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Landscape Design

Planning your landscaping project can seem intimidating. After all, your yard is the first thing people see when they visit your home, and it's the most visible part of your property. Naturally, you want it to look as good as possible. There's no need to be intimidated by all the different options out there. In this article, we'll review some of the most popular landscape design elements around. We'll also offer some hints and tips for finding a local landscaping design firm who can deliver plans for a beautiful and functional yard.

There are two main components of any professional landscaping project: design and installation. In this article, we'll take a closer look at landscape design. In some instances, two separate companies work on the same landscaping project. One, a design firm, creates a plan for the next company to follow as they install decorative elements, put down sod or grass seed, and plant trees and shrubs.

The Basics - Grass

Your lawn is the foundation for any other landscaping elements you may choose to incorporate into your property. If you're starting from scratch with a bare-earth yard, there are two main ways of creating a lawn. Laying down strips of sod is the quickest option, while seeding the ground is the less expensive alternative. Both methods have their pros and cons.

Sod is literally an instant lawn. You won't have to deal with an unattractive patch of bare earth while you wait for your grass seed to sprout and take root. Sod is also generally healthier than seeded grass, since sod farmers dedicate their careers to the production of healthy, hardy and disease-resistant grass plants. However, sod is more expensive than grass seed. It requires careful time preparation, since it's best to install within 8 hours of harvest. In addition, sod needs to be treated carefully until the grass roots have had time to penetrate the earth beneath the sod layer.

Grass seed is the less expensive option. With seed, you can choose your own grass, which many homeowners enjoy (be sure to choose a variety which does well in your area). Grass seed also allows you to control the products used on your lawn, instead of wondering if your sod was grown with toxic fertilizers or insecticides. Seed is, of course, more time- and labor-intensive, taking more effort and requiring you to live with a bare-earth lawn until the grass plants have matured.

Your landscape design pro will have recommendations on the best type of lawn for your home, based on your budget and your climate.

Following a Template or Personalizing Your Lawn

One of the most popular reasons for seeking out a landscape design professional is the chance to personalize your property. A large number of homes sit on lots which feature only a few trees or shrubs, placed without much thought. A properly landscaped home can be a true showplace, with strategically placed trees, plants and decorative elements. While you can find templates online to help you plan your yard, a landscaping pro can help you create a design which is in harmony with your home, your style and your budget.

One of the hottest trends in landscape design today is the naturalized lawn. Naturalizing a lawn involves letting it go back to its natural state, complete with native grasses and wildflowers. This approach is popular in rural areas, but is rapidly gaining popularity in suburban and urban areas for its easy-care, environmentally-friendly and visually appealing aspects. In many cases, a landscaping designer will recommend partial naturalizing, which leaves portions of the lawn covered with grass to provide areas for outdoor recreation.

If you prefer a more organized appearance, there are many options from which to choose. Your landscape design professional will have several lists for trees, shrubs, bushes and plants, allowing you to work together to create a yard which reflects your personal style while utilizing plants which thrive in your local area. Design elements such as trees surrounded by a circular flower bed, mailboxes decorated with flowering plants, and pathways edged with low-lying vegetation are all popular design trends.

Decorative Elements

There is more to a landscaped yard than just vegetation. In addition to plants and trees, today's trend-savvy homeowners make careful use of design elements such as waterfalls and sculpture. While too many yard decorations can quickly cause a property to appear crowded and overdone, a few carefully placed pieces can really enhance your yard and add stunning visual appeal. The trained eye of an experienced landscape designer will help you avoid common amateur mistakes.

Sculpture

While some homeowners mistakenly think that adding sculptural elements is only for large, expensive homes, the truth is that these decorative pieces can bring elegance to any yard. Any design pro will tell you that it's the size and theme of the sculptures which makes all the difference. A huge statue, for example, will dwarf a smaller yard and look out of place. However, there is a wide range of medium and small sculptural pieces which fit perfectly in even the smallest urban yards. You can find a wide array of designs, ranging from natural pieces to those which mimic famous pieces of art.

Landscaping around your sculptures adds another level of elegance to your property. Vines and flowering plants are popular elements, either climbing up the sculpture or surrounding its base.

Water Features

One of the trendiest ways to add visual appeal to your yard is with a water feature. Water features include ponds, birdbaths and waterfalls. Which feature you choose is, of course, up to you. A landscape design pro will take your overall property into account before making suggestions. An area for birds to eat and bathe, for example, is most appropriate in a yard which has other elements designed to attract wildlife. A waterfall can be either ultra-modern or rustic and realistic. These aspects should match the theme of your home to create and most harmonious overall effect.

Water features have widely varying degrees of labor involved in their installation. Depending on the amount of labor involved, your landscape installation bill can rise dramatically. Digging and finishing a pond, for example, requires much more time and effort than a free-standing, self-contained waterfall. For this reason, self-contained water features are much more popular with homeowners.

Choosing a Combined Design-Install Company

When searching for a landscape designer, you'll likely come across several firms which offer both design and installation services. There are several advantages to this method. Just as with a design-build firm for home building, there is less risk of misunderstandings and costly delays when the design and the installation are handled by the same company. Instead of dealing with several individuals, you'll most likely deal with just one or two. This simplified approach makes combined services a trendy option for today's time-conscious homeowners.

If you can't find a design-install operation which meets your needs, there's no need to worry. Many homeowners still utilize the services of separate designers and installers, simply because they like the style of a particular designer. Use whichever method feels best to you; after all, you're the one who has to live with the end result!

Finding the Best Landscape Designer

Looking in the phone book is like to leave a homeowner feeling intimidated by the prospect of selecting a landscape designer. Pages of options are great, but names and numbers don't give you any clue as to which designers have the experience, credentials and reliability you desire.

Thankfully, home improvement websites have made the process of finding any type of contractor much simpler. These websites allow you to look through local landscaping designers. Credentials are listed in most cases. One of the most helpful features on these websites is the option to read reviews written by former clients. These reviews can give you valuable insight into how a particular designer works, letting you make a much more informed decision.

Once you've narrowed down your search, contact each potential designer. Sitting down and discussing your project before any hiring decisions are made can help avoid costly time delays down the road. Talk through the entire project, from grass to waterfalls, to ensure that you agree with the designer on major points and like their individual style. Ask to see pictures of their work. Ideally, they will have experience in the same type of overall theme that you want for your property. If the designer is more traditional while you prefer a modern look, you may want to look elsewhere. However, be sure to ask every designer about their ideas before you make a decision. Simply because a designer does a lot of modern work doesn't mean that they can't' design a stunning traditional landscape.

Another option which home improvement websites offer is the chance to post your project and let the designers come to you. Be as specific as possible when posting, to give prospective designers a very clear picture of what you want. Designers will view your project, put together a bid or estimate based on the time and materials involved, and contact you with their figures. You can then talk with each of them and make your decision.

Posted by: Diane
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