Spring is here, are you looking to make your landscape dreams come true?
Ready to get started on a long awaited landscape project? Having just completed a large terrace makeover last fall, I’ve got the inside scoop on getting what you want when it comes to landscape projects. Let me be your guinea pig, here is how to achieve a successful home landscape project.
Start with research, the fun kind, open your mind to the possibilities of what will give you landscape nirvana at your home.
- scour Pinterest boards and create your own dream landscape idea board
- rip pages out of landscape and gardening magazines
- visit home & garden shows and local garden centers
- record HGTV landscape episodes
- take pictures of landscape ideas on vacation
- collect recommendations for landscape contractors
Next, narrow your finds down to exactly what you want for the project. Also be extremely clear on what you do not want. You don’t need to know anything about landscaping or design but you need to know what you like, don’t like and how you intend to use the space, this makes contractors happy.
Select a landscape contractor who you connect with and listens. This is more about comfort level for working together and your confidence they can achieve what you are looking for. It may take some time, not to scare you but it actually took us a few years and lots of interviews to find the contractor who was willing to listen and not do the same old thing they’ve always done at every other home in the neighborhood.
Money matters, on your initial interviews you’ll inform potential contractors of your budget (which is the same regardless of the design – you only have so much to spend), they’ll let you know if you are out of line and you’ll learn if they can work within your budget.
Do not gather a bunch of bids or design ideas from various contractors. This is only a waste of everyone’s time. Soliciting landscape design ideas as a basis for making a decision is kinda sleazy, unless you agree to pay each one for their design time regardless of whether or not they are hired. It isn’t about what they would do with the space it is about what you want to achieve.
After finding right landscaper for you, this is when to get the landscaper’s design acumen involved. Together you spend the time to reach an agreement on a design, materials, plantings and budget. Have him or her give you a detailed estimate and approximate timeline. Do this early in the season if possible, landscapers only have so many projects they can take on and weather can always be a unknown factor.
Clearly articulate your expectations, from workdays to job-site appearance, access to a toilet, trash, etc. Little items like this can send a project south fast if the expectations aren’t managed from day one. Agree on a start date and weather permitting, a possible end date, especially if you have a deadline. You do not want a contractor spending one day a week on your job, two on some other job, continuously going back and forth or your project will take weeks longer than necessary. You want them to get in, stay focused and get out. Specify you do not want workdays where your project is idle, unless the weather is bad.
Click on photo to enlarge slide show.
Visit the site each day and have an open mind to change. Once the ground is dug up and the layout is marked on the ground, stand there, think about how you are going to use the space, what you want to see. Ask questions or offer suggestions if you realize something needs to be added or changed or just doesn’t feel right. One day I looked at where the footings were going to be for the Ipe deck, and it appeared crooked. The measurements and angles were correct, but when viewed from the living room above, where we would see this every day, it looked off. To make it right, the deck had to be made a little differently. Changes after the fact are much more costly than before something is completed.
Finally, manage your expectations. Understand when materials or products arrive damaged, it happens, no need to complain or blame. A good contractor has the same expectations you do, a successful landscape project and a happy customer. They will do everything in their power to achieve this result.
Part of managing your expectations is accepting the project is going to cost more than you planned. It just does. Changes occur as the project progresses, you add plants, change a spigot location, add a walkway, all of this is normal. Little items add up, in our case to the tune of about 25% more, all of it entirely due to changes we made along the way. Anticipating a 20-25% increase is typical.
Consider this your personal cheat sheet to achieving the landscape of your dreams.