Landscaping done right takes some time. Creating a plan and implementing that plan is a process. It doesn’t happen as quickly as it appears on popular home shows you might see on HGTV. There is a great deal of work that takes place behind the scenes of those shows to make those beautiful makeovers happen.
It all begins with you deciding that you want to beautify your outdoor space. You may already have a pretty solid idea of what you want, and you have a vision in mind. On the other hand, you may not have a clear vision of what you want, and would like to explore ideas and possibilities.
There is a wide range of options for working with various landscaping professionals to create a design plan and install a project. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus on the example of working with a landscape designer for the design portion of your project, and a landscape contractor for the installation. Some landscape contractors provide design and installation services, so it may be possible that your entire project would be handled by one company.
Outline of Process and General Time Frame
Initial Site Visit (One or two hours)
The first step in the landscaping process is usually an On-site Consultation with a landscaping professional. These initial site visits are typically scheduled for one or two hours. Some companies will provide consultations at no charge, others charge for their time. Many will charge for the consultation, and apply the payment to the design plan or the installation if you also hire them to create the plan and/or install the project.
One primary purpose of this visit is for you (the client) and the designer or contractor to get a feel for whether you would be a good fit for working together to create a design plan and/or an installation for your project.
The designer’s job is to get a clear understanding of what you want, and share information about him or herself and his/her ideas & inspiration for your space so you can get a feel for whether this person’s ideas, personality, qualifications, etc. will be a fit for you and your project.
The process often begins with the designer asking you to fill out a client questionnaire prior to your first appointment. Then when you meet for your consultation appointment, you’ll do a walk-through of your yard together. Typically, you’ll discuss your “Must-Have” items and “Wish-List”. The designer will share ideas on ways to incorporate some of your requirements, and present some plants that may appeal to you and work well in your project.
If after the initial consultation, you like the designer’s ideas and feel the person is a good fit for you and your project, you can request a price for the cost of having that person or company prepare a design plan and/or install your project. Usually at this point, a proposal will be prepared to specify the cost, process and payment schedule that will apply if you want to hire that company to design and/or install your project. Most companies require a deposit at this point before moving forward. Typically, once a deposit is received, the next step in the process is the creation of a Conceptual Plan.
Creation of Conceptual Plan (Typically five days or longer)
A Conceptual Plan is basically a rough draft drawing of possible ideas for your project, and is the first step in putting the vision for a space onto paper. Depending on the size of your project and your “Wish List”, more than one Conceptual Plan may be prepared.
To gather information needed to prepare the Conceptual Plan, an appointment will be scheduled to evaluate the site, and take measurements and photographs.
How quickly the Conceptual Plan can be prepared depends on the size of your project, the complexity of the features you want, and the availability of time in the designer’s schedule. Conceptual Plans might be completed as quickly as five days.
Conceptual Review (Usually one hour)
Once the conceptual plans are completed, an appointment will be scheduled to review them.
As mentioned, the conceptual plans are a representation of a general vision for a space that illustrates the major features and requirements expressed by the client. During the Conceptual Review, changes and adjustments are made if needed. The Conceptual Review is the best time to request any changes to the plan. Changes requested after the Conceptual Review appointment may delay the completion of the final plan, and may add to the cost. This appointment usually takes about an hour. Assuming the client is happy with the conceptual plan, and wants to move forward, the final plan(s) will be prepared.
Preparation of Final Plan (Usually two to four weeks)
The amount of time it may take for your final plans to be completed depends on the size and complexity of your project. Depending on the features of your project, plans for things such as lighting, irrigation and drainage, and construction details may be needed in addition to the planting plan which only shows the placement of the plant material. Once your project is scheduled, it may take anywhere from 25-35 hours over a period of two to four weeks for all the plans to be completed.
Once you have a design plan, your project needs to be installed. Depending on the size and features of the project, there are a few options you may consider for installation. If you are only adding or changing plants in an existing landscape, your plan is probably very simple in terms of landscaping. You may choose to do the work yourself, or hire a gardener to do it. For a small planting project, the work can probably be done in one or two days. Larger projects which may include the construction of new features such as planter bed borders, sidewalks, patios, irrigation, lighting, etc.should be done (and may be legally required) to be done by a professional landscape contractor unless you have the skills and abilities to do the work yourself.
Check with your city and state for regulations pertaining to landscaping projects in your area before starting any project. If your home is bound by the regulations of a homeowner’s association, be sure to check their rules also. HOA’s can be very restrictive, and they can require that your entire project be removed if they determine it is not in compliance with their regulations. Also, like other home improvement projects, a landscaping project may require a permit.
Contractor Interviews and Bid Collection (About one to two weeks)
Once you have your plan in hand, you can begin collecting bids from landscape contractors for the installation of your project. A landscape contractor holds a C-27 landscape contractor license, and is a landscaping professional. A general contractor may be able to legally perform landscape work, but is probably not a landscaping expert and may not have landscaping experience.
I always encourage people to collect bids from at least three contractors. Your new landscape is an investment. The design plan is just one part of the process. The plan is a drawing of a vision. It is the contractor who will turn that vision into a physical reality. You want that job to be done with professionalism and quality of workmanship by a person with landscaping experience. You also want to be sure that company is licensed and properly insured. Take the time to meet and interview several contractors, verify references and licensure, collect bids, and choose wisely.
Generally, it could take anywhere from one to five days to get a bid from a contractor once he or she has seen your property and received a copy of your plan. When you have collected all the bids you want, compared them, and chosen your contractor, let that person know right away so that you can accept the bid (sign the contract), and get your project on his or her calendar. It is not uncommon for quality landscape professionals to be booked several months out.
Project Installation (Two days to several weeks or longer depending on size)
The length of time it takes to install your project will depend primarily on the size and features of your project. Your contractor will provide you with an estimated time of completion.
Your contractor will let you know when your job will begin and about how long it should take to complete. Be aware that there are factors that may delay the completion of your project that the contractor cannot control. Such things may include rain, frozen ground, plants or other materials that may need to be special-ordered, materials that were ordered, but in error are not delivered when promised, etc. Also, landscaping projects can be similar to other home improvement projects in that other problems may be encountered that were not expected.
Depending on the size and features of your project, contractor scheduling, and possible delays, it could take a month or longer to complete the entire landscape design and installation process. Unless you have a very simple project, one that may only require the planting of five-gallon size plants or smaller, and mulch application (no installation or modification of irrigation, no construction of hardscape which is anything other than plant material such as sidewalks, planter beds, and patios), it is going to take some time. 🙂
What has been your experience in working with landscaping professionals? If you’ve had a project installed, I’d like to hear about how it turned out. How did you find the professional you chose? Was the work completed on time and on budget? Were you pleased with the overall outcome? What if anything didn’t go right? What was your biggest frustration or difficulty related to the project, or in working with the landscape designer or contractor? What would you do differently next time? What advice would you have for someone considering making an investing in a new landscaping project for their home? Do you have any tips on how to save time or money in the landscaping process? Please comment below with anything you care to share. Your comments may be used as inspiration for future blog posts. 🙂
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