothing disappoints a client more than being presented with a design that is not affordable, so I always make sure that a budget is agreed upon before I begin the actual design. My rough numbers are confirmed when I have run all the labor and material costs. These final numbers are presented to you with the completed design.
Through Landscape 101, I have walked you through my fi rst meeting with a client, including the things I listen for and the basic decisions you will make. Thank you for going through the process with me. If there are subjects that you would like me to cover in future articles, please contact me through our website. If you leave a voice message, please call me back if I do not respond within two days. I cannot always understand the messages. Blessings, – Arthur