How to Choose a Professional Landscape Designer

All professional landscape designers are the same, right? Well, not necessarily. All will vie for your business, but not every designer will be the best fit. And some may even be scam artists in disguise.

Proper preparation is essential to prevent potential mishaps and legal issues. If you do your research in the beginning, you will enjoy a seamless experience in the end.

Licensing

Every homeowner wants to hire a landscape company that is licensed, but do you know what to look for? There are several different licenses and each hold a different meaning. Check your state requirements. Every company should have general liability insurance and carry additional certificates as defined by the state in which they do business. Insist the company shows you their certificates of liability and make sure they carry adequate insurance.

Complaints and Reviews

Companies may add testimonies to their websites but they may be fabricated. Ask for references. Contact previous customers and ask them if they are happy with their end result and whether they would recommend the company. Take a look at their landscaping and see if it meets your level of quality. Ask the references if the company communicated with them throughout the process and their opinion on the level of reliability. Inquire about any hidden costs or overages and how they adhered to the time limit of the project. Check with your local Better Business Bureau for any complaints as well.

Fixed vs. Estimated Costs

An estimate is not the same as a fixed price contract. Some companies will offer an estimate to get you to agree to its services and pull the old “bait and switch” at the last minute. Request a final proposal that specifies final pricing.

Remember that you get what you pay for. Don’t be dazzled by excessively low prices. It costs money for a landscape company to pay for labor, materials and equipment. If a company quotes you a low price, the difference may not be coming out of its profits, but in the level of quality and materials.

Get everything in writing before you sign. A contract should specify materials, time limits and final costs and anything else you deem necessary.

When you compare estimates, remember the phrase, “All things being equal.” Each estimate should contain the exact same materials, time limits and scope of work. If one condition is different, you are not comparing apples to apples and you risk dealing with less-than-qualified contractors.

Guarantees

Does the company offer any guarantees? Does it stand behind the value of its work? Not all companies offer guarantees and some offer only partial guarantees. When you compare, read the fine print. Look for a promise of 100% satisfaction with no stipulations.

If you perform the research prior to choosing a landscape designer, the process is sure to be seamless and enjoyable. There are many reputable companies that will create a beautiful design within your price range and parameters. You just have to roll up your sleeves and do a little legwork to find them. Good luck!

Use Lighting to Enhance Your Fall Landscaping

If you’re like many homeowners, chances are you shoot for a little splash of color around your home during every season. Spring brings us colorful dainty buds and blossoms. During the summer months, we’re greeted with flowers that are as bold as they are beautiful.

Once the days grow shorter and cooler and the summer draws to a close, flowers begin dying off and fall slowly creeps in. Your yard will change, and the lighting choices you make for your space should shift in tandem.

Adjusting Landscaping Lighting for Fall

Planting fall blooming flowers is an excellent way to add a splash of fall color to your property. However, they’re typically not as bright and eye-catching as some spring and summer flowers even though they add a shade of sophistication to your outdoor space. The best way to accentuate these blooms is to swap the regular blubs in your existing ground-mounted spotlight lamps for a slightly higher wattage. Not too high, though – you don’t want to irritate your neighbors.

Trees are a fantastic fall spectacle for your yard as well, which means highlighting the breathtaking changes in the colors of the falling leaves should be high on your list of to-dos for fall. Take the same action you did with your fall flowers: replace the bulbs in your spotlights for a set with a slightly higher wattage to show off those beautiful autumn colors falling from the branches of your trees.

Outdoor Party Lighting for Fall

Autumn parties are a staple of any family’s fall agenda, so outdoor lighting for fall fiestas is another great way to dress up your space for the season. For example, you can use lanterns to line outdoor walkways along with seating areas. This will give your landscaping a rustic appeal that will add an injection of charm into your fall get-togethers.

Another outdoor party lighting option for the fall is glow jars. You can find these unique lighting instruments at craft stores, but it’s fun and easy to make your own for parties. An added bonus is that you’ll save money when you DIY. Simply snag some mason jars and give each one a coat of sheer white glossy paint. When lit, the jars will emit a soft white glow that will rival high-dollar party accessories from even the most ritzy of home décor catalogs.

You can also highlight the fall colors of your yard by installing string lights around the perimeter of your landscaping prior to your big “shindig.” Opt for soft yellow or white bulbs, and make sure the lighting is not too harsh. A good rule of thumb: the smaller the bulb, the softer the light. String up a few lengths of lights and wait until nightfall to get a feel for whether you need more or fewer lights to achieve the atmosphere you desire.

Fall lighting for your landscape requires nothing more than a few minor tweaks to your existing outdoor lighting system. For fall parties, a little imagination and innovation goes a long way – and helps your wallet out in the process.

An Eco-friendly Addition to Your Landscape Design

Rain gardens are eco-friendly landscape elements that take advantage of excess rainfall. You will often find them planted near depressions, sidewalks and porches. They are used not only as decorative elements, but also to direct water into the ground, reducing the buildup in other areas around your home. Rain gardens are also constructed to catch storm water runoff, protecting soil from destructive erosion and preventing polluted groundwater.

Rain gardens can be very effective at reducing polluted water especially in urban city areas where concrete is plenteous. City properties that experience excess storm water are at risk of sending polluted water into streams and into the groundwater. By planting a rain garden near your urban property, you can help to lessen the amount of water that is propelled into the storm drains and do your part to reduce the toxic load on our planet.

How does rain water become so polluted?

During the cycle of rain, from when it falls from the sky to when it arrives at the storm drain, it can pick up dirt and waste materials that pollute it. Areas that experience high amounts of rain would benefit from rain gardens. A rain garden will reduce the amount of polluted water that becomes storm water runoff while helping to conserve water as well.

Interested in adding a rain garden to your landscape design?

Your rain garden will most likely need the help of a professional. It can be taken on as a DIY project, but with the intricacies of installation, you run the risk of costly mistakes. However, if you want to tackle it yourself, follow these tips:

Craft a blueprint – Examine your property and notice how water flows and where it collects. Are there any hills or ditches? Slopes or mounds? Any variations in height could affect the flow of water. Choose your rain garden location after you have located the areas of your landscape where the most water flows.

Size and type – Determine the size of your rain garden and if needed, consult a professional. A professional will also test your drainage to help you decide what type of rain garden you will need.

Installation – The first step to installing a rain garden is to grab a shovel and start digging. This is not like any ordinary digging where flowers are planted. This installation requires knowledge of the bed, the right plants and the flow of water. Also, leveling is very important and should be done after digging is complete. Examine the slope of the area. If sloping is present, you may need to build a berm (earthen dam) into the side and edge of the rain garden. Use native plants and find out the properties of your soil and whether it needs additional organic matter.

Maintenance – The installation might be difficult, but maintenance is a breeze. Keep the rain garden full of mulch and remove weeds as needed. Give the plants plenty of water so over time they can build strong, deep roots that won’t require as much future maintenance unless you experience a drought.

Rain gardens are beautiful and help the environment at the same time. They are wildly popular and add creativity and life to any landscape.