The design process is a spiral: we may revisit questions, possibilities and elements, but each time we will refine them.
Based on the initial consultation, I develop one or more graphic plans showing the major elemen
ts to be used in the landscape–hardscape, water features, buildings, trees, and vegetation masses. Some of the plants and materials are usually identified. These are usually loose drawings to establish a design direction.
Since this plan is scaled and based on field-collected information, the more information I have already at hand the better. Plats are very helpful; pool layouts require a surveyor, as may more complicated layouts.
After tracing the plat into a computer drafting (CAD) program (Vectorworks), Jane and I return to record other pertinent information: the species, critical root zones, and general health of larger trees; existing foundation plants and the like; invasives; architectural elements; drainage patterns and problems, hardscape materials, and so forth. We also note questions and ideas we have concerning design direction.
That information and the survey are traced to create a composite base sheet (Inventory & Analysis) that acts as a graphic journal for design development. You also gets a copy for future reference: should you wish to change or add to the design, it serves as a reminder of the issues that framed the design solution.
Once this research is done, the design usually moves swiftly. Ideas are developed on yellow tracing paper and the best one is refined, showing: placement and general shape/materials of proposed landscape elements and planting masses with key trees/shrubs and perennials labeled. Once accepted, this master plan can be scanned on to the CAD drawing as desired.
A conventional planting plan is a hard-line formal presentation identifying all plants, locations, spacing, and any planting notes. Groups of perennials may be included on the same sheet with shrubs and trees, but more specific perennial plans may require a separate sheet. Native plant design tends to be more complicated than conventional landscape design—with more mixed species in a looser and more “organic” layout—making it even more timeconsuming and costly to draw up. I find it more effective to source the plants myself and lay them out on site for planting.
As a certified arborist (International Society of Arboriculture Certification No. SO-6165A), I can walk sites — with a member of the development team — for tree species, health, and DBH (size as measured by diameter at breast height) and develop tree protection and landscape plans as required by the city or county.
Land Management & Invasives Control
I often go through so much information during the consultation that clients ask for a personalized document outlining the seasonal tasks for improving, installing, and maintaining their property over time. It usually includes steps for removing invasives and covers other areas of interest, such as sustainable methods for mosquito control.
An invasive plant is (usually) non-native and aggressive to the point of smothering the native vegetation on site—reducing the number of species and available food for wildlife significantly. It can also severely damage the economic value of property. Some of the most well-known are: kudzu, bamboo, privet, honeysuckle, wisteria, English ivy, and—most recently—Japanese chaffweed and mulberry weed. See Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council for a treasure trove of information on the species most threatening to local ecosystems.