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Garden Principles: A Simplified Guide to the Landscape Design Process

written by Lisa Simek

Envisioning a renovation for a boring backyard? Perhaps you are considering distinctive landscaping for a new construction project? Whether a backyard, front yard, courtyard, patio, or terrace, your next al fresco venture does not have to be daunting. Landscaping design expert David Ash, Jr. of Surf City’s David Ash Jr. Landscape Contractors has more than 30 years of experience transforming ordinary properties into dream-like outdoor living and entertaining spaces. Here David walked Bay Magazine step by step through the entire landscape design process so that readers can know exactly what to expect from their next backyard renovation.

Phase 1: The Initial Consultation

“This onsite consultation gives design professionals the ability to physically see a property and understand everything that the client is envisioning for their project from their current perspective,” begins David Ash, Jr. He shares that experts will look for very particular details in a yard and will be noting characteristics including grade elevations, area drainage, and any existing structures or unique features on premises. It is a starting point with regards to discussing the clients needs, scope of work, and the budget. The outcome of this initial meeting will ultimately determine whether the project requires a more thorough, formal landscape architectural design or a simple and basic written proposal in order to move forward.

Phase 2: The Design Plan

Often to visualize the ideas of the homeowner there are times when a space in fact requires a landscape design plan, and this is when the initial meeting goes a bit further. “In order for us to determine how best to utilize the space, we need to establish the aesthetic, functional, and horticultural requirements for the design,” shares Ash. This usually requires a more comprehensive analysis of the property and of the client—a critical step for evaluating where the majority of family activities and functions will be located, as well as pinpointing if and where certain features (plants, hardscapes, lighting, fire or water features, etc.) could be added.

Much like the way a building architect provides homeowners with a design plan that consist of multiple drawings (for each structural system such as air conditioning, heating, plumbing, etc.), outdoor architectural designers tend to follow suit. Along with detailed exterior plans, landscape design experts draw up an inventory of existing utilities (such as power lines, underground structures or roof overhangs), a functional diagram (used to locate the activity spaces or flow of traffic currently vs. recommended), drawings of hardscape (patio, driveways, etc.), planting details (including sketches of sun and shade patterns and current vegetation, since this will influence the selection of plants), and blueprints for the proposed design theme including all planned features such as lighting, irrigation, pavers, fire elements, etc.

During this phase, homeowners are typically presented with an initial conceptual plan that carefully merges landscape expertise with their styles and preferences, and—only after collaborative feedback—will they receive final plans that include scale working drawings with all spatial layouts and locations. Ash notes that because of the time and resources that go into developing these all-inclusive outdoor building plans, it is common practice for the landscape design portion of the project to serve as a service all on its own and is usually provided for a separate fee.

Phase 3: The Proposal for Installation

If a client’s project did not require plans, then they would automatically be provided with a comprehensive written proposal detailing all of the project’s scope of work and specified materials. If a client did receive plans and decides to move forward with them, then a proposal would be the next step before implementation of the design plan. The proposal basically outlines your master design and will include a planting plan with specifications and additional details such as the scope of the work and any fees associated with executing your personalized design. This is the time when any adjustments are made, and an official contract will be presented for your signature in order to begin work.

Phase 4: Installation

After the necessary permits are obtained, materials are ordered and the execution of the design begins. To ensure the project runs smoothly and efficiently from the start, there is a preconstruction meeting onsite. The landscape operations and procurement personnel work closely with the client to ensure that they address all aspects of the contract and design. “When we have completed all work on a client’s project, we perform a final walk-through on-site and present them with a closing package. This includes a copy of their final plans and contract, detailed care guidelines, warranty information, product information, and any other important information specific to their project,” adds Ash. This is something homeowners should expect from all landscape contractors that are hired to design their property.

Phase 5: Maintenance

As with all landscapes, regular maintenance is inevitable. Ash’s landscape firm houses a maintenance division that offers comprehensive property management services, including lawn mowing, turf and bed fertilization, weed control, edging, mulching, pruning, and more. Some designs may require specialty maintenance services such as seasonal flower rotations, landscaping enhancements, plant health care management, irrigation, outdoor lighting, snow removal, etc. The extent of a landscaping firm’s maintenance capabilities is a great way to gauge their ongoing commitment to clients, as they know the project’s vision and how best to maintain it, ensuring a flourishing yard and outdoor-living space year after year.

Whether warm summer days or cool autumn evenings, there is no better way to spend time with loved ones than by relaxing in a beautifully landscaped outdoor space. Be it a bayfront property or a backyard with room to grow, hiring a reputable landscaping design company will ensure that you get the most enjoyment possible out of your outdoor living space. The key is to find someone that will realize your unique vision and use their creativity and expertise to arrange your space to achieve maximum appeal, utility, and harmony between your family and nature.

David Ash Jr. Landscape Contractors is a high-end landscape and design firm based in Surf City. Servicing Long Beach Island for more than 25 years, David Ash Jr. offers a visionary, functional, and natural approach to full service luxury outdoor living design, custom installation, and building.

To learn more visit or follow them on Instagram @davidashjrlandscape

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