Ask A Designer – FAQ

Ask A Designer – FAQ

Making the decision to commit to a new landscape overhaul project for your home can be daunting. Especially if you haven’t done a remodel project before, there can be a lot of “unknowns” when taking on such a huge hunk of home improvement. Our landscape designers do their best to guide clients through every step – making it as seamless, painless, and stress-free as possible. Every project is different and has its own unique variables, but the basic questions we are asked most at the beginning of the landscape process are often the same. We asked our designers to elaborate on some of their most-asked questions, and shed light on some important topics to discuss with your potential landscape team! 

 

 

How much information/direction does a designer need from the client?

The more information you can share up front with your designer, the more likely they will be able to design an incredible landscape that reflects your personal flair while including desired/ required elements. We love hearing about what styles and elements you do and don’t like so we know what direction to start with on your design. Things like Pinterest and Houzz boards can be super helpful for this. On the flipside, there’s also no shame in not knowing what you want – that’s what we’re here for! Whether you know exactly what you’re looking for, or not, the most helpful thing you can do throughout the design process is provide your feedback. We try very hard to customize each design project to the personality and needs of each client, so when we go through our concept and revision meetings, we want to hear what you really think. Honest feedback during our meetings is the best way to help us give you the design you’ve been dreaming of!

How far ahead should we plan our project?

When planning a landscape project, it’s important to think ahead. Timing will be different based on whether you are building a new home or updating an existing landscape.

For new construction projects, you can count on landscaping to be the final step- just like the frosting on a cake. Sometimes designers work concurrently with architects and civil engineers on landscape plans, but it’s best for your designer to have a finalized plan with building footprint and finished grading to work from. Be sure that your general contractor helps plan for landscaping by adding sleeving underneath any concrete or asphalt for future irrigation pipe. Planned correctly, landscape installation can begin during the final construction stages.

When updating an existing landscape, planning is more flexible. The best time to plant in our region is fall, so that root systems can develop over the winter months. Construction crews can book out anywhere from 2-6 months in advance, so make sure to get on your builder’s radar early. This is one major benefit of working with design/build companies like Madrone.

Check with your local municipality to find out if you need any permits for your landscape. Shade structures that are attached to your home or are built within a certain proximity to your home may need to be permitted. There may be water usage allowances for irrigation, and permits are often required for graywater irrigation systems. Permit filings can take 6+ weeks to be processed once received.

What is the design process and how long does it typically take?

The design process is the time that you, the client, spend with a landscape designer on the conceptual vision of your outdoor space. Every designer or firm has a unique process, but generally will start with visiting your site and asking questions about your needs.

Once the designer has developed an understanding of your project, they will create an overall layout on paper, then gradually start to specify treatments, finishes and building techniques as ideas are approved.

At the end of the process, the owner will receive a complete set of construction documents which will serve as a tool for estimating construction cost and to ultimately guide the installation.

The length of time spent on design will vary based on size of project, number of built elements, complexity of site constraints, and the number of changes made during the process. If a design isn’t agreed on at the first or second draft, more revisions may be necessary. Most landscape designs can be completed from start to finish within 3-6 months, while others can take up to a full calendar year.

At what point will we know how much our desired landscape costs?

Our design process includes using cost information as a tool to help guide design decisions. Once we’ve established our initial concept plan, our next step is to revise and refine the landscape plan and provide the client with budgetary installation prices. This estimate includes individual line item descriptions, quantities, and costs for every element of the project. This means you can see clearly where every dollar is being spent, and where there are opportunities to substite materials or methods with less expensive alternatives, without sacrificing functionality.

How much does a landscape cost? What are the variables?

The cost of a new installed landscape can vary widely. Just like designing a house, with all things being equal, it will cost more to design a large area than a small one. The price then increases depending on how many built elements you want to include and the types of materials you choose.

Click here for a basic outline of some of defining elements that will ultimately determine the cost of your landscape design and installation.

While these are some of our most frequently asked questions, we understand that there are always specifics to address throughout the design process. But, when it all comes together, a blank dirt lot can become a whole new outdoor experience full of life, laughter, and quality time with each other (and nature)! 

Our Design Services page here has a lot of useful information as well, but if you have further inquiries, you can always call our office and a friendly staff member will assist you! 

Nine Questions to ask Before Hiring a Landscape Maintenance Contractor

Nine Questions to ask Before Hiring a Landscape Maintenance Contractor

Top tips for selecting a landscape maintenance team

From weekly to seasonal maintenance, to event preparation, or landscape enhancements: here are the top questions to ask to ensure you hire a licensed professional who will meet your needs.

1. How long have you been in business?

A company that has been in business ten years or more is likely a reliable, trustworthy contractor. Whether you are a homeowner who needs weekly maintenance or a commercial property owner who needs pest control, check the company’s portfolio to see whether they have expertise on projects like yours.

Madrone Landscapes has been in business for over 40 years. We offer weekly gardening services for residential clients in North San Luis Obispo County and estate maintenance for the broader San Luis Obispo County, Northern Santa Barbara County, and Southern Monterey County. We also offer high quality commercial, municipal, and HOA maintenance services for all of San Luis Obispo County.

2. What kind of insurance and licensing do you have?

Your landscaping company should have workers compensation insurance, general liability insurance, bonded workers and appropriate state licensing. For weed, pest, and disease control, your maintenance contractor will need to be spray certified.  

Madrone Landscapes has workers compensation insurance and general liability insurance. Our landscape maintenance crews are bonded, and we maintain a California state landscape contractor license.

3.Do you have specialists on staff?

Professional landscaping firms will employ experts with degrees in landscape architecture and horticulture. They should have expertise in landscape irrigation, as well as thorough knowledge of the type of plants you have growing in your landscape design.

At Madrone Landscapes, our degreed and trained landscape designers and horticulturists establish and maintain our clients’ landscapes in superior condition. Our landscape maintenance teams are led by Taryn Via, Maintenance Manager. With a background in property management, Taryn has over 13 years of experience working directly with homeowners, HOAs, and commercial property owners.

4.What services do you offer?

Homeowners, commercial property owners, and HOAs all require different services for different properties. Ensure the company you hire provides the services you require. Traditionally, maintenance projects may include mowing and editing, irrigation repair, fertilizing, dead-heading, and mulching. Larger projects may need specialized maintenance at different intervals throughout the year. Consider whether you need seasonal maintenance, event preparation, and/or regular landscape enhancement.

5.How do your maintenance crews practice sustainability? Do you offer alternatives to chemicals?

If sustainability is important to you, be sure to ask about alternatives to fertilizer and chemicals. Companies at the forefront of landscaping will employ methods such as compost tea fertilizer, integrated pest management, and organic fertilizers, ensuring your yard is a safe and healthy place for your family.

At Madrone Landscapes, we are known for sustainable practices. We focus on plant health and the effective use of water. Our Healthy Gardens program introduces organic methods to fertilizer and weed, pest, and disease control.

6.Can you provide us with an estimate?

A professional landscape contractor will provide you an estimate tailored to your individual needs. After visiting your project, listening to your needs and requirements, they will ask you questions to determine your exact needs.

Madrone Landscapes provides a customized written estimate for each project.

7.What does my contract include?

Once you’ve accepted your estimate, your landscape contract will provide you a contract outlining what to expect on each visit, ranging from weekly maintenance to seasonal maintenance, plant replacement, and irrigation repairs.

At Madrone Landscapes, each contract is different – just like each project. Once we’ve discussed your estimate, we put together a custom contract specifically for you.

8. How do you communicate with clients?

Will you have an account manager assigned to you? Will they call you to schedule appointments, or simply send notices in your invoice?

Our Maintenance Manager, Taryn Via, is the one point of contact for our maintenance clients.

9. Will you provide references?

In addition to checking Yelp to see how the company ranks, ask for references, including addresses. Check the properties to see if they are maintained at the level you expect for your own property, whether residential or commercial. Madrone Landscapes recently was awarded “Top-rated Local” for ranking in the top-five landscape companies in the state for customer satisfaction.

We are happy to provide a list of references for you to call and testimonials for your review!

Do you have additional questions? Call us at the office and ask for Taryn Via, Maintenance Manager at (805) 466-6263.