Designing For Your Needs
The first step of good design is determining what the need is. For instance, I have a pair of tongs that is my first choice in the kitchen or when grilling. The pair of tongs I select out of the 3 or 4 pairs available in the kitchen is a result of their design. While they spring apart with ease, they do not resist compression too greatly. Neither do they make me wish for larger hands to better grasp them. They were designed by someone who understood the needs of those who use tongs.
Understanding the needs of a homeowner prior to landscape design is the first step to a comfortable experience for the homeowner
after the designer is gone
. Some of these needs are predetermined--for instance, if large trees flank portions of the homeowner's land but are not on his or her property, plants that will thrive in part sun or shade will be a need. If the land shows signs of constant erosion from heavy rainfall, dealing with storm water will be another need. But most homeowner needs are the result of conflicts between what they have and what they want. Finding the solutions that resolve those conflicts are what homeowners are after when they hire designers. (
photo at left--course-textured sedum in a rock garden--great for low maintenance landscapes
Any designer should be able to put together a design that is attractive. In order to ensure a design that really suits you, make sure you identify your needs prior to meeting with a designer. How much maintenance do you want to do? (Be Honest! Some folks 'gripe' about the work they have to do outside...but you can't keep them inside. What does that tell you?) What irks you about your current landscape? Does it provide enough privacy? Do you feel closed off from your neighbors? Do you want views from your windows? Should those views invite you out, or do you want to be content with the view from inside? Do you have children or pets that need to be accommodated?
Some of these might sound more like wants than needs, but, in the context of landscape and our relationship to it, it's imperative to pay attention to the things that bother you, even if those things are subtle. I want a yard that invites me outside. That gives me a place to entertain. That makes spaces for the wild things I love. If I don't have these things in my landscape, the want becomes a psychological need, making me feel impoverished. Nothing outside but grass? Bad. My friends have to be inside? Bad. No bumblebees to pet, hummingbirds to dodge or caterpillars to gently squeeze? Bad. Do you like fragrance? Make sure you have olfactory delights. Do you like color? Make sure you have color in every season. (
photo at right--how many eastern black swallowtail caterpillars do you see in the parsley?
This is where a good designer will earn her fee. Not all good smells come from flowers--nor do all colors. Your designer should have the knowledge base to help you meet your needs. Your job is to articulate those needs before the designer has planted the entire landscape.
In working with my own landscape, the greatest challenges have been imposed by a desire to "do no harm." To me or to the critters. So the issues are the same outside as in--just with a different target audience. Food. Shelter. Water. Places to play with friends and mates. And inside, clean windows so I can watch the show.