March 8, 2018

Hiring a Landscape Professional....What to know

Making plans for your gardens this year? Would that include hiring a professional? 
Many of you ask me about our process in designing landscapes. I thought I would share our procedure with's a bit unconventional but going on 30 years in 2019, the process works for us and our customers
So, where to start?  

After fielding questions from our initial contact, our next important step is our survey, We will send you 5 pages of questions from your likes, to dislikes, what is the architectural style of your home, do you need privacy, drainage issues, favorite colors, and on...........

All sorts of preliminary work leads to a successful first meeting, it arms us with information to make each design personal. The more a client can convey, the better. And as you will see, we are fanatical about the details

Do you have a Pinterest account? Any magazine cut-outs? Let's review, together

At the initial meeting we begin the design process, all the preliminary is complete, let's go!
Our client has two options

   1) Just myself, who provides a design as seen below, with a mood board showing the plants and any ornamentation

   2) A well loved option is to bring Stephanie Fania, our in-house artist. Together we create a 3D pen and ink rendering which includes the house......soooo much better than a blueprint! So easy for our clients to visualize 

At our initial home visit, we do a landscape review and then head indoors. I want to see your interior colors and look out strategic windows. How ideal if the interior and the exterior flows.
More of our landscape is viewed from the indoors looking out. By pulling the garden "out" versus hugging a homes perimeter, the more enjoyable.

Ley's begin the design process. 

                  Top 5 Considerations
   Whether you hire a professional or you manage the project,
 here are some important questions to ask your contractor
 and yourself..........

 #1  What is the architectural style of your home?
How can the exterior and the garden be made into one cohesive design? This is key. 
Here is a past blog post to help with the Architecture question

#2 Consider the colors of your plant palette and your home
 Choose your colors via the exterior of your home, this too is important . What do I mean? Let's say you have a red/orange brick house. Pale colors would be lost, baby blue, soft pinks would clash but deep purples, dark yellow, rich blues, all intense colors, would do nicely

The same principals apply to ornamentation. Try to repeat a color found on your home, or a palette as spoken of above.                                            
 This client loves purple and with the Victorian homes colors and the complimentary plant material the blend is beautiful
#3 List your favorites ........ 
perennials, shrubs, trees, evergreens?
#4 Do you have a preferred style?
Type? Low maintenance or "I will love being in my garden" personality, understand your time commitment level. A cottage garden will require more of a commitment than formal. 
Floriferous and romantic?

#5 How will we utilize this space?
     Cutting or Veg garden?
     Space for the children?
     Maybe conversation and dining will be the priority?
  Many of our projects are renovations. How can we work with what is existing? What can be saved, what can be pruned
 (miracles are wrought here!), What to transplant? Remove? Scrutinize with a measured eye.                           
Loving to prune myself, particularly when faced with a creative challenge, I was thrilled to tackle this versus my crew, delighting in the instant results. And a much better idea than removal and starting over
It's transformative. Up and over the arch is a glorious climbing rose that once in bloom is breathtaking. As an aside this image makes a great example of brick color to plant tones. Pastels would be lost, whereas the colors of royalty; deep red, dark blue and purple, would compliment this structure.
 Let's take the above one step further by adding the orange toned Heuchera and a chartreuse underplanting in front of the boxwood.......what a pop and see how lovely these colors would be with the brick. Colored foliage is a delight to work with, they break up the monotony of all green creating an exclamation point of interest

Back to the design......... 
Our field drawings are in pencil and the client has an opportunity to approve or tweak the design before we leave. Designs are created on-site, too many details are forgotten in an office at a drafting table. I return with the sketch in ink, with a mood board of plants and ornamentation. Our clients LOVE this, after all we too are visual, let us help you to "see" your new space
Never forget to take into consideration the seasons, What will your garden look like in winter?

Do you have any views to conceal? Any to "borrow?"
  Ornamentation will set your garden apart, what kind and where?.  These too should match the exterior. I once went to a home that was a Southern Colonial; white brick, wrought iron filigree in high gloss black....very formal.  Her pots....would you imagine were whiskey barrels? And a split rail fence? A total disconnect.

   As this process, to us, is not just the garden but your home,
It's the total picture. 
We can additionally assist with the exterior. 
We ARE NOT ARCHITECTS, just enthusiasts, think "Curb Appeal".  
 We enjoy addressing those details, drawing in any minor architectural tweaks for a full understanding of what can be.

Want to see your home with shutters? An appropriately sized light fixtures, No problem, out comes the pencil

Change the paint colors? Let's explore!

Change the front door, add new porch rails? How about the current style, in need of a freshening? We once turned a mid century Mediterranean into French Normandy, we will draw it...... plus we travel with a big eraser, no risk taken.. 
We all know when we are not "being heard", if you sense this is happening with a professional, stop the process and make certain your wants and needs are being fully addressed. Not doing so will lead to costly mistakes later on. 
Unlike us, completing the design on site, usually in 3-4 hours, the majority of designers will take the details back to an office to craft the design. If you were misunderstood, you will be shocked at the results. Take charge and guarantee your delight. 

                                  Enjoy the upcoming season!
Scentimental Gardens provides on-site visits local, via E-Design and week I leave for France to help a client in and out. 
Oooh la la!  Pince moi!

 Fondly, Debra.


  1. Hello Debra,

    How are you? From your instagram account it looks as if you have been enjoying a little break from the IL winter. I would love to hear all about the blogging conference that you attended.

    This post is fabulous! I have linked back to your posts often when talking about container gardens, boxwoods, etc. Thanks for another great reference for me.

    We are contemplating pulling up some large bushes and schrubs but before we do anything we are also contemplating a deck redesign.

    Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for sharing your 30 years of knowledge.

  2. You are one of THEE most multi-talented women I know. How wonderful that I got to spend time with you. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and talent.

  3. What a wonderful post that is so very timely for me. I have been contemplating a renovation of our backyard garden and have been trying to come up with a design that will balance the garden style with the architectural style of our home....a detail you pointed out so well, but that many seem to forget. Great post.

  4. Debra,
    This is just the inspiration I need to get started on my spring/summer garden. Lovely ideas and how fun it would be to have you as a "garden enthusiast" contributing to our garden.
    Hope all is well.


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