How to Communicate Your Landscaping Ideas With Your Contractor
December 15, 2022
Few things can frustrate you as a homeowner more than paying thousands of dollars on a home improvement project only to have it turn out far differently than you imagined. Tempers can flare over fees versus perceived value when, oftentimes, the problem is miscommunication.
You know exactly what you want from your outdoor living space. It might be a yoga and meditation garden or outdoor play spaces for kids and pets. However, your landscaper isn’t a mind-reader — how well have you communicated your needs and desires?
In this post, we’ll talk about actionable ways to communicate your landscaping ideas with your contractor to create the outdoor living space of your dreams.
Table of Contents
- Be Honest
- Use Visuals
- Do Your Homework
- Listen to Advice
- Remain Flexible
- Getting on the Same Page With Your Contractor
What do you want from your outdoor living spaces? What can you realistically afford, and how much time can you spend maintaining your space? To facilitate honest and transparent communication, you should be able to answer these questions before you begin working with your landscaping professional.
It may help you to complete a landscaping design checklist before meeting with your contractor. Some companies will provide a template for you — ask if yours employs such a process. If not, ask yourself the following questions and put them in writing before sitting down to review your design:
- What is my preferred design theme? Do you want gentle, curved, flowing lines and all purple and white blooms? Do you want something minimalist that keeps your home’s facade as the focal point? Think of your landscaping like architecture.
- What features do you need? For example, do you want a small grassy area for your dog to do their duty or for a kids’ play spot? Will you be adding a pool or yoga gazebo?
- How will you use your yard? Areas that see heavy foot traffic need different materials than those just for show. Furthermore, homes with small children might want more river rocks than sharp gravel and fewer spiky cacti near play areas.
Please keep practical matters in mind when meeting with your landscaper. Be transparent about current and future plans, like wanting to install a pool in a few years. Doing so only benefits you while preventing unnecessary frustration.
For example, your contractor might propose money-saving options or temporary solutions to beautify your outdoor living space that won’t cost much time or money to replace when your kids get older, and it’s time to swim.
Think back to your school days. Do you remember your teacher telling you about the different learning styles and how they affect you? These preferences don’t disappear when you become an adult. You can explain what you want until you turn blue, but your contractor may understand your needs better when you present a visual representation of your desired landscaping design.
Lest you panic, thinking, “Um, yeah, I nearly failed art class back then, too,” take a deep breath. You can now find free landscaping design software to let you use your keyboard and mouse to bring your ideas to life. Some great ones to try are DreamPlan Home Design, myGarden Planner, and SketchUp.
Do Your Homework
Your contractor is there to guide and educate you through the landscaping process. However, it helps them if you have a knowledge base.
As much as you might love them, some design elements simply won’t work in a southwest desert environment. Perhaps you dream of an alpine meadow filled with Rocky Mountain Columbine and Mountain Bluebells — but you should save it for your winter home in Flagstaff, as it won’t fly in the Valley.
For example, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that few lawns exist outside the region’s many golf courses. That’s because grass is expensive to water and maintain, and Phoenix and other areas face a severe shortage of this vital resource.
Is it absolutely vital for Fido to go number two on Kentucky ryegrass? Or would a heavy-duty artificial sod designed for dogs be your better bet regarding lowered frustration levels and overall sustainability? Of course, your backyard putting green can also use the fake stuff, making it easier for you to practice without first getting out the weed whacker.
Listen to Advice
Why are you hiring a landscaping contractor? You might be among the many who cite time savings as your principal driving force. However, your professional has years of experience in the industry that could benefit you if you remain open to their input. Why not hear what they have to say?
To get the most out of each meeting with your landscaping contractor, it helps to know what questions to ask and what they should request from you:
Questions to ask your landscaper:
- Where do you source your plants? Look for organizations that use local nurseries. Plants grown nearby are more likely to thrive, they’ll be less expensive, and they’re more eco-friendly to ship
- Who is responsible for maintenance? You want to be very clear here. A complicated design that takes hours each week isn’t for you if you work a brutal schedule — unless you have the cash to have your company manage it.
- What are the limits of your expertise? Many landscaping companies don’t directly handle pool installation, for example. However, they may have a landscape architect on site to help you visualize and design your total backyard layout, subcontracting the actual digging and pump installation to a pool builder. You should also ask how they handle the construction of gazebos, ponds, or other features, whether by using in-house work or contracting it to others.
Questions your landscaper should ask you:
- How long are you planning on living here? While you might not know precisely when you’ll decide to sell, you probably have a rough idea of whether you intend to retire in your current abode, pass it on to your kids, or relocate. If you only plan to stay a short while, your landscaper can help you design a layout to maximize your resale value.
- What is your total budget? They should ask this question near the start of your session. It’s easy to get carried away with grandiose plans only to discover they aren’t economically feasible.
- What are your main problems, and what have you tried without success? For example, you might be frustrated at how your front yard stones wash onto your sidewalk each time a monsoon strikes or have an impossible time coaxing your roses to bloom. What remedies did you try yourself, if any, before calling for professional help? Share this so they don’t repeat your efforts.
Finally, it helps to remain flexible when communicating with your contractor. While the human imagination may know no limits, nature imposes them all the time. If a specific plant or design doesn’t work for you, keep an open mind when discussing ideas that might.
Flexibility can also help you get more of what you want. For example, you might have your heart set on a rose garden but can only afford professional care once a month. Are you willing to pick up the slack on the weeks when your landscaper doesn’t visit?
Getting on the Same Page With Your Contractor
It’s frustrating when a home improvement project doesn’t turn out as you wanted. Tempers can flare when you involve professional help — but the problem is often miscommunication. Use these tips to communicate your landscaping ideas with your contractor. You’ll create the outdoor living space of your dreams while minimizing stress.
If you need help with your landscaping project, be sure to reach out. Our team of Arizona-based landscape design experts will take your vision and turn it into landscapes that exceed your wildest expectations!
You dream it. We design and construct it. You enjoy it.
Here at Straight Line Landscape we are experts in custom landscape design and construction. From the creative design and selection of materials to installation and construction, you’ll recognize quality and attention to detail from start to finish.