Opinions on Professional Landscape Design

mountmerkelSeptember 18, 2010


My husband and I just bought our first house and are trying to figure out what to do with our steeply sloping, West-facing, full sun front yard (Zone 7B). After a lot of indecision, we hired a landscape designer to come up with a plan (attached in link below). We indicated that we would like a large area of groundcover on the slope, and just asked her to come up with something that would eliminate the need to mow and look good for resale. I'm not sure how I feel about the plan -- it seems like a lot of large shrubs that I'm afraid will look unruly. I would really like to get some expert opinions on this plan. Would you suggest any changes, or is this a good plan? I would really appreciate any insight you can provide!

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of house and landscape design

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If you like that pic,I might design a dozen different style pics for you.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 11:50PM
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I'm not a landscape designer, so take this with a grain of salt:) Most people like a little grass, I think? Place for kids to play?
I can tell you Shasta Viburnums are gorgeous, but in the winter they are bare... not ugly, just bare, something to think about. I personally don't like butterfly bushes, to me they look like weeds.
Just a little feedback for you:) Hope it helps?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 12:17AM
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That's clearly only at the front part of the front yard.

In winter, you can cut the butterfly pushes to the ground, and the cottoneasters will hide them. If you want a "shaped" look, then these aren't the shrubs for you, though.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 1:13AM
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You and your designer need to do a better job at communicating with one another rather than playing show and tell. I'll put that on the designer. She should know how to work with people to get them where they want to be. This is the thing that some people who go into landscape design don't understand right off the bat. It does take a while to develop that ability.

90% of it is getting on the same page as your client whether or not your client knows what (s)he wants or not. Arranging plants is the easy part. Some would say that you, mountmerkel, did not give enough information. I would say that it was up to your designer to get that information out of you, discuss it, reformulate it, discuss it some more and leave the initial meeting with both of you satisfied that you shared the same concept. If that were the case, the plan should not have surprised you.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 7:38AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Would you be happier with lower shrubs, for instance some of the sun-loving prostrate junipers, some of which are only 6" tall (there are green as well as blue cultivars)? Heather or heath is another possibility; many varieties are a foot or less. Tom Thumb cotoneaster is shorter than the Coral Beauty in your plan (though I think not evergreen in your zone).

Or had you anticipated a non-shrub groundcover like vinca minor or creeping phlox?

You might search the Groundcovers forum for ideas (that forum doesn't seem too busy). Or ask at your local GW forum.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 4:00PM
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If you are interested I can show you a virtual design of this plan and you can see for yourself if it suits your needs.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 10:31AM
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Laag has the correct approach :-) It's is not so much a matter as to whether this design is "right" or "wrong", "good" or "bad" (and a tad presumptious for us to comment on that anyway) but whether or not it satisfies your requirements. And clearly, since you have come to this forum for reinforcement or clarification, it does not.

You need to go back to the designer and explain your concerns or what you find lacking or deficient - too many large, deciduous shrubs that may offer excessive maintenance, not enough groundcover, the wrong sort, need for lower plantings, more evergreens, whatever. Most qualified designers are quite receptive to that type of feedback and appreciate the client input. Ultimately, they want to make you the client happy as that's where their referrals down the road are going come from. I'd agree that this is something that probably should have been hashed out before development of the plan but not everyone works the same way and I'm not inclined to second guess either you or your designer :-)

Take your concerns back to the designer and see what progress you can make.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 3:32PM
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Thank you for the feedback and suggestions everyone. Although our landscape designer was lovely to work with, I guess I felt bad about wasting her time by asking for further revisions to the plan since she seems very busy (took over 3 weeks to get us the initial plan, which she informed us up front), we paid a very low price for the plan, she already made two very long trips out to our house, and we don't plan to use her company for the installation (due to our very low budget). I am very happy with her suggestion of cotoneaster for groundcover, since groundcover options were something that I was agonizing over and cotoneaster hadn't occurred to me. It's the large decidious bushes I'm unsure about -- I guess I was hoping for a more neat and tidy look, maybe some small and medium sized, evenly spaced plants and bushes. But the reason that we hired a professional in the first place is that we don't know enough about plants, design, etc. to know what would look good, so I guess that made it difficult to communicate exactly what we wanted. Anyway, I appreciate the input and I think I will just try to tackle the project myself and hope for the best!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 3:13PM
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Okay. So plant abelia grandiflora instead of butterfly bushes. They can be neatly trimmed into balls and look great. Butterflies also love them. Choose a variety thaqt grows to 5+ feet.

Cotoneaster "Coral Beauty" is NOT a ground cover. It grows to 4' tall or so.

The viburnums are lovely.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 3:18AM
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reyesuela--Coral beauty Cottoneaster grows 12 inches tall. Personally I think I'd prefer something like creeping phlox for a ground cover. You'd get that lovely drift of flowers in the spring and the rest of the year it would look much like grass from a distance, only you wouldn't have to mow it.

It would also allow what shrubs and flowers you put in to stand out without competing with a shrubby ground cover.

I have a friend that has a hill behind her property that was causing some errosion problems. She planted creeping phlox on that hillside. It stopped the errosion and every spring it is a sight to behold. Lovely drifts of pinky purple and white cascade down that hill. Absolutely gorgeous.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 7:03AM
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Unless I am seriously mistaken (and I sell plants for a living :-)), 'Coral Beauty' is a selection of Cotoneaster dammeri and is indeed considered a groundcover form. Cotoneaster is not the most groundhugging of GC's (could get as much as 24" tall) but it does spread and cover the soil as is intended by any proper groundcover.

And while personal opinions can always muddy the mix, I'd take the cotoneaster over the phlox any day of the week :-) Sure the phlox puts on a show when in bloom but can look pretty ratty much of the rest of the year, especially in winter -- cotoneaster looks the same pretty much all 12 months.

FWIW, asking for revisions or clarifications of the designer should not considered as wasting her time. A good designer will not consider the job done until the client is satisfied. The suggestion of the abelia is a good choice, but there are other alternate, smaller and evergreen shrubs that could work also. Go ahead -- ask her!!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 12:53PM
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Whoops! I mixed it up with another one.

Some cotoneasters make a very small tree form up to 6'. I'm searching for those--Coral Beauty was among my rejects, and I thought it was the one that got 3-4', but that's one whose name I've apparently forgotten.

There are TONS of choices. I've recently become a huge fan of Clethra, for instance. :-)

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 10:30PM
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