As you begin the development process, you have big aspirations of creating a place that will become a profitable enterprise. You envision creating a space where people will gather and enjoy spending time. You want to create a positive first impression for your site’s visitors. But you know that there is a lot of work to be done between dreams and reality. Part of that work involves considering how to activate the outdoor space on your project. Here are some key elements to look for to ensure that you end up with a well-designed landscape plan and ultimately an engaging space:
1. Designed by a Licensed Landscape Architect
Many municipalities require a licensed landscape architect to sign and seal drawings that are submitted for site plan approval. But more importantly, a licensed landscape architect has the knowledge and experience to creatively optimize your site. Landscape architects design a wide variety of site elements from plants and paving to circulation and people places. They work with the rest of your design team to ensure that the built environment is cohesive.
2. Appropriately Sized Mature Plants
Landscapes are dynamic. What they look like at installation is not what they will be 2 years (or 10 years) later.
New dwarf cultivars give the designer a broad plant palette to select a plant that will grow into its allotted space. Such plants minimize long-term maintenance costs for the site’s owner.
3. A Diverse Plant List Tailored to Site Conditions
A good landscape designer will take the existing site conditions, restraints and opportunities into consideration when selecting plants for your site. Every tree, shrub, perennial and grass has different requirements in order to grow well. Some like dry sunny areas, others like wet shady spots. Some plants are more finicky and others are more adaptable. The more adaptable plants (read: Honey Locust, Juniper, Daylily) tend to get overused. These are reliable plants. They can grow in the tough conditions that commercial landscapes tend to embody. However, when you are hiring a landscape designer, your expectation should be that you will receive a design that is customized to your site’s conditions. A diverse plant list is indicative of a customized plan.
4. Plant Combinations with Seasonal Interest
With your customized planting plan, you should expect to see plants that bloom throughout the spring, summer and fall.
You should see plants that have a variety of foliage colors and textures. There should be plants with winter interest, too. In short the planting combinations should grab your site visitors’ attention and create a unique memory.
5. Highlights the Good, Screens the Bad
A well-designed landscape plan highlights focal points on the site, such as building entrances, gathering spaces, vehicular entrances, pedestrian pathways, art pieces or any other number of noteworthy places.
Conversely, a well-designed landscape plan doesn’t draw attention to the areas of the site that are undesirable (read: service drives, utilities, trash enclosures). In fact, more than not drawing attention to these elements, a good design screens them so that they aren’t apparent, but are still functional for the people that use them regularly.
6. Quantifies Plants and Materials
A drawing is useful when a contractor can bid it out without any ambiguity. That happens when all the necessary materials are called out and quantified. The numbers of each plant species, the length of edging, the cubic yards of mulch and compost should be clearly listed on the plans. If the contractor doesn’t need to make assumptions, he’s going to be able to give you a more accurate bid. And those bids will be comparable, enabling you to measure the value of each contractor’s price.
7. Satisfies Municipality’s Requirements
Every municipality has unique ordinances that govern a well-designed landscape plan. These can include anything from screening requirements to parking lot plantings to existing tree replacements. If it is self-evident that the landscape plan satisfies their requirements, you’re one step closer to achieving municipal approval and the start of construction.
Great Plans Result in Great Spaces
Now that you know what to look for in a well-designed landscape plan, you can move forward with hiring a design team that can design the space that you’re envisioning. We would love to hear about your project vision and work with you to create a positive first impression for your site’s visitors. Contact us to start the conversation.
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