A Guide for Central Coast Homeowners
“Imagine a garden that rarely needs pruning, watering or fertilizing. One where natural controls usually take care of pest problems before the gardener even becomes aware of them. A peaceful garden where the sound of blowers, power mowers, or chain saws never intrudes. Imagine a garden that also serves as a climate control for the house, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter; a garden that traps rainwater in an attractive streambed to deeply irrigate the trees and recharge the groundwater; one that provides habitat for wildlife and food for people. Imagine a garden that truly works. This is the sustainable garden—not barren or sacrificial, but as lush and beautiful as any other without all the struggle and waste.” – Author and landscape architect Owen Dell
If Dell’s description fills your heart with delight and your mind’s eye with images of your ideal oasis, a sustainable landscape is probably for you. Here are three vital components in creating a lush, sustainable landscape:
Central Coast ranch site plan
In considering your sustainable landscape, good planning is vital. Creating a design can save you time and money by sourcing an expert to help make the most of your space, time, and budget.
Your designer will ask, “What are the uses you’d like to incorporate?” Hardscape areas like patios, play areas and structures, or water features can all make your property work for you. When contemplating how you’ll be using the areas, think about the materials. Are they sustainably produced and sourced? Consider the Embodied Energy impacts, which include everything it takes to have a material available for your use.
Any discussion of California landscaping will include irrigation. Irrigation systems need to be accurate, low-flow and timed appropriately to keep plants healthy and thriving. A well-designed system ensures your plants receive an appropriate amount of water.
When thinking about the plants—whether shrubs, trees, veggies or turf—think about conserving resources, especially over time. California Native Plants is an excellent resource for finding plants that will fit your goals and your design. Local native plants are often the most climate compatible and lowest maintenance choices.
These are just a few of the sustainable principles you can use as guidelines to maximize your landscape efforts. And in doing so, take advantage of living in the incredible region of California’s Central Coast. Make time to get out and enjoy yourselves in your gardens. They offer unique opportunities to unwind and relieve stress. Reconnect with things natural, beautiful and up close. Even in our own gardens we are connected in a very real way to the larger landscape, and how we have a responsibility to sustain the health and beauty of our beloved Central Coast. Let’s make it work for the long run.
Want more information on Central Coast resource-friendly landscapes? Here’s a short video hosted by our own Rick Mathews. Contact our landscape designers at [email protected] or (805) 466-6263.
A better investment and landscape, from design through construction
What is Design-Build Landscaping?
Design-Build landscaping is quite common. Unfortunately, a homeowner or building owner will often hire a landscape contractor to install plants and irrigation without design. This is not the ideal scenario. As with any type of building, it is always best to begin with a design. When you hire a landscape team that does both design and installation, that is design-build landscaping.
When done by experienced professionals, the teamwork involved in the design-build process for landscape construction can add a lot of value to your finished landscape. Often an integration of architects, designers, engineers, and builders, the design-build process takes advantage of professional, licensed experts working together from concept to finished construction. The goal of this integrated process is to fulfill your priorities of landscape design and budget. At Madrone Landscapes we believe strongly in the design-build process because the benefits are twofold: it allows us to do incredible work with and build great relationships with both our peers and our clients.
Two Major Types of Landscape Construction: What are the Differences?
Design-Bid-Build: The design-bid-build process is common in the construction industry for clients who want separate design and construction firms. A landscape designer will provide plans for you, and then you will ask contractors to bid the plans. The design can go quickly if there are no cost limitations discussed. Once the contractors provide their costs to install the project, you may be shocked to see how much it will cost to build. This is when you or the contractor decides how to change the design to fit within the construction budget (this process is called value engineering, where items are removed from a plan or less expensive options are chosen to reduce overall cost). You may also go back to the landscape designer to re-design (typically for an extra fee). In design-bid-build, you select a contractor based on the bid price. It then becomes your responsibility to orchestrate all of the design and construction activities – including introducing the contractor to the designer.
Design-Build: At Madrone Landscapes, we specialize in the design-build process. We provide construction cost estimates during the design process (for more information, see https://madronelandscapes.com/services/design/). This usually adds time to the overall design time, for good reason. Knowing construction costs during the design process allows you to make decisions on where to spend money and keeps the plan within the desired budget. A cost-informed design means the value engineering is done well before the project starts. The engineers, architects, and builders will be working together with the landscape designer to make sure that there are few unforeseen lapses between designs or construction activities. We become the expert advocate for you in design and construction and we handle scheduling and coordination with all parties involved.
Five Tips for Clients in Design-Build Landscaping
1. Know what you need/want before you start.
Often times a client will come to us with a list of items they want designed into their landscape, such as a patio, wall, fountain or pergola. What they may actually mean is that they need a shady place to entertain guests with pretty things to look at. While your spouse may want a fountain, he or she may appreciate boulders and flowers just as much. When you prioritize your goals before starting design, you can prevent being caught off guard during the design process. Design is almost always a team decision. If you can align your wants and needs before the design starts, your design will turn out better and go more quickly.
2. Establish a construction budget.
Before starting in the design process, establish a budget or range for what you intend to spend on construction, and share that information with your designer. This will help them design within range. Typically, the construction cost of landscapes is between 10 to 25 times the design fee, although this may vary.
3. Take your time with budget decisions.
During the beginning of the design process decisions are easy; we refer to this as the Honeymoon period. You may find yourself saying, “I love that stone veneer, it looks just like the picture I saw on Houzz!” After construction costs are introduced, major design elements may be on the chopping block. Do you keep the outdoor kitchen, or the stone paving? Allow yourself time, so you don’t rush these decisions.
4. Trust your gut – and your landscape team.
Taking on a big project will affect the ambiance of your daily life and the investment of your funds is hard to do alone. You need experts you can trust to help you achieve your goals. If you don’t have a level of trust with your landscape designer, it will not work. This means you need to feel comfortable giving them both positive and negative feedback, and they need to feel comfortable giving you good and bad news. Your designer will not only be helping you with the initial design, but also will be helping to navigate any obstacles encountered during construction.
5. Communicate often and clearly.
During design and construction, changes happen. In order to best facilitate these changes, we will ask a lot of questions to make sure we are designing efficiently. Whether you would like to give us artistic license on decisions, or you have particular opinions that need to be known, it is important you communicate your preferences clearly.
A Better Investment and Landscape
It’s our experience that the design-build process produces a better product with stronger teamwork and a healthy working relationship. The process takes time to do well. Expect two to six months of design before construction for custom residential updates, and often longer for new home or new commercial construction. Being well prepared can shorten this time frame. We want to establish a good relationship with you so that it can last through the design and construction. Since we’re nearly wrapping up the first quarter of 2019, getting a landscape designed and built in 2019 starts now. If you have new construction, you should consider hiring your landscape designer at the same time that you hire an architect. We strongly believe that the design-build relationship you foster with us will make you feel good about the investment and the landscape you create.
To continue off our “Meet the Team” segment, we would like to introduce a new-ish member of our team: Coner Boaen. Coner started out as our Service Technician, but is currently running his own crew as a Project Manager for our construction team. He hit the ground running and is doing an awesome job with our clients – thanks for all you do, Coner! See what he said when we asked him some questions about himself and the job:
How long have you been working at Madrone? 5 Months!
What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone? Having the freedom to be a Landscaper!
What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why? Paso Robles Residence – Got Daniel out of his flip flops and into some boots and helped me get a rock wall started!
What is your favorite, or least favorite, plant and why? Favorite, that’s hard. I am really liking the Silk Trees right now! Least favorite, anything with thorns like agave or barberry.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and who would you bring? I have the aloha spirit in my heart. All I need is my girls and a white sandy beach in Hawaii!
To wrap up this month, we at Madrone are celebrating our long-standing relationships. As we think back over our time in business, we are grateful for our many San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County business associations with whom we have created strong connections and shared common ideals, principals, and philosophies. One of these is Semmes & Co. Builders, a Central Coast contractor with whom we have had the honor of working with on several projects.
Just over four decades ago, Rick Mathews started hosting jazz programs at the local radio station KCBX; some of you might know him as the host of the weekly show Freedom Jazz Dance. At that time, Turko Semmes was the host of an evening blues program. In our small community, they quickly realized their shared interests extended beyond music, and included their day jobs: the design and build profession. Rick was starting Madrone Landscapes; Turko was founding Semmes & Co. Builders. “I found a kindred spirit in Turko,” says Rick, “With our similar values of quality, integrity, and sustainability, coupled with our similar experiences starting businesses, we became extended family to one another.”
Fast forward a couple of decades, and we have a generational transition taking place. Daniel Mazawa, Madrone’s General Manager, and Jessica Steely, Semmes’ General Manager, joined the companies at roughly the same time, and have formed a great working relationship. “The history is there,” states Rick, “Jessica and Daniel ‘grew up’ together, with many of the same core values.”
Madrone has worked on several projects with Semmes over the years, typically sustainable homes in San Luis Obispo county. The residences include rammed earth elements and zero net energy homes. “When we work with Semmes,” states Daniel, “we know the project will be highly customized; it won’t be like anything else.”
We look forward to our continued working relationship with Semmes & Co. Builders in the years to come!