Design Process

The Design Process involves four phases. The phases are not linear, but overlap, and not all tasks may apply to every project.


Phase 1- Research and Preparation

The objective of this phase is to develop a design program and base plan, identify and engage collaborators and consultants (if required). 

A. Client interview(s). Define goals and objectives.

B. Site inventory. Document existing features and conditions, e.g., soils, topography, water, plants, views, spaces and senses, building, utilities, sun and shade patterns, activity areas, circulation routes, neighborhood and codes, maintenance. Photograph site and project area. Drone footage may be requested for larger projects.

C. Site analysis. Evaluate the site inventory and determine actions to be taken to achieve the desired design solutions.

D. Develop a design program. This written document will outline the elements needed in the design solutions. It is based on the client’s requirements and the site analysis. 

E. Create a base plan (a scaled drawing of the project area). This bird’s-eye view plan will be the basis for all other drawings. Request a recent property survey from the client for use in creating a base plan. If a master plan has been commissioned, the local landscape architect will develop the material request for a property survey. 

F. Collaborators & Consultants. 

Identify and interview collaborators and consultants needed for the project and define their roles, e.g., scope, responsibilities, and schedule of deliverables. Collaborators and consultants will contract directly with the client under a separate proposal.

Meet with collaborators and consultants (virtually and in-person) as needed throughout all phases of the Design Process to deliver the agreed-upon work products, for example:

  • Architect- new structures.
  • Landscape architect- landscape master plan.
  • Horticulturalist- review plant palette.
  • Soil scientist- soil testing and recommendations.
  • Arborist- identify and evaluate existing trees, large evergreens, and shrubs.
  • Landscape contractor.
  • Landscape maintenance. Plants are living and dynamic. The continued success of any garden is dependent on maintenance. Before designing, it is helpful to consider who will care for the garden. Larger, more complex projects require the expertise of knowledgeable garden stewards.
  • Others (as needed).

Phase 2- Concept Development

The objective of this phase is to develop documents that provide the client with an understanding of the proposed design solutions.

A. Initial plan studies and an analysis of options. Time will be spent on-site and in the studio identifying opportunities, contemplating alternate design solutions, and imagining the new garden’s atmosphere.

B. Conceptual landscape masterplan (developed in partnership with a local landscape architect). The amount of detail included in the conceptual plan varies. It is informed by a client’s needs and the size of the project area. The plan may include proposed hardscape elements (e.g., driveways, motor courts, retaining walls, stairs, walkways, terraces, patios, decks, fences, garden structures, pools, water features, and art|sculpture) as well as lawn, open space, gardens, planting beds, trees, large evergreens, and shrubs. 

If the commission is to create a planting plan and not a landscape master plan, the conceptual plan will include substantially less hardscape detail. 

Artist renderings and illustrations, drawing sections and elevations, three-dimensional models (digital or physical) are available through third-party collaboration if requested by the client.

C. Source and compile precedent imagery to communicate the proposed aesthetics to the client.

D. Material recommendations (if required).

E. Review the proposed design solutions on-site with the client for feedback.


Phase 3- Planting Design

A. Develop project|site-specific plant palettes and planting schemes. 

Plant selections will be based on research and observation and the Designer’s general knowledge of plants that can be combined to create the desired atmosphere. 

Planting schemes generally balance structure with seasonal interest, address bloom succession, and consider the longevity and durability of the plants, but this may vary depending on the client’s goals. 

When working out of state, Designer:

  • Consults with a local horticulturist to evaluate the proposed plant palette for suitability|viability in the local environment.
  • Visits local and regional gardens, nurseries, natural areas, and areas of significant horticultural interest to aid in developing the plant palette.
  • May suggest a trial garden for larger projects with an adequate time horizon for assessment. A trial garden is an on-site garden grown specifically for testing and evaluating plants being considered for use in the design. 

B. Develop detailed planting designs for the project area.

C. Source and compile images of all plants specified.

D. Review the planting plan on-site with the client for feedback.


Phase 4- Final Plan

Based on client feedback:

A. Phase 2 concepts are refined into a detailed final plan.

B. The planting plan is updated and will include drawings and a spreadsheet listing sizes and quantities of the plants required. 

C. Finalize material selection (if required).

Depending on the project’s scope, the final plan may be adequate to move forward with bidding and construction. 

The client will be apprised as the Design Process unfolds what if any, additional phases are required. More complex projects may require further design development and construction documents (see Future Project Phases).


Future Project Phases

If the project requires, the local landscape architect will develop construction documents. These documents vary significantly from project to project and may include:

  • Demolition and site prep plan. 
  • Materials plan.
  • Layout plan.
  • Grading and drainage plan.
  • Irrigation plan.
  • Lighting plan.
  • Represent the client at hearings.
  • Obtains permits. 
  • Manage the bidding process.
  • Administer construction.
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