More luxury homeowners are using landscape professionals to create grounds that are elegant, luxurious and expressive of their lifestyles
Luxury homes with gourmet kitchens and panoramic views of the ocean, or mountaintop residences with grand entrances located strategically to enjoy spectacular sunsets deserve landscapes that are as luxuriant and elegant as the living space inside the home.
A well-designed landscape involves far more than planting trees, shrubs and other plants around the grounds. At Real Living, our Sales Professionals help pair luxury homeowners with professionals who understand that a well-designed landscape is functional, beautiful and in harmony with the natural environment. Such a carefully planned and designed landscape adds value to your home, with some industry experts estimating as much as 20%, with a recovery value of 100 to 200% when you sell your home. There is little else you can do to your home in the way of improvements that generates those kinds of return on investment.
But there's more to landscape than just adding monetary value to a home. Plants, trees and shrubs are great for the environment, as well as for our own personal well-being and emotional state of mind.
The right landscape professional can not only help you bring your dreams to life, but can help you shape that dream to reflect your lifestyle. While working directly with a landscape contractor directly may suffice for a small project when you know just what you want, for a major redesign you'll want to consider other professionals, such as landscape architects, landscape designers or design/build landscape contractors. Their experience can help turn your vision into a reality.
Landscape architects plan the layout of softscape (grass, plants, trees, etc.) as well as hardscape (walkways, retaining walls, sculptures, fountains, etc.) features that will be added to your grounds. They must qualify for the title and will typically have a bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture with several years of experience in a design firm. In many states, they are also required to pass a nationally standardized five-part licensure test.
Landscape designers may do many of the same projects as a landscape architect, but they may or may not have extensive training or expertise, and they aren't licensed by the state. That in and of itself is not necessarily bad, it just means that you need to review their portfolios carefully to ensure they can do the type and quality of work that you expect.
A landscape design/build contractor combines the roles of creative design and solid construction. Companies with this type of offering will typically have landscape architects on staff to develop and design a master plan and skilled craftsmen to implement and execute the outdoor environment.
Regardless of which road you take, you'll want to keep a few tips in mind. Ask friends, relatives or anyone whose landscape you admire for recommendations. Also take note of any landscape professionals you notice working in your area. Credentials are also important; membership in a professional association is a good indication that someone is qualified and well-trained.
It's a good idea to identify two or three potential landscapers and ask each of them to provide you with a written cost estimate that clearly outlines the work to be done. If you want ongoing maintenance, be sure to have them include an estimate for this as well.
Ask how long each landscape professional has been in business, and look for one who hires employees with either a secondary education in ornamental horticulture or with several years of experience under their belts.
Ask for references. Don't hesitate to call those references and visit the landscaped sites so you can judge for yourself if the quality of work is what you desire.
If you're not an expert gardener, you'd be well advised to have the landscape professional supervise the installation of plant materials to ensure that the plants installed are those specified and that plans are followed exactly as indicated.
Expect to work collaboratively with your landscape professional to ensure your outdoor living space works with your home's opportunities and constraints such as drainage, soil types, sun/shade requirements, etc. Communicate openly to incorporate your dreams - whether it's for a themed garden that showcases European, Asian or other ethnic or regional heritage, a formal garden that focuses on lines and symmetry, a water garden that incorporates fountains and waterfalls or something entirely of your own dreaming. You may want to incorporate some of the latest trends such as vertical gardening - utilizing plants that can trail down a balcony or climb up a trellis, fence or wall -and romantic, glamorous gardens that showcase luscious roses with heady fragrances and showy hibiscus that transport you, albeit in your mind, to the tropics. But in the end, remember that your landscape is not just an amenity. It is your outdoor living space to which you can add your own personal signature.