Surrounds is known for designing and constructing large landscapes. But guess what? Many of those grand landscape plans were built out in phases over time—sometimes years.
There are advantages to phasing large landscaping projects: If you start with a master landscape plan and make incremental improvements over time, you will be able to see which plants work and which don’t, and overall take a deliberate, thoughtful approach that maximizes your landscaping investment.
Master landscape plans give you flexibility and options whether your project is large or small. Most importantly, you won’t get stuck in “feature-scaping.” For example, you decide this year to build a patio and firepit feature in your yard—only to discover two years later when you want to add a swimming pool that the fire pit is in the wrong location!
When planning small landscape design projects, it is wise and worthwhile to invest in a master plan for the whole property. And we hope by the end of this piece, you will agree that it’s smart to think big and start small!
Landscape Plans: Design Now, Build Later
Most people don’t think “master plan” when their first project is limited in scope—such as a front yard spruce up. That is precisely the situation in which the Stacey and Bill Andrews found themselves. They’d confined their thought process to the most immediate needs on their landscape—until they invited landscape architect Howard Cohen to have a look at their yard.
As they walked the property, Bill and Stacey told Cohen that all they really wanted to do was fix the front. Cohen told them he saw a lot of potential in their property and asked if he could show them a master architectural plan for the entire property—not just the front. He said he wanted to help them “think bigger.”
They knew that the backyard had issues and figured they’d deal with it at some point in the future. But when Howard described the purpose of the landscape master plan, it made sense to Bill who is logical and strategic minded. Having the whole plan divided into segments in advance would provide options and give them control over the project timeline.
They completed their landscape master plan then implemented their project in three phases over the span of four years. They began with the front yard because it was the most visible to the neighborhood and about six months after that was completed started work on the side yard.
The third and final phase was the most extensive: the backyard. The Andrews have a pleasantly long, sloping yard that drops gradually down to the banks of a canal. But the only feature was what Stacey referred to as “that nasty little paver patio.” They wanted something more spacious and elegant for entertaining.
The Advantages of Phased Landscape Plans
Probably most people are like this: They focus their attention on the obvious problem, the eyesore. As for everything else, you look at it and shrug your shoulders: “yeah we have to fix that—someday.” But if a creative artist like Howard Cohen asks, would you like me to give you an idea of all that is possible–for people who are planners, it’s ideal.
With a master landscape plan in hand, your options are clear, and you can do what you want to do when you want to do it. When you are committed to a place as the Andrews’ were, and know you are going to be there for years to come, you have time to let your imagination go. You have the time to take it in steps.
Some advantages Stacey and Bill discovered during the process were:
- During the space in between phases, you can see whether or not the plant choices are working as expected
- Noisy, messy construction is confined to shorter installments to spare the neighbors a prolonged ordeal
- You have time to weave new ideas into the plan before beginning the next phase
- You are in control. Start each phase when you are ready
- Spread out construction costs over an extended period rather than having to manage it all at one time
Stacey was particularly sensitive to disturbing her neighbors for an extended period of time: “They used a Bobcat to bring huge rocks into my yard, and they had to grade everything, and pour in a lot of concrete. It’s noisy. Scheduling the construction in shorter segments rather than going for it all at once gave them a welcome break, too. She said that with each phase they knew what to expect and were mentally prepared, so it was much easier to tolerate.
Howard saw in his head what it could be and the plan he drew for us was just breathtaking in its scope of imagination. We needed a plan. It would not have been cohesive and not nearly as beautiful if we’d done it with different contractors at different times.
Before the final phase, the backyard, they had the opportunity to make some important changes to the landscape plan. The original plan showed a fire pit that took up a fair amount of yard space. They decided to eliminate that feature. Howard reworked the plan in such a way that, if they chose to revisit the fire pit idea in the future, there would be a place for it. Options.
The Advantages of Developing a Landscape Master Plan
A master landscape plan presents a clearly articulated vision and establishes a defined scope of work, a timeline, and cost structures. This big-picture view helps the client understand the connections between individual features and how they add up to a whole and balanced composition.
Dividing the master plan into manageable segments makes the construction phases run more efficiently allowing little opportunity for errors or omissions.
At the end of each construction phase of your master plan, you get to “try out” and enjoy a fully completed portion of your project knowing that there is more enjoyment to come after the next phase is implemented.
The vision that Howard shared with us and that we shared with him was just a glorious plan. To see it come to fruition is heartfelt and satisfying–and very beautiful. We had to do it.
If you’d like to discuss developing a master landscape plan for your yard, schedule a consultation with one of our landscape architects.