An advantage of taking a phased approach to landscaping plans is that the scope of work, timeline, and cost structures can be divided into “bite-sized” segments that minimize the feeling of risk of going all in on a large multi-faceted landscape design project. Dividing a sizable project into parts and building it over an extended period helps the client form a solid understanding of how the different parts of the landscaping plan and individual features will relate to each other and add up to a whole, balanced outdoor environment.
This approach typically begins with a landscape master plan. The entire concept is roughed out then divided into phases. The landscape architect and the client fill in the details for each phase as they prepare to implement it.
Phasing Without Using Master Landscaping Plans
An alternative way of phasing landscaping plans skips the master plan and deals with each phase of design as a separate project. The landscape architect draws up a full site plan but only completes renderings and specifications for the portion of the plan that the client has agreed to implement. The key to maintaining continuity in this style of project phasing is to stay with the same landscape architect throughout.
Surrounds client Jim Stockdale followed this alternate approach, and he attributes the relatively stress-free experience he and his wife Gerrie enjoyed to the extended time frame provided by the phased implementation of their landscaping plan. Throughout their multi-phase project, they say, their relationship with the landscape architect grew and their process became more efficient. They learned to communicate and develop ideas on a much deeper level.
The relationship I had with the Surrounds team on day one is very different from the one I had when we started the second phase and then the third phase. It’s much quicker to the answer. Once you gain comfort with somebody you’re working with, they know what’s important to you and what’s not. —Jim Stockdale, Vienna
A Blank Canvas
The Stockdale’s knew they wanted to begin landscaping as soon as they moved in and started planning their project while their new home was still under construction. At their first on-site meeting with landscape architect Chad Talton, their new home was “just a hole in the ground.”
In that meeting, it became clear that they would not be able to complete both the front and back yards before winter. They decided to begin with the backyard because, even though it would be the most extensive and challenging part of the plan, there was nothing there. It was a blank canvas. They felt they could live with the front yard temporarily because the builder had at least put in some basic plantings and a simple walkway to the front door.
Design meetings for the first phase began in winter followed by hardscape construction throughout the summer and into fall with the idea of getting all of the plants in the ground with enough time for them to establish roots before the first frost.
We went into it with the expectation that we would get one phase done, take a break over the winter time, and then repeat the cycle. –Jim Stockdale
Phase One: Backyard Landscaping
The first phase of the backyard landscaping plan specified an upper and lower patio. The upper patio, nearest the house, is a dining area. The lower patio, just three steps down, has two fire features. A large grill station is built into the retaining wall near the steps to the dining level–just enough distance to keep smoke and diners separated from each other. On the section of the patio that projects deepest into the yard (farther from the house), a comfy seating area encircles a gas fire table.
Phase Two: The Front Yard
The builder had provided a concrete walkway to the front door with nominal plantings. To begin with, they upgraded the front yard landscaping by the overlaying the walk with bluestone. The more significant portion of the front yard landscaping plan focused on plantings: turf, trees, shrubs, border beds and grasses that provide a mix of lush summer flowers and evergreen plants for winter color. You can see the transformative effect in the before (above) and after (below) photos.
Phase Three Landscaping: A Return to the Backyard
After the front yard was completed, Jim started to think about adding a pavilion in the backyard. He felt the need for a shade structure that would allow him to spend more time enjoying the yard than his sensitive skin would safely allow.
There was a bit of a question as to how they would add this new element to the completed backyard design. But, after meeting with the landscape architect once more, they found the perfect spot to build the pavilion and fit it naturally into the existing design.
If you look at the way Chad incorporated that structure in the backyard, you would never guess that it was done a couple of years later. —Jim Stockdale
Better Process Supports Better Ideas
Implementing landscaping plans in phases leaves more room for ideas to percolate in the interim periods. Stockdale describes it as a working relationship in which the architect makes the client look good. It’s an ongoing conversation, Stockdale says, in which we develop concepts in such a way that you feel like it was your idea all along. He also felt that the phased approach gave him a chance to “test drive” his landscape design company before going on to the next part of the plan.
I think most people would be reluctant to recommend a service without having tried it themselves. When you’re doing an incremental plan, that’s exactly what you’re doing, but you’re giving the recommendation to yourself. You’re saying, ‘I work with these guys, I’ve seen what they can do. I can trust them.’
And of course, the long-range timeline allows each stage of construction to benefit from thorough planning, thus minimizing the chance for errors or omissions to pop up later on.
The favorite part, to me, sitting in the pavilion that they built for us, the last phase. It’s an escape for me. We’re surrounded by woods, and you can’t see the street. It’s amazing. To come home after a day at work and sit back there and just chill, it doesn’t get any better than that.
If you’re curious about how a phased approach to landscaping plans could support the success of your project, please contact one of our landscape architects to schedule a phone consultation.
If you’ve been thinking about investing in a landscape design project, our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.