Understanding The Landscape Design Process

Designing a garden landscape incorporates several professional disciplines including the need for horticulture knowledge, construction expertise, drainage and irrigation expertise, as well as the need to have an extensive knowledge of design principles and how to incorporate them creatively in the overall plans. Landscape design draws on all of these different disciplines to achieve the unity of design which is necessary to create a safe, flourishing and aesthetically pleasing, functional landscape.

Once the designer understands the site, the client’s needs and the budget constraints, the landscape design starts with the creation of a conceptual plan, which is a rough layout of all of the design elements and there location within the site property boundaries and their relationship to the environment and the adjacent land. With the conceptual design drawn, a meeting between the client or client’s representative and the landscape designer brings the conceptual design to a greater refinement based on how much in line the design solution is to the client’s desires, the budget and the design elements they wish to see in the final landscape.

Creating a set of final landscape design plans requires a working knowledge of plant habitat and growth patterns in specific geographic locations. This understanding of plants allows a designer to choose appropriate plant materials for the specific geographic location, which can include consideration of a plant’s sun/temperature requirements, water requirements and soil requirements. Understanding plant growth habits allows a designer to place plant materials in locations that produce a desired affect in form, scale and color (flowering and foliage) when the plantings are mature, while taking into consideration the other site elements or structures and how they will interact with these plant materials over time.

A landscape designer requires knowledge of the construction of various outdoor structures and requires an understanding of how to create and visualize how these structures will be put together and by what materials and fasteners. Some of these structures can include; masonry wall construction, fencing construction, pool construction, arbor and pergola construction, decking construction, retaining wall construction, walk construction, patio construction, etc. This expertise allows a designer to create safe, cost effective and aesthetically pleasing outdoor structures that will last and to effectively and accurately convey this information in the form of plans or drawings to contractors for construction.

Understanding storm water drainage is also an important consideration when accumulating rain waters can affect buildings and structures foundations, as well as effect plant material suitability, since standing water can quickly rot root systems and promote plant diseases. Adequate slopes away from building structures and planting areas insuring minimal build up of excess surface and subsurface waters which keep soils stable and plants healthy. To communicate this important construction information, a grading plan may be necessary to accurately convey to a contractor how the water is to flow through a site and to locate the collection points and drainage outfall.

During the entire design process the designer takes into consideration the same design principles that apply to building architects, interior designers, graphic designers or fine art professionals, and apply these to a landscape design. Some of the design principles considered in a landscape design are; unity, balance, harmony, contrast, repetition, variety, emphasis, proportion, functionality and attraction. Their use can significantly affect the design outcome and can produce outstanding design results when implemented wisely. Each design principle is incorporated together to achieve a harmonious and a pleasing landscape garden environment.

Consulting the client’s needs and wants through the design process a landscape designer can apply their skills to creating an artfully shaped the outdoor space which incorporates all of the client’s wants and requirements. The final set of drawings necessary for a complete set can include; a planting plan, a hard-scape plan, an irrigation plan and construction details of any walks, patios, arbors, outdoor structures, raised planters, paths, roadways, fountains, etc. and specifications for each item. In large scale or extensive designs topography/grading plan and storm water drainage/water retention plan may be needed. Sometimes a feasibility study of the project may be required to make sure it is feasible to construct such a design within budget and in the given location.

Once the design is approved the plans can be finalized and construction details drawn to refine the design and construction details and the construction specifications can be written. Once this completed, the drawings are distributed out to bid to appropriately skilled contractors which construct and install the drawn plans and turn the plans to reality. Construction supervision by the landscape architect or designer should be maintained throughout the installation of the landscape to assure the proper implementation of the landscape design and to make any field adjustments that may be necessary while construction is in progress.

Hiring a professional landscape designer means making the most of a site’s potential and can have considerable effect of the value and usability of outdoor spaces. Spending the time and money necessary to achieve this can mean the difference between boringly adequate and great outdoor spaces that exceed a client’s desires. Carefully considering the numerous systems that are necessary to creating a thriving landscape, then skillfully implementing the most balanced design solution is vital and insures a successful long term garden solution. Garden landscapes are living, growing and evolving ecosystems that change throughout their lifetime, a great landscape design can build in these changes into the life of the garden landscape, creating a wonderful usable outdoor environment to enjoy and experience for a lifetime.

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