finding a professional landscape designer

jonesy1967April 4, 2011

We recently purchased a house with a huge front yard (an acre)that needs design help. I want to do this right and hire a professional to draw up a plan. I have plenty of manual help to actually do the installation.

My problem is that I live in the middle of nowhere. There are no professional landscape designers within an hour of me (that I can locate). I contacted everyone in the phone book that called themselves designers but they are basically lawncare companies. All of the nurseries around are run by the same lawncare companies.

If I hired someone from out of town, do you think I would have to pay their "hourly rate" for the travel time? Do most designers charge by the hour or do they give a lump price for the design? Do they usually come out just once to measure, take pictures, etc and then do the design from the office or do they have to make multiple trips to the house?

Any advice?

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I live in an area where there are a lot of summer homes. I often go look at homes when the customer is not there then do the rest of the planning via email. I only do one trip to take measurements and photos then I draw up a design and plans and email with the client to work out the rest of the details. It has been pretty successful for me.
You just will have to find the right person because i probably wouldn't travel very far for a design only situation. Also, my suggestion would be not to procrastinate - in your area I would try to find this person really really soon because once the season really gets going landscapers schedules really fill up. But if you catch them before things get going... you may find someone.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 2:42PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Landscape designers vary in how they charge for travel time, lump sum design fee versus hourly, etc. You might get better advice here if you mention where you are located. You might also find that being in the boonies, your best approach might be to get a designer to take this on digitally, searching for designers in the nearest metropolitan area to your home. Lots of photos, a base plan or survey with topographic information, and a clear presentation of your goals, wants, preferences and budget range might allow this to be done on-line to a major extent.

If I am hired to do a design for an out of town client, I typically do charge half my hourly rate for travel, plus expenses, and generally prefer to visit the site at least once to really get a better feel for the setting, but have also done designs for clients where I never set foot on the property, and they were still pleased with the results. I am sure you'll be able to find a range of approaches that suit your needs if you widen your search area beyond the local lawn care companies.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 2:48PM
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Thank you both for your responses. I live in southern Virginia. Locations within 90 minutes of me would be Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh (all in North Carolina) and Lynchburg in Virginia.

Is there a professional organization website I could search? I have a survey and could certainly take alot of pictures.

It is mostly a large field with some Nellie R. Stevens hollies, Willow Oaks and a few Deodar Cedars that the previous landowner installed. They have been in place less than 5 years or so. I am hoping we can move them if they can't be incorporated into the plan.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 3:13PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I don't know much about the professionals in Lynchburg, but there are literally tons of talent in Chapell Hill, Raleigh and Durham. Check with the local APLD or ASLA chapters for listings, or the phone book, or maybe post on the Gardenweb for North Carolina to get recommendations. Moving trees that are only 5 years in place is certainly doable, if you don't like them where they are.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 3:30PM
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Aw, I love Lynchburg!I did a master plan for a farmette down there last year. Nice area.

I looked on and surprisingly, you're right - no one in Lynchburg or even Roanoke. I do remember talking to a guy a few years ago who moved to Roanoke and started a design firm, but that's all I remember. Could be a start. You're definitely in a tough area, as I sure wouldn't pick SW VA as a great location for a design firm.

You could always look for design-only firms in VA or NC and inquire about distance services. I'd stick to VA or NC firms, though. There was a guy who sent a design out to bid to one of my local nurseries, and he clearly used some mope doing cheap distance designs from way out of state. Some of the plants don't grow here, but the best was specifying an 8-10' specimen of a holly that was just hybridized and rolled out to the trade the year before - nothing existed on the planet bigger than a 2 gallon.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 7:41AM
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Oh, duh. Totally forgot about VSLD (VA Society of Landscape Designers). You may have luck with the link attached.

Here is a link that might be useful: VSLD SW VA

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 9:14PM
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I grew up in Lynchburg and went to Virginia Tech for landscape architecture. Currently, I reside in Winston-Salem, NC and could refer you to some folks in the area if you would like for design.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 10:51PM
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