PrerequisitesOur ProcessWhy Hire a Landscape Designer


This is a good time to think through your goals and aesthetic preferences. You can start gathering images of places you like on your computer or through sites like Pinterest or Houzz. The more information we have about what you want to see/feel/experience, the better we can design a space you will love. Unlike some designers, who impose a single  aesthetic on every client, we want to design a space that will make you happy. Do you love bright-colored flowers? Only white? Traditional design? Modern? Native plants? We can't design it unless we know.

For most of us, budget affects almost every aspect of what can be achieved on site. We don't require a minimum budget and are happy to work with clients to phase work over several years, but budget must be realistic in relation to the goals and scope of work desired. Having a good idea of the budget before design begins allows us to propose buildable options, and we want you to see your project built!
We recommend starting with a plat of your site, which is a drawing that shows property boundaries in relation to your house footprint, and a lot stake-out, which involves surveyors setting stakes at the corners of your lot. While we take detailed measurements and collect elevation data from every site we design, we are not professional surveyors and cannot locate your house precisely in relationship to your property lines. Any work that will require a permit (fences, retaining walls, decks, etc.) will require a plat, so it's best to get one ahead of time. On occasion, clients have discovered their property was larger than they thought! We are happy to recommend professional surveyors we trust. If you are having architectural  or other work done (geothermal, septic, well, etc.), we will also need their drawings.

An example of a property plat
An irregular flagstone walkway next to an exuberant flower bed and a yew hedgeA closeup of lilac flowers

Our Process

  1. Once you contact us, we will schedule a free 15-minute conversation to determine whether your project is a good fit.
  2. If the initial conversation goes well and both parties decide to move forward, we will come to your property for a consult where we discuss site issues and ideas, answer questions, propose potential solutions, and answer feasibility/material/plant questions.
  3. If the consult goes well, we will put together a proposal for project scope and price based on our previous conversations and email it to you.
  4. Once you sign the proposal and submit a deposit, you will be guaranteed a place in the project queue, the length of which depends on the season (winter is typically shortest).
  5. While you're waiting for work to begin, we will send you a detailed design questionnaire that will cover aesthetic preferences, budget, site features, plants, maintenance, and more. Some designers don't ask these questions, preferring to surprise clients, but we find that communicating early and often leads to the best results.
  6. When your project is next in the queue, we will let you know that we will be returning to take photographs and measurements of existing features (house, trees, pavement, etc.).
  7. Design begins!
    • We begin by gathering images of other sites/designs, thinking about how the space feels and works (or doesn't work), analyzing existing conditions (sun, shade, slopes, water, views, noise, access, parking etc.) and taking your goals and preferences into account.
    • After this information has been thoroughly digested, we begin playing around with the spatial, three-dimensional layout of items on the site.
    • We may reach out to you partway through the process with clarifying questions and preliminary sketches/ideas.
    • Unlike other design firms, we prefer to give you at least two options for concept designs (where possible). There is usually more than one way to solve a problem, each with its own pros and cons. Coming up with multiple options also forces us to work past our initial idea and discover new, potentially better options that are less obvious. Smaller sites, like the rowhouse back yard below, often lend themselves to more options.
    An example of four design options for a single site
  8. When we are nearing completion, we will reach out to you to schedule a time to discuss the design options via Zoom. We will then email a PDF of the design package a few days in advance so you have a chance to contemplate the options. We find this allows clients time to process their initial reactions and discuss the options within their family group, leading to a more productive design review meeting.
  9. In the review meeting, we are happy to walk you through the design in greater detail, answer questions, and discuss which options or aspects of each option you prefer. We will take detailed notes on your preferences.
  10. We make any edits requested in the design review meeting and send them back to you for approval.
  11. When you're happy with the design, we either move into the construction detail/permitting phase, or we connect you with contractors in order to solicit bids.

Why Hire a Landscape Designer?

One of the biggest reasons to hire a landscape designer is to provide you with design options you might not have considered. We are experts in diagnosing and fixing awkward and uncomfortable spaces; addressing tricky grade changes; envisioning three-dimensional solutions; solving stormwater problems including ponding, flooding, and erosion; providing shade to hot, sunny expanses; and integrating indoor and outdoor spaces. We also have expert knowledge of plants and plant communities. We strive to add biodiversity, beauty, and habitat to every site we work on. We are practiced in assessing landscapes and can do so quickly. Don't worry if your space feels wrong and you don't know what to do about it, and definitely don't feel embarrassed- we've seen it all!

Hiring us can prevent you from making expensive mistakes. We frequently visit properties where the deck or steps cut off the yard from the house, patios are too long and narrow, and decisions by previous homeowners have led to Frankenstein spaces that don't function well or feel good. Hiring us before undertaking individual projects will allow you to be confident that your space will function as a coherent whole.

When Not to Hire a Landscape Designer

While we hope to work with you on your project, here are some reasons why we might not be a good fit:

  • If you already know exactly where you want everything to go and you're unwilling to entertain new ideas or options, hire a contractor! You don't need our help.
  • We can and do propose and locate structures on a site, including houses, sheds, porches, and additions, and our expertise includes connecting indoor and outdoor spaces. However, we are not qualified to do construction details or permitting for closed-roof structures (trellises and pergolas are okay). If your project *only* involves detailed design of closed-roof structures, you should reach out to an architect.
  • We frequently locate retaining walls on site and specify their height and materials as part of our concept designs. Permitting for walls over a certain height (which varies based on jurisdiction) requires a licensed structural engineer to draw up wall details. If you simply need to replace an existing wall or know exactly where you want one to go, hire a structural engineer who works on residential projects.