Fall is coming, and there’s no better time to re-evaluate your yard to see where you want improvement and changes. Whether it’s planting some trees and flowers, installing a new retaining wall, or digging it all up and starting from scratch, the time is now to revamp your landscape.
Before digging up that shrub or laying that stone paver, take a step back and really think about your outdoor space. Look it over with a critical eye, and give some thought to how you envision the final results. Ed Castro, president of Ed Castro Landscape in Roswell, Ga., recommends asking yourself the following questions: How are you going to use it? For sports? To play? Do you want a garden? Will it be a formal garden or a flower garden? Will you be entertaining, or do you prefer something informal for sitting and gathering? “Have an idea of what you want from a functional standpoint,” Castro says.
Also, when deciding what to do with your space, Castro says the design should be influenced by the landscape away from the home, and it should be influenced by the architecture near the home. In this way, the space will have continuity and flow with its surroundings.
Along these same lines, don’t go overboard with your plans; more isn’t always better. Don’t be afraid to go with simplicity. “Lawns are still very popular, but maybe not so big,” Castro says. “There’s nothing more romantic than a sweeping, open lawn. It’s a nice contrast, a nice open space; it provides something for the eye to rest on. And it’s pretty cheap per square foot to install.”
In fact, initial planning is crucial to achieving the outcome you desire. Don’t overlook the technical details of creating your ideal landscape while focusing on the picturesque qualities like what flowers and trees you want. For instance, don’t overlook drainage, says Evan Rogers, co-owner of Scapes in Marietta, Ga. “It’s a major destructive force. It can wreak havoc on a garden design.” Likewise, if incorporating a hardscape into your design, Rogers says it’s extremely important to utilize strong structural materials for a quality project.
If you’re thinking of an outdoor living room and/or kitchen, really consider how you will use these spaces on a day-to-day basis. “Outdoor rooms are usually not a curb appeal type of thing; it’s a function thing,” Rogers says. “If you regularly entertain for eight to 10 people, that’s a different entertaining space than if you entertain one other couple. Have some forward thought on how you’re going to incorporate that into the design. If you’re not careful and don’t consider that, you’re going to be disappointed with your space.”
Of course, when embarking on a landscape redesign or new outdoor space project, money is always an issue. First, think about how you will pay for your project. Second, examine your finances and determine how much money you have for your project. Third, be realistic about your plans. If you want a grandiose backyard and outdoor living room and kitchen, prepare to pay for it. In addition, plan to pay for a job well done by a quality contractor, rather than opting for the lowest estimate. “Set aside the appropriate budget to have it done right,” Rogers says. “It’s always more expensive than you planned for.”
However, don’t despair if you don’t have the available funds to accomplish your dream outdoor living space right now. In many cases, you can complete the job in phases. “Planning is a good thing to get a sense of what they might do over time,” Castro says.
Along these same lines, think of your outdoor improvements as an investment in your home. “The majority of installations would be good investments,” Castro says. For example, buy cozy, comfortable, quality furniture that can go with you should you move, he says. Containers are another upgrade that you always can take with you.
When planning your budget, don’t overlook the cost of maintaining your outdoor space. Perhaps you love working outdoors and playing in the dirt. If so, this will help minimize your maintenance expenses. If you’d rather enjoy your space than take care of it, then be sure to include maintenance fees in your final budget.
To get the ball rolling on your landscape design and project, seek out the experts. “Align yourself with a company that meets your personality and needs,” Castro says. “Look for a relationship. How do they feel to you? Do they get what you want to do?”
In addition, look for landscape designers who are part of reputable organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and the American Society of Landscape Architects. Castro also suggests looking for those companies involved in the local community. “Do they give back? Are they visible in the community?” he asks.
And, most importantly, always check references. In fact, ask the company for references of clients who were not happy with their project. Talk with these people to find out why: Did it turn out different than they expected? What specific problems did they have with the project and/or the company? If at all possible, you want both sides of the story.
Yes, there’s nothing better than relaxing in the great outdoors found right outside your door. Make the most of it with a landscape design perfectly suited for you.