I know what you’re thinking! Natalie, summer is over. The kids are back in school, there’s homework and karate classes to deal with. Work is ramping up and I’m already seeing Halloween decorations in the stores. I can’t possibly think about planning my summer landscape now.
But I’m here to tell you that you can. And you must. I cannot count the number of clients and prospective clients who have contacted me in spring to discuss their landscape ideas which they can’t wait to unveil for a May graduation or June wedding. Unfortunately, unless we’re talking about a super simple plant refresher, spring is way too late to get that ball rolling.
A full landscape project—out with the old, in with the new—simply takes time. How much time? More than most people think.
Let’s break it down.
THE DESIGN 8-16 weeks:
I hate to admit it but this part is a bit squishy on the specifics, mainly because it depends on both the designer’s schedule and the client’s response times. Additionally, if permits are required, it will rely on bureaucracy. Biggest. Time-suck. Ever. But this is why we want to start landscape planning early!
This is what you can plan on:
Site Plan: Most designers will need an accurate drawing of the property, some rare cases will require a survey. So, there’s scheduling the consultant for field work (1-2 weeks), and then drafting the data (1 week).
Site Analysis: Going to the property, interviewing the client, taking copious notes and photos of the site and interpreting them. (Just a matter of scheduling)
Preliminary Plans: Personally, I always give a client 2 design choices and a plant palette. (2 weeks). If needed or requested I may also include 3D renderings (adds 2 weeks)
Client Review Time: Rarely a client will give 100% feedback immediately. Most take 2-3 weeks. Still others I don’t hear from for 2 months or more. (0 days – 8 weeks)
Revised Plans: Taking client comments and making changes to the drawings, plus adding the specifics (2 weeks)
Client Review Time: See above (0 days – 8 weeks)
Final Touches/Final Plan: (1-2 weeks)
LANDSCAPE PLANNING Insider Tips
- Consultants (structural or civil engineers, and irrigation designers require extra time because each has to wait for a completed design in order to begin their work
- Personal challenges can put landscape on a lower priority for the client
- The designer’s schedule may be loaded and cause delays
BIDDING up to 4 weeks:
Once you have a completed design it will be time to get estimates. Every designer has a magic recipe for this. Some turn the drawings over to the client to find a contractor, others submit their plans to a few trusted contractors and compare bids. Still others are licensed contractors and bid the job themselves.
Apart from Design/Builders, we—designers and clients—rely on the contractor’s schedule. During busy times it can take up to 4 weeks to get estimates. If it’s slow as little as 1 week.
Landscape Planning Insider Tips:
Bidding is super important! I cannot emphasize this enough. Sometimes a contractor will ask to come back 2 or 3 times to check things out. It’s not because they’re incompetent (usually). They just really want to make sure that the information is accurate. If not they may over or under charge. While it may seem like a win for the client if a contractor under-charges, I assure you it is NOT! The client is almost always the loser in that situation, just in unforeseen ways—quality, attention, overcharging on other items—all to make up cost.
- Any project with special services—mason, carpenter, electrician, metal fabricator, etc—will take longer to get a bid for.
- During spring and summer contractors are very busy. Their priority is on paying jobs so bidding tends to slide. Getting bids during winter (yes, even in Southern California) will tend to derive rapid results.
CONSTRUCTION 4-12 weeks
This is what you can plan on:
- If permits are required it can take a very long time. It requires up front research during design and may require changes or additional drawing clarifications down the road. It varies city by city.
- If the project is planting and irrigation only things will move very quickly. A front or back yard only will likely take only a week or two without any unusual circumstances. If it’s a full property, closer to 3 weeks
- Adding basic hardscape to the project will add approximately 1-2 weeks if we’re just talking about average walkways, steps, patios etc.
- Pools take months
- Outdoor kitchens can take 2-4 weeks
- Random issues are the real deal-breakers when it comes to schedule. These are the unpredictable things that cause extensions. Here are a few I’ve come across personally:
- An actual 4’ concrete wall underground ran across an entire property where we were going to plant 36” box trees.
- A water line directly under the tile we were removing busted the minute we started.
- A different contractor did “demo” before we started and left the entire root system and stumps of 30 Oleanders that were supposed to be removed.
Landscape Planning Insider Tip:
Keep in mind that, just like in the design process, a smooth construction phase relies on both the contractor and the client. If the contractor is knowledgeable and prepared that’s a great start. Likewise, if the client is efficient in responding to requests, and making choices on materials the project will run more quickly.
If you have a plan for your landscape that involves a full property make over with many moving parts you’re looking at the possibility of needing 8-9 months from site analysis to sipping cool beverages on your deck. And when very momentous events such as weddings or graduations are involved, it is so satisfying to be ahead of the game.
Starting in September or October for for a fantastic summer fling gives you the best shot at having a stress free landscape makeover with plenty of time to spare.