As a homeowner, we know you want your landscaping to look gorgeous and inviting to the people who visit your home, and for your own comfort and relaxation. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals 67% of people agree that professional landscaping help would allow them to have a nicer yard.
But it can be a daunting project to undertake, and especially here in Southwest Florida for two reasons. First of all, the weather here can make doing it yourself so uncomfortable due to our heat and humidity. Secondly, if you’ve moved here from pretty much any of the states North of Florida, chances are good, you are not even familiar with the plants we use most in landscaping. That’s because our weather and our soil are pretty unique here. We already covered a great deal about that uniqueness in last month’s blog post, so you already know why you should hire a professional landscaper for the job. But how do you decide which landscape design and which landscape designer best fits your needs? First, we will look at some prep work you need to do on your own before you ever even call a us to interview us. (Yes you should interview several designers before hiring anyone! And we are telling you that, because although we are great designers, we may not be what you need.) Next month, we’ll look at interview questions to ask as well.
It is imperative that you do some prep work before you even start searching the Web for the perfect landscape designer.
Step 1: Know what you want—Your first step should be to figure out what your own expectations are, and what you want in your landscape design. Do you want to be able to cut fresh flowers every day? Are you looking for drought resistant plants? Do you live near the beach and so must have salt-hearty plants? Do you want anything special like hardscapes such as water features, or tiered gardens with rock walls between them? Are you planning to maintain the garden once it’s been established and so want easy to care for plants? Or are you planning on purchasing a maintenance plan in order to have the kinds of specialty plants that wow the neighbors? Drive around your town and take pictures of the landscaped homes you love, or even the plants you are attracted to. Do some internet research on plants that do well in SWFL. Look at landscape design by Googling images on the Web, and perhaps picking up magazines on gardening. Pay attention to where the sun is on your house at different times of the day and what areas are in sunlight and which stay mostly shady. Visit some garden centers and look at plants up close. Determine how much landscaping you need. Knowing what you want will help you narrow down what kind of landscaper designer you want to work with.
Step 2: Know your budget—There’s nothing worse than not telling your designer what your budget is, and then getting back a gorgeous sketch for an amazing landscape design, that you absolutely can’t afford to do. You’ve unfortunately just wasted your time and ours. So figure out what you are willing to put into this in terms of an investment. Remember, it is an investment in your home to have landscape design done. And also know what you would be willing to pay for maintenance, if you are not planning on doing that part yourself.
Step 3: What type of company fits your needs—There is more than one type of landscape company, choose what kind you need. Landscape designers tend to fall into one of three categories, depending on the kinds of services they offer. Some companies specialize in the design process only. They will come in and do a site analysis and discuss your needs and then draw up a finally detailed master plan for your landscape. That plan is then handed over to you to either do the work yourself, or find a contractor to take it from there. A company that does design-build will also do a site analysis and draw up a master plan, and then they will oversee plant purchasing and all installation. They may not be able to do the city permitting process or hardscape installation necessary and may have to call in a different licensed contractor for that part. A full-service landscape company will be able to do everything the other two types do, plus offer you a maintenance program that oversees the ongoing maintenance of the garden. We are a full service firm by the way, so we also offer maintenance contracts to our customers.
Step 4: Do a thorough online search before calling anyone—Look on the Web for companies that have great reviews, so you get a company that offers quality design and great customer service. Be sure to peruse their websites to see if their style of landscape design matches your own style.
Final step: Narrow your list—Search the Web, talk to friends who have awesome landscaping, get referrals, and then narrow your list of potential companies to three solid candidates. Be sure you ask each contractor the same group of questions, so you can compare what they give you in an apples-to-apples way. In next month’s blog post, we will tell you what questions you should ask before hiring a landscape design company.