As the gardener and designer of your landscape, you are trying to create something. If successful, that something could be considered art just as a painting or a drawing is.
The difference is, what you are trying to create is not usually begun on a blank canvas. Even if you are creating a brand new garden on a new lot, you will still be sharing it’s creation with nature.
And don’t think for a minute that nature does not have final say when you two disagree.
The creation of any successful landscape will require overlap of what the gardener imagines and what the site will allow. The best way to assure this happens, is to step back and look at the details of the site. We call this a Site Assessment.
Site assessments analyze and document the current conditions of the landscape. This is done to help determine the possibilities, opportunities, and limitations that should be considered when designing
This is one area where home owners doing their own garden or landscape often neglect.
Good landscapers will do a better job.
They will consider where the house is in relation to the property lines, utilities, easements and other items so that they can correctly place plants and other landscape elements both for now and also for the future as the landscape matures.
Other items to consider
Thorough designers and landscapers will hopefully will also consider these key items:
- Property’s slope and drainage
- Plants worth keeping
- Views and borrowed landscapes
- Influences from nearby properties
- Deer and other critters that might visit for lunch
Here are two that can often be neglected by some professional landscapers:
- Soil types and pH of the property
- Microclimates around the property
Soil Types and pH
It seems most landscapers will select sturdy, adaptable plants that can tolerate a wider range of soil conditions. This approach does make business sense.
Who can blame them when clients, who are often looking for free or low cost designs, are unwilling to pay for the designers time and certainly not for multiple soil tests of their property.
Micro climates around the house
The microclimates that exist around a property can be that little secret sauce that the best designers use to create designs that are well integrated into the property.
This can be a simple as planting that Saucer Magnolia to a north slope or the north side of a building that does not get as much winter sun. This causes the soil stays cooler and delay blooming. Then your tree will have a better chance to bloom beautifully instead of losing all the ready-to-open blooms to sudden below-freezing night.
Or it can be as in-depth as using the landscape design to change key elements of the micro climate around the property, such as temperature, wind, and humidity making the space much more comfortable and insuring it will be used throughout the year as much as planned.
Landscape Design as a Research project
Most people see landscape design as a DESIGN project. Design a nice patio and put it where I can use it. Give me a bunch of plants that have lots of flowers that look great together and put them where I can see them.
Most don’t see it as a RESEARCH project, which is the view that is needed for a truly function-able and sustainable design.
We need to spend the time to really analyze the SITE as well as your’s or the home owners wants and needs. We will see that the site can guide us to a wonderfully functional and aesthetic design that works now and in the future.
If you want a design from a designer that will spend the time to really do this, you must be willing to pay them for their time. This is not a quick process that they should do for you for free so they might be able to sell you some plants.
Steps to creating a Site Assessment
Site assessment may seem complicated, but it does not have to be if it is taken one step at a time. Here are the basic steps to conducting a site assessment for your yard.
- Create a basemap
- Assess your site’s soils and soil condition
- Assess how water enters and moves through your property
- Assess how the weather impacts your site and the existing Micro climates
- Assess the current plants on your the site
We will cover these in upcoming posts over the winter.