When I first started taking design classes as an undergrad in Landscape Architecture I was fascinated and surprised by the somewhat formal process of design work. I imagine that as a client (especially if hiring a designer for the first time) the whole notion of design work could seem really ambiguous. What do designers really do? What will I get when the design is finished? What do I do after it’s done?
The design process is really fun. Ideally, it starts with a phone call. I like to speak with new clients on the phone to see what their project entails and discuss what my qualifications are. This gives both of us the chance to understand how my services might align with their needs. Some clients have smaller budgets and are looking for one or two hours of consult time for me to go on site and make suggestions on how to approach a yard renovation, rough out a quick concept, and suggest plants that will work for the site conditions and soil, and how I might go about arranging them. I suggest what ways to reuse existing materials, or what will achieve the most return on investment, maximizing curb appeal. I advise on irrigation, landscape materials, the going rates of labor, what can be done well DIY and what makes sense to have hired out. I have never had a client feel that a consultation hour wasn’t worth it. Usually clients walk away with several ideas they wouldn’t not have come up with otherwise.
1.) making planting areas to shallow or not deep enough)
2.) not looking at the yard as a whole
3.) using too many different materials
4.) not understanding irrigation
5.) buying what is in bloom now
6.) not treating soil as a priority
7.) too many chotchkees
8.) not thinking big enough
and the Other clients that are looking to invest thousands of dollars on a front or backyard may want a more precise plan or multiple concepts. The goal in every case is to deliver the right amount of help that dI measure the yard to scale, draw a base map, make notes on views, sun and shade patterns, existing structures and neighboring yards.
How a designer can help a client with a small budget:
1.) I like to come on site and tell them what I see (I make suggestions on what will achieve the most positive impact given their budget constraints, guide clients toward what work they can accomplish for their budget, materials that will work,
While I can’t speak for other designers on this topic, I can definitely speak for how I approach designing landscapes and gardens and why I think design work is important.
Not hiring a designer is at the very least a missed opportunity. When you are considering investing in landscape work (even if its DIY and on a minimal budget) having a good designer to consult with will almost always give you a better end result and can save you money.