Dodds & Eder
Long Island is home to a nearly million-acre patchwork of residential, commercial and municipal properties interwoven with lush green grass, wooded nature preserves and vibrant parkland between sprawling shores. Stretching from Nassau County's western suburbs to Montauk Point on the East End, and famed Gold Coast up north down to the South Shore, it is a diverse and complex hodgepodge, replete with a dizzying array of flora and terrain.
As such, landscape design is a thriving industry, with professionals using their expertise to beautify these grounds and create tiny slices of paradise within your front and back yards.
Let's take a comprehensive look at Long Island landscape design, from the background of those whose mission it is to make your dream a reality, to the intricacies involved in bringing such visions to life.
While the terms "landscape design" and "landscape architecture" are often used interchangeably, the two are not, in fact, one and the same.
Both encompass the restoration, improvement, and beautification of outdoor areas surrounding homes, businesses, and city streets. Both also incorporate elements of strategic planning, land management, environmental science, art, and culture in devising and executing such projects. Landscape architecture chiefly pertains to large public outdoor spaces, however, whereas landscape design typically focuses on smaller residential properties.
The two fields take into account the aesthetic and functional aspects of lawns and gardens, paying special attention to "soft" living elements, such as plants, as well as "hardscape," like bricks, stones and pebbles.
Landscape architects must possess a bachelor's and/or master's degree in the field from a university, and are required to have passed the Landscape Architect Registration Exam, as mandated by most states. Landscape designers may have undergone similar training and hold a degree in plant-related subjects—such as horticulture or botany, for example—but state licensure is not a requirement. The international trade group, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), provides a code of professional standards for members and a rigorous, peer-review certification program, too. If any "earth-moving" construction is needed, a landscape contractor must be brought on to complete wall building, electrical work, or other, more technical functionality.
Projects typically include an initial on-site assessment of the property to gather information on soil type, pre-existing vegetation, dimensions, and overall shape of the land. This informs later decisions as work progresses.
Each property is unique, and as such, treated as a work of art when sketching out a preliminary design. In some instances, a property survey and topographical map may precede the drafting of conceptual sketches. Elevations, sunlight, shadow patterns, current and planned irrigation and lighting systems, electricity, and access are all considerations.
This visual representation essentially serves as an outdoor floor plan, using scaled dimensions to represent existing features and proposed design elements. These can include both natural aspects, such as flowers, trees and grass, as well as man-made structures like furniture, fountains and sheds, all while taking into account ways to maximize both privacy and views.
These plans can evolve over time, and may be completed in stages. They begin with an overall site analysis encompassing property lines, underground utilities, and house and garage measurements, and develop into a so-called “bubble” plan earmarking general areas for dining, seating, play, and gardening. The finalized renderings should take into account colors and textures, scaled to reflect the proper perspective and depth.
Landscape design is a thriving industry, with professionals using their expertise to beautify these grounds and create tiny slices of paradise within your front and back yards.
Before requesting a consultation, it’s advisable to create a basic plan of your own, complete with a proposed budget, overview of existing and desired layouts, features you’d like to include, and even preferred brands, if applicable. As a general rule, higher quality products are recommended, as cutting costs will harm your wallet in the long run, and limit the longevity of your landscape.
Some options to consider when working with a fixed fund may revolve around the size of the land, ratio of lawn to concrete, stones and other accents, and the importance of flowers to the big picture. Depending upon your lifestyle and the purpose of the property to be renovated, allowances may need to be made for a deck or patio area, shed or additional storage facility, room for fruit or vegetable gardens, or perhaps a pool, gazebo or fire pit to serve as a gathering place.
If your property is on the small side, there’s no need to abandon your visions of grandeur. Accommodations can be made simply by designing in inches, rather than feet, as precision becomes crucial. Plus, compact areas allow for larger indulgences when it comes to lavish materials. Mass plantings enhance the illusion of depth, as well.
Utilizing features such as window boxes and hanging porch plants, you can maximize space while not sacrificing in the aesthetic department. Companion planting can also be useful, as the proximity of flowers, fruits and vegetables enables cross-pollination. If this is not feasible, dwarf trees, climbing plants, and portable, flower-filled containers can make for added ambiance.
Natural foliage can also create borders, minimizing the need for man-made enclosures and fencing, which can tend to make an area look even more confined. Instead, the property will appear open, drawing a visitor inward toward the multiple focal points presented—visual discovery at its finest.
Landscape trends tend to come and go with the seasons, but certain attributes never seem to lose their appeal for homeowners.
At the top of the client wish list are properties requiring a minimal degree of maintenance. These often include ample perennials and fewer messy trees or shrubs. An automated, programmable irrigation system can also aid in the weekly upkeep of such blooms.
The desire to beautify popular backyard features such as sheds, fences and pools has risen in recent years, in an effort to eliminate eyesores or potential “dead” spots on the grounds. So too, has a move to incorporate functional elements, such as storage, into patio furniture and seating.
As homes increasingly become go-to spots for summer “staycations,” it may be appealing to work in a few added luxuries, such as a speaker system, lighting, a grill or small outdoor kitchen, comfortable lounging furniture, a fire pit, or other “homey” attributes. These private, secluded confines may, in fact, be the place you spend the majority of time throughout the year, certainly during the warmer months.
Those dreaming of a backyard paradise may have their own unique vision, and the professional guidance of a landscape designer ultimately transforms this fantasy into reality.
Once your landscape design is established, maintaining the aesthetic you have created becomes of prime importance.
As this is an integral component of any outdoor embellishments, landscape designers will often frame their initial concepts around the client’s preferences. In many instances, these revolve around a desire for low-maintenance property that can be fairly easily cultivated as the seasons progress. From seeding, watering and fertilizing to clearing leaves so they don’t rot your grass come winter, there are tasks to be completed throughout the year.
Some popular requests are perennials, which flower year after year, and typically grow well. Seasonal plantings, too, are appealing to those who want to have something blooming at all times. To prevent weeds and help water flow directly to the roots, mulch is key; or, if preferred, potted plants can also provide a portable, contained alternative.
As a general rule, the more diverse the selection of foliage, the better quality the soil will be. Investing in compost may be beneficial as well, as it can aid survival of the landscape during periods of drought. Design is best done with mature sizes of plants in mind, and an effort to use site-specific grasses and shrubbery will benefit their longevity.
The cost of any design project varies, depending upon a host of factors, including the size of the property, the materials to be used, and the degree of complexity.
Homeowners should zone in on a desired budget, taking care to focus on those areas to be used most frequently, as well as any existing features that may provide a solid foundation upon which to build, design-wise. At this time, it’s also vital to establish your primary reasons for the project itself—whether creating privacy, increasing your property value, or perhaps building an aesthetically pleasing environment, either for yourself or to serve as an ideal setting for entertaining.
Though some projects may prove less complex than others, it’s advisable to hire a professional to avoid any costly mistakes. A trained eye is able to both visualize the possibilities, as well as map out the steps needed to achieve them. A design expert can also itemize how expenses are broken down.
According to the national trade association the American Society of Landscape Architects, a typical landscape budget should begin at a rate of about 5% to 10% of the home’s worth. With a solid design plan, such installations can ultimately add as much as 15% to the value of your home, a sizable return on investment.
Every property is unique, as are the particular needs and desires of homeowners. It is the job of the landscape designer to assess each of the aforementioned components on a case-by-case basis to determine what type of design is best suited for each situation.
From there, as the dream evolves into reality and the installations begin to take shape, modifications may be made to accommodate the ultimate vision. At Dodds & Eder, we are particularly well suited to facilitate all facets of the project, from concept to creation, continuing on through regular maintenance of the finished product.