BY DANÉE MARIE LAMBOURNE & JOHN CONNORS
You’re ready. This is the year you’ve decided to tackle your property, and transform the space into the utopia you’ve always dreamed of. Your vision may be clear, you know the lifestyle you want, but you’re not sure how to execute it, and you‘re looking for the guidance from a seasoned veteran and the blueprints to lead your renovation. Maybe you just need to know where to begin and which trades to engage.
Projects like these can be daunting. The myriad of construction requirements, transitions and grades, drainage, permits, features, themes and planting, feeling confident that the investment not only compliments the home, but will achieve your outdoor living goals. Turning to a professional design team for your home and landscape planning is an investment worth making..
John Connors worked for one of the larger landscape installation companies for three decades here on Vancouver Island before transitioning to his role as Senior Designer at EDEN Projects. Involved in managing and implementing everything from the smallest of backyard projects to landscaping shopping malls, five star resorts, and rooftop gardens, Connors has had the privilege of working alongside some of the most talented landscape designers in the city, leading to his eventual ascension into his now senior design and build management role.
He shares the process of choosing a designer and the benefits of working with a construction manager, straight from a contractor’s point of view. This two-part series kicks off with a focus on choosing a designer, while the next discusses the benefits of project management, and the importance of design integrity and a trade lead that advocates for all involved.
A successful landscape build is all about interpretation. The first stage of the interpretation happens when you convey your needs, preferences, likes and dislikes to the designer. The designer will then combine your needs and tastes to create a concept that emulates the lifestyle and living space that achieves your goals.
Before you choose your designer, it’s a valuable exercise to pay attention to how you want to experience your garden spaces. Do you need a lawn big enough to play fetch with your pet, or is your goal more privacy and refuge – a spot to curl up with a good book and a chardonnay? Are you hoping to cook and entertain outdoors?
Are you considering a pool or hot tub? What are your storage needs? Are there views that you’d like to preserve, or maybe some that you’d like to block? Your design specialist will take all your desired use cases into account when creating your space, so creating a wish list prior to consultation will make for a great kickoff.
Consider what you find attractive and unattractive in other landscapes. Do your neighbours or friends have a feature in their yard that you would like in yours? Did you see something in a publication, or on an online pinboard platform that really caught your eye? Pictures act as benchmarks that help the designer refine their understanding of what truly inspires you.
Choosing a designer that’s best for you
Selecting a design specialist who can incorporate your desired themes and features and translate them on the page to lead contractors and set out a clear scope of deliverables is key. Each designer has their own process and delivery. Visit websites, look at the photo galleries, check out their ratings. Note those that really jump out at you. This is not to say that any given designer doesn’t have a varied palette, but you’ll probably notice that each designer’s work or methodology has a certain “feel” to it, that either speaks to you or not.
If you prefer the “live” shopping experience to online, take note of any new or established landscapes that catch your eye. If noticing active or recently built projects, note the name and number of the landscape contractor, or the builder/general contractor, and reach out (best to stay off an active construction site, for safety reasons).
Once you’ve connected with prospective designers for consultation, you may be supplied with a questionnaire to fill out, or engage you in conversation about your wish list for your space. It’s important that you “click.” We call this chemistry in our studio and it does need to be reciprocated. The more you and the designer are in tune with each other, the better the outlook for a successful end product, and the more enjoyable the process will be.
When interviewing these prospects, get to know their process and what you can expect from it. Seek to understand how they intend to curate the space and leverage their connections and resources for the execution of your dream garden. The relationships your chosen professional has with their trades and suppliers is telling.
Once you’ve selected your best-fit design partner, the concept process will begin with sketches, palettes and alignment practices. Your designer will set out to make space and implement processes for feedback on their work, sharing of inspirations and revision requests. Depending on your wish list, you may require 3D rendering and mechanical drawings, or simple 2D concepts and planting plans. Your designer will help you determine the best path forward.
Like all good partnerships and creative endeavours, the more input you can give, the more perfectly your project will be tailored to you and set the pace for an exceptional build plan.
In part two of this series we discuss the benefits of selecting a design team that act as liaisons with trade partners in project management and general contractors.
You may also like: The New Perennial Garden, a Guide to Design & Care.
Danée Marie Lambourne is the Founder and Creative Director and John Connors is the Senior Design Associate and Construction Manager for EDEN Projects and Inventing Eden Landscape, design, build and renovation firms operating out of the Greater Victoria area, designing gardens across Vancouver Island.