Faq about the Landscape design and construction process

Why engage a Landscape or Garden Designer?

The job of the designer is to take a brief of your needs and wants and then design something for you worth building. Some people just go straight to a construction team with their own ideas. This can be sensible for small additions to your garden. But, more often than not you are going to get a better end result if you hire someone to help you with the design. A good designer has a lot of experience and can create something that captures your aesthetic and resolves your functional issues. They will be able to help you avoid common mistakes made in gardens and also find the most cost effective and durable ways to create your space.

What does a consultation cost?

To come out to your home and conduct an initial consultation we charge $250. This usually takes between 1 and 3 hours.  This is our chance to discuss your project further and learn about you and your family.  We usually get you to do some homework in advance of this consultation including finding images of gardens you like and dislike and collecting plans of your house block and garden if they exist.  Using the information gained while we are with you we will negotiate a fee to produce a concept plan.

What is a Landscape Concept Design?

A landscape concept design at minimum shows the layout and functions of elements within a garden. Each business includes different things at this part of the process. A Ross Uebergang Landscape Design we think this is the most important part as without a fantastic idea there is no amount of detailing of the garden is going to create an amazing garden.

We generally start with initial sketches on paper and then move to modelling the site in 3d on the computer. The presented concept plan will usually consist of 3d renderings of the proposed design, images of material and plant themes and supporting text.

How much does it cost for a concept design?

There are a lot of factors that effect how long the design will take.  We will work out a price when we visit you for a consultation.  Usually a concept design costs between $2,000 and $8,000 for a residential property.

What if I would just like some ideas?

If you would just like some preliminary ideas or a rough plan, we conduct consultancy at an hourly rate. We can come out to your property and stand with you and talk through potential interventions for your property. We can even sit down at your site for a few hours and make some rough sketches and make a basic list of some materials and plants to give you something to think about.

Can we make changes to plans?

If you need additional changes made once the concept design is made, often the first changes that are asked for within the first week will be made for free and resubmitted electronically if you have negotiated a set fee for the design.  Subsequent changes would be made at a hourly rate.  

What happens after the Concept Design phase?

After the concept design we decide what paperwork is necessary to have you garden built. We made need to explore some of the elements in more depth and we will need to create a planting plan. It may be that you are going to build the garden yourself and you just need some verbal recommendations or you may want the design drawn to a standard that can quoted for construction by a few different teams.

What do I need to do before a consultation?

Before coming to your site is important to have a good phone discussion with a prospective designer. It’s best to broach the topic of construction budget with your family as early as you can, despite it being a tricky topic. If you haven’t gone through the process before it is really hard to estimate how much a garden will cost. We can do something similar in landscaping as well. See ‘How much does a garden cost?’ for more info. Often the average person can’t afford to hire someone to build an amazing garden without planning and saving for a while.

The next thing you need to do is start building a vocabulary of what you like in a garden and also it is just as important to highlight what you don’t like. This is often very illuminating for the designer and helps them work to your taste.

Thinking about the functions that the spaces need to cater for is one thing that will definitely come up in the first meeting, so now is the time to start thinking about what you want.

How do I choose a landscape designer?

Do your homework on the designer. First check out photos of their past projects. Even better than photos just after a project is finished, photos taken years later will tell you a lot about the designers choices in the design. If a designer does not have many photos of finished gardens on their site this can indicate that they are just starting out which can add risk in an industry that takes a lot of knowledge and that is built up over time. However, it may be that the designer has plenty of experience working for a different business and is still a good choice.

If you like the work that they produce then next is to find out if you fit with their personality and work flow. Undertaking renovations can be a big exercise and finding someone that comfortable going through that with is important. Having someone you have confidence and trust in makes for a good project.

What are some ways to reduce the cost of our construction?

There are lot's of different ways to try and reduce the cost of construction

  1. Reduce the amount of built elements in the space. Do I need this? It is almost always cheaper to solve your problems with plants.

  2. Reduce the size of the built elements. How often are you going to have that many people on your back deck?

  3. Substitute materials for ones that are cheaper, quicker to install and will still create the same effect.

  4. Perhaps you could think about tackling the garden in stages.

How much does landscape construction cost?

Like with most things in life there are budget options and expensive options. And like with a lot of things you often get what you pay for. A good landscape designer can help you make sensible decisions about where the money should go for you to achieve the best space for your needs.

A couple of ways to estimate costs for landscape construction are to look at average costs of elements and also to look at average costs per square meter.

Some examples are:

  • Paving may cost between $90pm2 for plain concrete through to around $500pm3 for fancier finishes

  • Decking may cost around $300-400pm2

If you want to make a cost estimate based on the size of your space you could use these benchmark rates to give you an idea.

  • A simple residential garden space with some hardscapes, but majority of softscapes might be around $140pm2

  • A higher quality residential space with hardscapes and softscapes might be around $310pm2

  • Very custom spaces then go up from this price level

What different levels of service do garden design and construction companies offer?

Some will just arrive at your house and make some recommendations. Others will provide you with a fairly well explored concept plan for you. Others will document the design to a standard that you could give it to multiple construction teams and get a very similar result. Some designers will consult or project manage to help ensure the construction aligns with the design. And some design firms will also have a construction team to see the whole process through to the end.

What is the difference between Landscape Architects and Landscape / Garden Designers?

Landscape Architects - In Australia Landscape Architects are registered with a national body after going through a minimum level of study at tertiary level and also a period of specific work experience. They often have a higher emphasis on larger and commercial projects. Plant knowledge is not usually a major component of their study and has to be built on in the work force.

Landscape / Garden Designers - Often have studied at TAFE level. There are no regulations around calling yourself a landscape or garden designer. Landscape and Garden Designers often concentrate on residential scale projects. It is common for landscape and garden designers to have a high interest in plants and come from a horticultural background.

What about ongoing maintenance of my garden?

We are living in a age where time is precious. Ideally we can create a space for you that you can enjoy maintaining. It can be a very rewarding, relaxing and fulfilling process looking after a garden. However, if that isn’t possible we can organise ongoing maintenance for your garden and make sure that it evolves to create the vision we had.

There are things that we can design in to help with the ongoing maintenance including automated irrigation systems, low maintenance materials and mulching.

What area do you work in?

We currently live and work out of Sandon in Victoria which is half way between Ballarat and Bendigo. The closest towns are Castlemaine, Daylesford and Maldon. However I am still down in Melbourne usually a couple of days a week teaching and for meetings. Then during the University and Tafe holidays I usually take on a bigger project. In the past I have completed jobs interstate and in India, Nepal and Japan.

Ideally we are a looking for work close to home but we travel anywhere for interesting work. We would love to pick up some work around Kyneton, Macedon, Malmsbury and that region.

Do you offer consultations for advice?

Yes, we do! This is something that I talk about in class often. The majority of the population can’t afford their dream garden. But, they can still definitely benefit from a little advice that will help them minimise the mistakes that they make when undertaking the garden. I can come out for a couple of hours to just talk through your project and steer you in the right direction.

Do I need an irrigation system?

This depends on the design, plant choices, how often you are home, how much spare time you have and a variety of other things. Plant choices can be made to reduce the water necessary. They may just need watering in over the first couple of seasons and then a little top up on hot days during summer. You may also prefer a plant palette that is a little thirstier. In this case I would say that an irrigation system is a must. Installing a good irrigation system that is robust and easy to diagnose issues with is key. It is very common for people to move into a new house with an irrigation system that isn’t working and to then just scrap all of the infrastructure.

There are companies that don’t charge for the design, just the build. Is this a better option?

The person who does the design in the office is getting paid by their boss regardless of whether that is written on the invoice. So this just means that the cost of this is passed on by inflated prices on part of the construction activities instead. So you are probably going to pay the same amount anyway. The advantage of a design build company is that it is one point of contact which is great. But, you are then locked into their services for construction and will not necessarily be a competitive quote for the construction.

My advice is, find the designer that you like the best based on their past projects.