When people ask what I do, and I tell them I am a landscaper, they imagine someone who cuts grass.  Professional landscaping is still in its infancy.

The progression of professional landscaping created a need for Landscape Designers who take the client’s vision, add their ideas, creativity, problem-solving skills, expertise and experience and put it on paper to create a plan.  Another name for a landscape design is a landscape plan. This name better describes its purpose and helps validate the investment.  Landscape designs are a fairly new concept to homeowners because most of our parents did their own landscaping. They improvised and copied their neighbours.  They framed the front window with two Cedars, planted some Junipers and added a Blue Spruce to the front yard. Landscaping has come a long way since then.

A good comparison would be interior design.  Consumers are now seeing the value of hiring someone who will draw up plans to enhance the function and aesthetics of interior spaces while taking into account how different colours, textures, furniture, lighting, and spaces work together to meet ‘occupants’ or visitors’ needs.  In return, homeowners receive great value for what is generally a fairly large investment.  I can honestly say the landscape design portion of the process is not only the most important part of the process but also the best return on your investment.  If one invests  $1,500 on a design for a project that is budgeted at $50K, the design represents only 3% of the total investment. In my opinion, the design represents 90% of the success of the project.

When looking for a Landscape Designer, choose someone with good communication skills who will listen to your needs and with whom you feel comfortable.  It’s your home and your input is vital to the success of the project.  One of the real benefits of working with a professional full-service landscaping company is in having your designer stay with you through the construction phase.  Having your designer involved in inspecting and approving the work, being fully responsible for the completion of the job and everything that comes up during and after it is invaluable.

My design skills have greatly improved since I first graduated over 30 years ago.  I am a master at learning from my successes and failures.  I am especially adept at finding the reasons for my mistakes and ensuring I don’t repeat them. In addition, I strongly believe a designer can never stop learning.  There are hundreds of new plants and products introduced to the landscape industry every year.  I am very curious and a natural lifelong learner in all subjects I am passionate about: horticulture, horses, and hockey.  I call it the 3-H Club and I am the inaugural member.

The following are a few reasons why all of our successful projects have plans:

    1. A landscape design allows the client to visualize the project before a shovel goes into the ground. It’s a lot less expensive to make changes before, instead of after, something is installed.
    2. Once the design is finalized and approved, everyone is on the same page and has the same working drawings. Any deviation, and tough conversations that may derive from these deviations, are settled by referring back to the plan.  This keeps the relationship between the landscape contractor and the homeowner in good shape and out of small claims court.  It is much like a referee without anyone going to the penalty box.  If the plan indicates it is a 4ft. wide walkway and the contractor only made it 3.5 ft., the contractor must make good.
    3. A design allows landscape contractors to provide a quote for the project. Without a plan, you will be getting 3 different prices based on each contractor’s interpretation of your vision for your landscaping.  So when comparing quotes – it will be like comparing apples to oranges.  A plan allows for an apples to apples comparison.
    4. A professional landscape design allows the homeowner and designer to communicate effectively with the installation crew. The drawing will be to scale and detailed, eliminating any confusion.  Without a plan, everyone is just ‘winging’ it.
    5. Landscape designs can be tailored to your budget. A professional designer knows the price of various landscaping elements and will be able to provide a project budget range through experience, or be able to guide you through the process so that you can determine whether to build the project all at once, or to phase it in over a few years. The designer also knows how to plan for the installation of elements in phases to spread the investment over time.

It is my hope that our provincial association, Landscape Ontario, and all accredited landscape professionals, work together to raise the level of our trade.  We install much more than sod.  We solve problems and add great value to your home.  Landscaping is the only investment in your home that increases over time and there is no better return on your investment than a professionally designed yard.  Please call us so we can assist in the creation of a beautiful landscape design for your home, cottage or business.

Now let’s all get outside and enjoy the sounds and beauty of springtime!