April 7, 2015

What should a Landscape Designer "SEE"

It's a new season, our 26th,  the calls are coming in for new landscape designs and those seeking to freshen their existing landscapes.
Over the years our skills have been honed and our procedures with a new client fine tuned. For me it all goes back to two elements; the details and listening skills. 

We would love to be your landscape firm but that is not always feasible, be it distance, costs or a multitude of reasons.......this post is intended to bring our approach to you

I begin the design process with many questions via a six page survey. Seeing my position as an interpreter, pulling out what my clients like, dislike, hopes and dreams. Bridging those desires with good horticultural practices makes for a successful design

What is your architectural style? 
Favorite colors?

         What plants do you like?

These are all good questions to ask yourself

No. 1  What is your homes architectural style?
        Does your home have a distinct architectural style? Examples include Tudor, Cape, Revival, Traditional, Georgian........  If not, would you like to steer your home into a particular direction? 

             Why is this important?
                                A home and it's gardens should exist as one cohesive unit. We can learn from the history of particular styles and their original sense of place.

Examples;  Georgian homes have straight lines and more formal tendencies, they are symmetrical. All ornamentation should follow in that vernacular. The same for plants. Great materials include boxwood, ivy and topiaries
                   Google 'Georgian Gardens' for further clues

                   A Cape Cod styled home is just the opposite; exuberant, informal, asymmetrical. 
                   Plants include shrub roses, ornamental grasses, hydrangea.......

Belgian;  simplicity, muted color ways
No. 2  
Look out strategic windows. How can those views be framed?
 No. 3
Do you favor symmetrical or asymmetrical?

No. 4
Formal or informal?
Or a mix of both?
No. 5
What are your favored color schemes? Least favorite?
No. 6
List your favorite plants
     -are they specific to your zone?
     -are they properly sited?  ex: sun, shade, partial

No. 7
Are you willing to mix foliage colors or do you prefer all green gardens?
Other questions to ask yourself
-are there any views to conceal?
-borrow and enhance?
-any issues; drainage, sinking, needed renovations ...
What extras are you interested in?
  fireplace...seating area...  containers...lighting...fountain....
When we have amassed all of the above information, and much more, we present a 3D pen and ink rendering. This format versus a blueprint beautifully conveys a landscape, a garden, at maturity.
Funny story......I was in England telling my friend Angela how we transformed our yard and how much I loved it. As horror slowly spread across her face she stopped me and asked why would you have a YARD at home? 
Sensing a translation blunder, I inquired further......
In Britain, a YARD = DUMP. Ever since I refer to my GARDEN

In summary, hone in on the details, ask yourself these questions and source inspiration images. A portrait of your loves will begin to emerge. 

In need of inspiration?
My pinterest pages are chalk full.....take a look

And many many more, follow me HERE.....

OR.....drop me a line, we would be honored to assist, local or long distance  Debra@scentimentalgardens.com



  1. Thanks for all of the tips! I cannot wait to see your pinterest pages as I need a little inspiration for my containers!

    Have a great week!

  2. I'm SO glad that you posted this! I'll definitely check out your Pinterest pages. We recently purchased (and are renovating) a mid-90's, all brick, traditional style home - to me it looks like a two story ranch. I'm really struggling with what to what to do with the area beside our garage, which is on the side of the house. It's hard when trying to work with existing trees, etc, plus it's an oddly shaped spot.

  3. Debra,
    This is great information. I used much of the same line of questions for our clients back in the day, but we were only involved in the flower beds and lawn, we usually came in after hardscape had been installed. Sometimes that was a nightmare. I love your creative process and it will be fun to revisit your pinterest boards for additional inspiration.
    Don't work too hard this spring!

  4. it is hard suzy but what i have found is those challenges often lead to an interesting resolution that might have never been thought of otherwise. let me know if i can help

  5. I hope you share some of your landscaping "before" and "after"s this season. I can only imagine some of the beautiful transformations that you pull off!

  6. Hi Debra...beautiful pictures..I love all of them. I'm going to your Pinterest page.

  7. Most common comment I get is about not wanting anything 'formal'. Yet every picture they show me is 'formal'. Never, do I correct this, merely go in the direction of their pictures. Most clients have no vocabulary for what they want in their garden, but the pics are totally their interior thoughts/images.

    Began using pinterest during the design process last year, a great help. At first visit, and especially 2nd.

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

  8. Debra, you Really know what you are doing and do it so artfully. I am blown away by the beauty of your landscaping and that window view, fabulous!!

    The Arts by Karena
    Artist Nathaniel Galka

  9. Debra this post is so timely. We're actually in the process of doing our backyard after filling in a ugly old in-ground pool. I found your 'questions' so helpful! I'm go to head to your pinterest to see more ideas.

  10. Me thinks you need to come to Ca and advise me....better yet just come
    to have fun!!!

  11. Debra, As I started to read your lovely post I thought this is great information, I could do this... then as I read further, I realize why I should hire a Landscape designer, it's all in the details. Such a well thought out, helpful and beautiful post! And if you come to CA to help out Cindy, please come over to mine as well! Hugs, Rié \ Portobello Design Blog


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