Planning a garden through Landscape Design

Designing a garden or an entire landscape should involve some planning. To get through the process so a client ends up with a successful landscape, I analyze the information and plan for all the moving pieces including the clients want list and existing site conditions so they work together in unity.

Site analysis for new landscape Washington

Once I have that information,  I sit down and start working towards creating a landscape design that will satisfy the client while also working with the site and architecture. The process of creating a landscape design typically brings all types of hurdles.  Screening unsightly views, successfully drawing people to the front door rather than the side door, working with grades, soils, solar orientation, all to create a symbiotic relationship between house and landscape.  Once the big picture has been planned for, it’s on to the plants.  What type, what goes where, color sequencing, layering and plant combinations, it’s enough to make you dizzy.  It really takes a lot of energy to create a well planned landscape design.  Why do I bring all this up?  While at nurseries, I’m always amazed at the amount of landscapers buying plants without a specific list or landscape design.  I’m not talking about the  landscape companies buying a couple of plants but the companies leaving with a truck load of plants. It reminds me of my wife sending me to the grocery stores without a list.  I’m not sure I would want someone planting a garden on my property without some type of long term, well thought out landscape design. I remember a day last season, I watched someone buy a tree because it was in flower.  I wondered if there was any other thought that went into the purchase besides  “it should look good next week”.  I choose to buy plants for reasons other than what it will look like the week I plant it.  What about next year or ten years down the road?   What about when the plant is struggling because it was planted in the wrong environment or down the road when the plant is too large for the space?  It’s this lack of planning that creates overzealous hedge trimmer operators and gardens filled with lollipop plants.

In another story, I was at a nursery and saw some perennials that I recognized being loaded on a truck.  I approached the owner of the company and the salesman to ask about the plant.  I always try to mix in a few new or underused perennials into every garden we install to give them a try.  I have found some amazing, not so common, plants this way over the years as well as many duds.  This one plant, I had tried a couple of times after doing research on it’s culture.  In the past, every time I tried the plant, it eventually failed so I stopped using it.  I was interested in learning anything I could about the plant because I liked the plant’s diminutive size and flower .  I was surprised that neither the person or salesman knew anything about the plant even though they were being loaded onto a truck.  At least when I try something new, the size, culture and growing habit is always well researched so the plant has the best opportunity to thrive.  I later overheard a conversation a designer was having with a client while in the nursery.  The designer suggested  planting Junipers and when the client questioned the choice, the designer told her client that the plant can take shade.  What?  Doesn’t everyone know Junipers like hot and dry conditions?  They certainly can’t take shade!  The consumer was questioning the designer, as she should.  Please tell me people making a living as a landscape designer know that?  If you are the so called professional, shouldn’t you know the basics?  If you’re trying a new plant for the first time, shouldn’t you know if the plant likes sun or shade?  Shouldn’t you know the plant’s soil requirements?  I always suggest that landscape designers, landscapers and consumers research plant data so they are putting plants into an environment where they have the best chance to succeed and will have plenty of space to avoid the lollipop syndrome.  Good Luck!

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Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.


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