Landscape Design

Landscape Design Process

Plan for the 2007 Parade of Homes

It’s no secret that I design landscapes professionally. I have spent a great deal of time (USU- Landscape Architecture School) and money learning all I can on the subject. However, a formal education can only teach so much. Mother Nature will teach lessons over time that no school can prepare you for! In gardening, as in many areas of life, there is simply no substitute for experience.

I prefer to do quick consults because I’m in and out in a few hours and get paid good money for the time spent and it is the best value for a competent do-it-yourselfer. However, I also do full-scale plans for higher-end clients- and no, I don’t have a full-scale plan for my own home even though you’d THINK I’d make the time for that!

I recently did a full-scale re-design for a million dollar home that had been bank-owned for more than a year. Needless to say, the landscaping was just about dead. The new owners are retiring and wanted to make it a haven for their grand kids. They were self-contracting the project (though they brought in a professional swimming pool company) and were great to work with. I need to get over there and see how it all worked out, the downside of not installing my designs is not having full-control over implementation and there’s plenty of room for things to go awry.

Anyway, here’s how the plans come together:

Pencil sketch approved and ready for ink

Preliminary Pencil Sketch

Preliminary pencil sketch which I go over with the homeowners and get approval for design choices. Once I have that, the production work begins.

8:00 am: After weeks of measuring, meeting with the clients, reviewing ideas etc., it’s time to create a final plan. I started working on the final drawing as soon as the kids left for school. The inking process took WAY longer than planned so I didn’t finish it up until 6:00 pm or so.

Can a girl ever have too many color choices?

10:00 pm– After dinner and some family time, the kids and Husband are finally down for the night and I can start the color phase. I have long since realized that this is a HUGE plan (thanks to the odd property shape) and it’s gonna take a all night to finish!

 1:00 am– miles to go before I sleep.

This is what 3:00 looks like- view from my drafting table


3 am and DONE!

3:00 am– the color rendering is now finished but I still have to make the landscape manual -which took me until 5:00 am

The finished plan is laminated for durability and ready to go to the client. I also give them black and white copies. I’ll say right up front that this plan is not my best work. However, I had to do the best I could within the perimeters the client established. Sometimes, it’s more about getting paid than doing an award-winning plan. So long as the client is thrilled, I am thrilled!
In total, it took me more 20 hours of sketching, inking, copying, and color rendering BY HAND to complete the color production of the design (I am old school).

While I love my full-service clients, my specialty are people like ME- the do-it-yourselfer who wants a high end look on a low end budget. Doing a great design for a professional install is far easier than creating a great design that’s budget and do-it-yourself friendly. I like a challenge!

I know a full-scale plan is beyond the budget and need for most people.  I limit the number I do each year because they are intense for me too.  A plan need not look glitzy on paper in order to look great in reality.  I was a little nervous to post this here because I don’t want anyone to think I believe a plan at this level is a need- but it is definately a nicety!

If you want to create your own color design plan, I will be teaching several landscape design classes this year- FOR FREE- that you’re more than welcome to take!  I’ll post more about them when the time gets closer.

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  • Steve
    February 6, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Hey Cynthia, this looks like a great website you are developing. I saw your site address from your post on my blog. I like this post, and I’ll be interested in seeing more on landscape design, especially flowerbed designs. One of these days, I’ll be back in a house and immersing myself in gardening again.

    • Cynthia
      February 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      Hey Steve! I’m sure you’ll be gardening in a home again soon. The entire time I lived in Oregon we were in an apartment- torture for a gardener to be limited to ONLY a patio! Been there.

      We met on Gardenweb years ago and I hope your new life brings all the joy you can absorb.

  • Steve
    February 7, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Yes, I do know who you are, Cynthia. I recall you were involved in the JVWCD demonstration gardens and that you did landscape design. I still go to those JVWCD fundraiser breakfasts, by the way. My wife and I hope to buy a home in 2012, and we just might want your help for a landscape plan. I’m a good grower and nurturer, but at this point, I think I’ll still need help to come up with a fantastic plan.

    • Cynthia
      February 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm

      Steve- that’s me! I actually work there now part-time. L-O-V-E it! The new building is coming along beautifully- I just posted photos on the blog for the garden. Hope I get the chance to run into you there and meet your wife.

  • Jen
    February 22, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Wow! I am in awe–and hand drawing and everything to boot is completely impressive! I’d love for you to show me pictures or take me by some of your projects!

  • Delores Lyon
    May 7, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing the landscape design process! I had no idea that so much work goes into the plan for the landscape design. In fact, I think that I might want to have a landscape designer make some plans for my backyard. It is in some serious need of TLC!