Can We Just Get Along – 9 Keys to Healthy Relationships Between Landscape Designers and Contractors

How does a landscape designer ensure for a prosperous and beneficial relationship after finding a quality landscape contractor or other sub-contractor? Fortunately this doesn’t have to be difficult. Just follow these 9 important steps.

9. Have the landscape project site prepared for your landscape contractor

If you want to frustrate your landscape contractor beyond belief, schedule them to start and not have the site ready for them when they show up–it’s not pretty. Landscape contractors want to run efficiently just as we do. Respect this and ensure the site is ready for them to begin their work. This can include having materials on site, any staking and tagging that needs to be done and other construction trades out of the way.

8. Nurture your relationship beyond the project site

Building a positive and friendly relationship beyond your landscape businesses can lead to trust and respect which carries over to the project site. There are many ways to foster a positive relationship. You can take the contractor to lunch or coffee; take them to a baseball game, etc. I know of many companies who have an annual “contractor appreciation” party.

7. Present opportunities to bid and work on unique projects

Just as landscape designers prefer to work on high-end prestigious projects, so do landscape contractors. Give them the opportunity to take part in projects they can be proud to have their names associated with. Your contractors will invest more of themselves in unique projects and the results will show.

6. Insist on two-way regular communication

Nothing frustrates me more than when my sub-contractors don’t return my phone calls promptly. A close second is when a contractor doesn’t call me when a landscape design decision needs to be made on site. That said, communication works both ways which means we need to do our best to promptly inform our contractors when schedule changes occur, substitutions are made, etc. Discuss your expectations regarding communication before you begin working together.

5. Maintain control of the landscape project but don’t micromanage

This can be a difficult balancing act. The key is to work with landscape contractors you trust to complete the work to your standards the first time around. Put your trust in them, and let them do their job. Your landscape contractor doesn’t want you looking over their shoulder. This leads to hesitant decision making and frustration on their part.

4. Clearly define the scope of the landscape project

Our landscape contractors want to know exactly what they are responsible for on each project. This leads to more accurate pricing of course. It also leads to less confusion regarding “who’s doing what” between sub-contractors. Here are three ways to clearly define the scope of the landscape project:

1. Provide each sub-contractor with a detailed outline of their responsibilities as well as those of the other sub-contractors.
2. Provide Construction Documents- this includes landscape construction details as well as clearly written specifications.
3. If necessary, hold a “Pre-Bid” meeting on site with all sub-contractors and discuss #1 and #2 above.

3. Pay your contractors immediately

Everyone wants to be paid on time; this is a no-brainer. Provide your landscape contractors and other sub-contractors with a deposit as early as possible and pay the contract balance immediately upon completion of the project. No contractor likes to call and ask for money. I don’t like to get the awkward call from my contractors…so pay on time.

2. Value your landscape contractor’s expertise

Perhaps the biggest frustration I hear from landscape contractors and other trades is that their experience and expertise is not appreciated by landscape designers. Believe it or not, there are other people who know more than we do. We have to show our contractors respect by listening to their ideas and suggestions. We will learn more this way and in the process earn the mutual respect from our contractors.

1. Clearly communicate your expectations

Just as we need to clearly communicate the scope of a project, we also need to candidly communicate our overall expectations to our sub-contractors. Most important is the quality of work we expect. But this also includes expectations regarding scheduling, payments and warranty work. Another expectation that should be discussed is employee conduct. Do you want landscape contractors with uniforms or are you okay with shirtless contractors running around your site? What is your policy regarding smoking on site?

We need to set these expectations up front before working together.

Landscape Gardening

Landscape gardening is basically the design style characteristic of the English gardens dating back to eighteenth century, particularly with the work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. It became popular in the nineteenth century when the classical style emphasizing meandering curves and clumps had become old-fashioned. Garden contractors started using the term ‘landscape gardener’, in the twentieth century.

Landscape gardening is concerned with the following:

o Preparation of plans and drawings and scheduling landscape construction.

o Preparation of specifications and quotations.

o Arranging areas for landscape gardening.

o Analysis of gardening sites and clearing debris for landscape gardening.

o Estimation and ordering of landscaping materials.

o Selecting the plants and materials needed to create landscapes.

o Setting out and installing ‘hardscape’ (e.g. brick and stone walls and paths, timber features) and ‘softscape’ (plantings) structures.

o Constructing and decorating steps and garden walls. Landscape gardening also involves construction of fences, trellises, pergolas, ponds and fountains.

o Construction and installation of equipment like ferneries and barbecues. Some of the interesting things that you may install include play structures and garden furniture.

o Creating various paths, steps and paved areas. They can be constructed using paving materials, gravel and timber.

o Performing ‘formative’ (shaping) pruning.

o Maintaining and repairing gardening equipment.

Landscape gardening provides solutions for maintaining parks, playgrounds, etc.
Personal gardens can also be designed using landscape designing. The designer can work on horticulture, water, outdoor play/education for children, storage, ornamental features, recreation, entertaining, wildlife, lifestyle, security/privacy and a lot of other options while doing landscape gardening. These main categories will help the landscape gardener focus on the detail when he actually gets round to designing his own garden.

Greenhouses can also be built using landscape gardening and they can be included inside the garden together with a cold-frame. Furthermore, the landscape gardener or planner can include ornamental horticulture such as fancy home grown vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, bushes, etc.

Entertaining features are a part of landscape gardening as well. BBQ area, a seating/dining area, space on the lawn for activities are all entertainment options that can be included in personal gardens. These entertainment facilities differ according to the requirement of the business or the individual who owns the garden.

Proper planning must be done to ensure that each and every landscape gardening option has a proper space. Landscape gardening helps the gardener explore endless possibilities. For instance, if there is no room for the fruit trees, then perhaps during landscape gardening, the planner could grow fan-trained specimens along a fence, or as a division between two parts of the garden – trained along horizontal wires or perhaps as a dwarf tree in a large patio pot. The greenhouse can be used to raise bedding plants.

In landscape gardening, the gardener must be aware of the prevalent trends so that he can design the landscape accordingly and the requirement of the actual garden owner can be fulfilled. Landscape garden planning should be made flexible and it should be designed in such a way that it will save a fair degree of space and mess and be picturesque at the same time.

Landscape gardening can best serve the individual who’s designing his own landscape, such as setting up his own personal garden. He can make it romantic when designing his own garden, since he is ‘living’ in the area that he wants to design!

Bringing A Yard To Life With Landscape Gardening

For centuries, one of the most popular things to do around one’s home was to create a garden. Gardens were filled with flowers, plants, or food, and they provided enjoyment and sustenance for the homeowner.

The tradition of gardening continues to this day as gardens of all types and shapes can be found around nearly every home. Some gardens are small and might even fit on a windowsill. Others are much larger and can occupy a significant portion of the property.

Some gardens are obviously more than a haphazard collection of plants and flowers, they are planned, organized, beautiful, and often thematic; and those gardens are the product of landscape gardening.

Landscape gardening has origins that go back centuries and to different continents. English gardens of the 18th century had many elements that are associated with modern landscape gardening.

English gardens (or landscape gardens as they were known in England) often revolved around a pond, and would have small bridges and pavilions that were used as vantage points.

In the Far East, Japanese and Chinese gardens were prevalent, and remain popular to this day. Eastern gardens typically had stone features, and like English gardens they often feature water, bridges, and a pavilion.

However, landscape gardening is not limited to those styles, and the evolution of the craft has taken many turns through the decades. Modern gardens may incorporate the features of their ancestors, but they can have a personality of their own as well.

Landscape gardening not only embraces elements of gardens past, but also demonstrates many aspects of architecture as well. Attention to color, line, scale, and texture all must come together to create an aesthetically pleasing garden.

Good color schemes typically match similar colors to other similar colors, such as warm reds to warm yellows, and cool blues to cool greens. Warm colors tend to excite the senses and attract attention, while cooler colors are likely to have a relaxing effect (perfect for a mediation garden!).

Another classic element of architecture that gardening requires is attention to the line. The line of a design relates to the way a viewers eye follows the groupings of plants and border areas.

Smooth flowing lines or abrupt straight lines can impart a different feel and elicit a different response from those who are viewing the garden. Texture and form are closely related to the concept of the line.

Form relates to the prevalent shapes in your garden, such as triangular conifers or rounded bushes, and texture is predicated by the way various plants work together to create a look, whether that look is soft, course, or something in between.

Once you have established your selection of plants and flowers, and your textures and forms, you can compliment those items with a hardscape that is fitting with your tastes.

Fences, walls, stonework, fountains, statues, and gazebos, they are all hardscape items that are integral to landscape and they will help provide your theme and focal points. Install those items first and then fill around them to create a wonderful garden.

Landscape gardening remains popular not only because of its beauty but its function as well. Not only can a garden provide solitude and harmony to your home, it can help augment the best parts of your property such as a great view or wandering creek.

A landscape garden can also be used to block out undesirable views, or to cover parts of your property that are not as appealing. Ultimately the direction you go with landscape gardening is entirely up to you.

By adhering to the classic lements of landscape architecture, and finding a theme and texture that compliments your home, your foray into landscape gardening is sure to provide you with enjoyment, relaxation, and added value to your home.