By Steve Gregory, PLA, ASLA
Nowhere else is it more important to set expectations with your client than on the landscape architecture component of a project. In my nearly three decades as a Professional Landscape Architect, I’ve been consistently asked to help my clients find what I abbreviate as, “ELM”; environmentally friendly, low-cost, and maintenance free solutions. Although this acronym is short, solving these project objectives is often not as straightforward. To help your client get as close as possible to meeting these goals, I offer the following suggestions:
Environmentally Friendly: All that is green is not always green. Going green does not mean installing turf grass lawn and letting it fend for itself. Closely examining the long-term care and watering requirements should be central to the design of any landscape. Where turf grass is desired, look for varieties that require less water and maintenance than traditional lawns.
Another way to make the landscape more environmentally responsible is to use as many native plant species as possible. Native plants do require more patience than traditional plantings. Since it takes a few seasons until they peak and look their best, it is important to communicate this timeframe to your client from the beginning.
Low Cost: This is probably the easiest goal to address with most clients since they already have an understanding of costs. Once the project meets the municipal requirements and the client’s direction, then try matching locally sourced plants to the site’s microclimate. This alone will greatly decrease project costs. The key is to include large plants from a quality nursery so that the landscape has a visual impact and can be intuitively understood by the users from first glance.
Maintenance Free: This is where you have to deliver some bad news to the client. There is no such thing as a maintenance-free landscape; however you can offer lower maintenance plants such as native perennials in lieu of decorative annuals. The trick is balancing the lower maintenance and watering requirements of the perennials with the showy exotic plants of more traditional landscapes. Establish with your client the look they are trying to achieve and manage the expectations of decision makers and maintenance staff when incorporating lower maintenance native plants.
EEA incorporates these principles into our designs whenever possible. We simply call it smart design – a holistic approach to site planning and design. Our in-house site consulting services allow us to fully-examine a project site through our team of civil engineering, traffic and parking, and landscape architecture experts.
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Steve Gregory, PLA, ASLA is EEA’s Director of Landscape Architecture and Planning.