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Landscape Advice

DIY: Advice on how to approach your project and Landscape your property by a Landscape Gardener.

Designing a garden is an incredibly complex task, with various factors to consider, getting it right is all about planning and being open to as much of your environment as possible. Your environment will always have to be put above your particular wants and needs, understanding this and being flexible will ensure you end up getting the best from your particular garden environment. I am not saying you won’t be able to get your dream garden; it’s just that you have to have a broader approach to ensure you get the best possible dream garden for your environment.

Gardening is a financial investment and there is a lot to consider making sure your money is well spent to encourage your outside living needs whilst still adding value to your property. A dead or dying garden does nothing for your properties value and is not a happy place to be, especially in our climate, where our home lives revolve around entertaining outside. 

Geographical practicality is always the decider, but generally it is the easiest part of the exercise. Nature has very
defined laws and although you can bend and stretch these, they don’t break so all your cues will come, courtesy of Mother Nature. Once the environment is assessed, the best way to begin is to decide on a garden style or theme that fits in with the style of the house or buildings on the property and the greater environment around the property. Remember, if it’s growing well in your neighbourhood, its going to grow well in your garden. There is no law against going against the style of the house, lots of designs can work well with different styles of homes, but vast departures always look disjointed and never blend. On larger properties, garden rooms or areas can be created, but on smaller gardens it’s safer to go with a particular style and ramp it up from there. 

Deciding on a pre existing styles is the best way to narrow down the elements you will need to make the style work, giving you a skeleton to work with. Gardening materials, plants and other horticultural ingredients are the elements where your own personal style and needs will now take preferences. From here on your imagination is the limit of what can be achieved. Approaching your project from this angle will ensure success and garden vitality.
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CONTRACTED: What to expect when you have your garden landscaped by a professional

A landscaped garden will enhance the value of your property and allow you to enjoy the outdoor environment as soon as practically possible. Time taken to get the best results from your contractor will be well worth the effort.

Landscape architect or a landscape designer / contractor?
Landscape architects are trained in design theory, landscape construction, horticulture and the use of plants and other materials. Similarly with building architects, they will design landscapes to suit your requirements and prepare documentation that will enable a contractor to quote on and install the landscape design under the supervision of the landscape architect. Landscape architects are usually (but not exclusively) employed to design commercial and large specialized residential and environmental projects. Your contractor does not purport to be a landscape architect but does know what is required to execute your project.

Contractors may offer a fully comprehensive design and construct service as well as the following specialist services.

Site survey; 
Site utilization and flow; 
Conceptual and detailed design;
Bills of quantities and specifications;
Landscape construction project management;
Specialized horticultural maintenance;
Contractors may also offer consultation services to clients who wish to utilize their own resources. 

How to start your project.
A landscape project can be complex and to ask your contractor for a quotation without having decided on style, a design or a budget is unreasonable. Ask to see a portfolio of recent projects and discuss and agree a budget to suit your project. The climate and micro environment needs of your project are important and your contractor will be well versed in determining and interpreting these needs.
Decide on a garden design or style that suits your taste or the house/building design. You are now ready to move to the next stage in having your garden or development landscaped.

Conceptual design.
Conceptual landscape design drawings or sketches, depicting the overall layout and features, must be prepared to enable the client and contractor to reach an understanding. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, and the amount of work involved in conceptual design, a financial commitment or cost may be involved. Proportions of such costs may be credited against the overall project cost. At the completion of the conceptual stage you will be able to invite a detailed budget proposal or firm quotation for your project.

Fixed price contract or variable priced contract.
The advantage of a fixed price contract is that you know exactly what your cost will be. This means that the contractor carries most of the risk and therefore will have to build this into the price to cater for ‘unknowns’. A variable priced contract, on the other hand, will enable risk sharing in likely variable cost areas and may better suit certain types of projects. Discuss these issues with your contractor to find the best way forward.


The quotation must include for the landscape design, preparation of drawings and schedules, ground preparation, earthworks, growing medium preparation, the cost of all the indicated plant material, fertilizers used during planting, all labour and supervision for planting and installation, irrigation system installation if appropriate, hard landscape features, pest eradication, tending on the garden during the project implementation, a period of maintenance or maintenance supervision. The quotation must include a project program which will indicate the time required to undertake the various stages of the project. The quotation should also include for the pricing of additional items should they arise, the cost of additional labour and supervision and the cost of extending the on-site overheads longer than planned. A ‘practical completion’ and a final handover dates are normally agreed.

The landscape design drawings.
Landscape design drawings must be detailed and to scale and depict the layout of the garden, lawns, planted beds and hard landscape or water features. All the plant materials will be depicted on the drawings as well as accompanying schedules of all plants, quantities and coverage. Any detailed drawings for construction of retaining structures, water or hard landscape features are provided at this stage. Modern computer graphics can even picture your finished garden for you. The cost of preparing drawings will be either included in the overall quoted price or be a separate charge. The drawings must be approved ahead of site preparation or planting starting.

Your contractor will work to set specifications. Consideration will be given to slopes, falls of ground, storm water run-off, the need to retain unstable areas, the preparation of suitable growing mediums for lawns and beds. This will include composting and fertilization. In severe or extreme conditions, or where a history of problems exists, this may involve soil testing by a specialist soil science laboratory.

Cost control.
Your contractor will indicate what has been included in the quoted landscape installation and what is excluded. He or she will also, on request, indicate what prices may vary, under what circumstances they may vary and by how much. Typically, changes may be made to the planting program as a result of choice or availability, or hard landscape or water features may be added. Be sure to formally approve any variation.

Quality control and maintenance.
The landscape work is often started while builders or other services are still on site, so spare a thought for the sensitivity of plants to builder’s wheelbarrows, cable trenching and the like. For a good quality garden, ideally all other trades should be essentially complete to avoid interference.
Plants are particularly sensitive immediately after planting and some fatalities may occur despite the best efforts of your contractor, therefore make a provision for replacement and resolve who will pay for them. Some contractors will guarantee plants maturing successfully and guaranty replacement for a period subject to certain preconditions. This can be beneficial particularly when expensive palms or cycads are involved.

When is the landscape work completed and when does the maintenance start? Usually ‘practical completion’ indicates the commencement of the maintenance period. Plants can take between six and eighteen months to mature (and acclimatize) so your contractor should be responsible for the maintenance (or oversee the maintenance) for a minimum period of six months. This will ensure that correct maintenance procedures are followed, lawns are dressed and leveled after initial rooting, plants that are showing severe stress are identified, and expensive form plants are inspected for signs of disease or pests before it is too late.

Pest control.
Especially in newly developed areas, your property has been home to a myriad of insects, ants, bugs and mites for decades. Along come all these new (and tasty) plants which make for a feast. Before you know it, your expensive new garden can become a banquette for the resident pests. Your contractor will be in a position to take the necessary precautions before it happens and advise you on the correct maintenance procedures over the longer term. Weeds are also a major concern in the newly landscaped garden and are to be expected. This first flush is normally removed during the project implementation or during early maintenance and usually will not occur to the same extent again. Be sure to discuss with these issues with your contractor.

No contractor can work without payment. The quotation and /or contract agreement must indicate the amount to be paid and when this falls due. Much work is done before anything happens on site and your contractor will require phased payment. This may include an initial payment up front, payment after drawings are completed and approved, and payment after plants are delivered to site, payment to specialist sub-contractors, e.g. retaining walls, irrigation contractors etc., and then a final payment. A retention amount to take care of defects is negotiable but will also impact on the quoted price.

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