Voice of the Land
Plan Now For Next Season
Landscaping is tricky business in Colorado with a short seasonal window. People have a tendency to think they will wait until spring to start the process but this actually puts you down the line for scheduling. The time to start next year’s project is now. It takes time to find the right company. After choosing one, the design and planning process takes even more time before the actual physical job can begin.
And you may think that landscapers all do the same work, but actually many companies specialize and are not the right fit for your landscaping needs. For the best economy choose the right professional. If you want a grand plan that will involve construction, you need a landscape architect. These people are licensed by the state and have bachelors or masters degrees. Landscape designers, usually have two to four years of study or even a masters degree in their field. Horticulturists, permaculturists, lawn maintenance, pruners and gardeners each may have extensive and specific training, certificates and knowledge and may be better than a generalist. When calling up companies if you know your goals you can easily determine fit—or not, quickly.
So the first step is understanding your needs and choices. Goals matter. If it’s a new home, you want to protect and grow value. Establishing the architecture of your yard could increase the value of your home by as much as 15% when you sell it. You’ll need to stabilize and secure the lot to prevent any storm damage and create patios, pathways and spaces for outdoor living (and making indoor living cleaner). Working with a landscape architect or designer to develop a plan makes good sense even if you only pay for a plan now and develop it over time.
If your architecture is already in place there are many approaches to managing your land. We still love beautiful lawns, and certainly lawn specialists are the best way for perfection. But many are ready to transition at least some of the lawn to other uses. You may be ready to develop and mature your perennial gardens, grow food or create special habitats for bees or monarchs. Or you may have pasture land, as many in Colorado do, that needs restoration to natural grasses or help in ecosystem maintenance in which a permaculturist might make the best sense.
If you choose someone to design for you, the process usually begins with a meeting to discuss your needs, ideas and desires. From this information the designer will create a design, find the materials and give you a proposal. You may have changes. You might want to adjust materials (which can alter the budget). This process can go back and forth a couple of times until the design and budget are acceptable and agreed upon. If you are trying to get several designs done so you can choose your favorite, you can pay the designers up front. Larger companies may roll the design costs into the overall project cost, but don’t expect small designers to work for free. Offsetting these costs onto small landscape companies can put them out of business. This process takes time, and your designers invest a lot in their designs.
The other tricky part is the budget. Money seems to be the hardest thing to discuss, but good communication about the budget can lead to greater cost savings and more satisfaction with your project. Usually people’s dreams are bigger than their wallets and, of course, everyone wants to push the envelope. Designers and artists even more so than the clients. They want to do their best work so when the client asks for the moon the designer tries to give it to them. This can end up in hurt feelings with both parties having invested in a project that may not be able to move forward. Work with someone you trust and be honest up front on what’s most important—how hard and fast the budget is and what is negotiable.
If you want the landscape of your dreams next summer—better call now. Get your plans moving before the phone is ringing off the hook for everyone in the industry the first of spring. Get your planning and designing done when the designers aren’t in a rush. Get them approved in February so the designer and field guys can jump in and start as soon as the spring thaw begins.