Learning landscape design...?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by ryde307, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. ryde307

    ryde307 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 540

    I am a company owner been in business for a while mostly in the lawncare and irrigation side of things. We have made a move more towards the landscaping side of things now. Anyways I have a alright knowledge of landscape installation and design. What I am wondering is where did you learn design in the sense of actually putting it on paper? Such as drawings and things. I am at the point where we could grow alot more if I was better in this aspect of the business. Just curious if you have any tips or places to look thanks.
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    The professionals are using computer programs now, that actually can place trees, shrubs, stones, or turf, etc. right on a picture. This gives you a great tool for the customer that has a hard time 'Envisioning' what you are trying to describe.

    Otherwise - trees are 'big circles', shrubs are smaller, and a wavy line can denote turf. Just do whatever communicates best. Good Luck. :)

    My biggest problem is that I do not have conventional tastes. I work for "Squares", man...
  3. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    The technical aspect of design can be learned from books or classes taught at adult high school or technical school programs or some colleges and universities offer professional development short courses. There are also design courses taught via the internet that maybe of some value. A strong horticultural knowledge coupled with an understanding of the landscape in terms of soil, drainage, elevation, hardscapes, water features and anything else that applies to the outdoors is vital to good design.

    A computer program is simply a digital pencil and a presentation tool. A program will not help you design, but may make your ideas easier to understand. The method as to which you convey your ideas is not as important as the ideas, but pretty colors will help you sell more.

    When your company has a need that maybe over your skill level or time allowance, consult the services of a designer or landscape architect. You can work with them and learn from them and perhaps only need their services in the future for the really big jobs. You will learn a great deal about design, if you work with someone that has some training in landscape design, but you will have to pay close attention.

    The art of design is something that cannot really be taught. It is either a gift you already have or a skill you are willing to put fort the time and effort to acquire. Many never master the art of design, but do quite well with landscapes within their limitations.

  4. ryde307

    ryde307 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 540

    Thanks for the replies. I know of the computer programs and such and I feel I have an alright grasp on landscape design and plants. It is normally easy for me to walk onto a property and listen to what a person is looking for read there taste by looking around and visualize my interpretation of that. My problem is getting it from my head to paper or another way to comunicate it to them. As of now I do use other designers and get help from many other in the industry often. Its a long boring winter so I have been spending lots of time looking for classes/school to get better at the areas I feel I'm lacking.
  5. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    ryde, excellent use of your down time. I do the same, always searching for new and original information as well as time tested ideas. Fortunately, here in New Jersey, we have a professional education program offered at the stae university, Rutgers. They offer winter short courses from the basics to the highly technical, taught by industry professionals and professors. I have been told that many states offer similar landscape programs, so you may want to check with the state university.

    If your looking at software, every landscape design software company offers some sort of introductory and advanced training classes. These programs aren't about design, but using that company's software. The classes do well to allow you the maximum use of the software you intend or have purchased. Google Sketchup offers a free imaging program that many hardscapers use to present and sell their paver and stone ideas, including walls. It allows your client to get a decent visual representation of your ideas and design as well as color or product choices. Some of the better design programs, like Pro Landscape, offer specific products in photo-realistic imaging.


  6. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    How do you best learn. Are you a reader, or a hands on kind of guy? Do you do best when being shown how to do things?
  7. ryde307

    ryde307 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 540

    very much a hands on. You can tell me don't do that its going to hurt but I won't believe you until I try and actually get hurt. So very hands on learner.
    Dreams to designs thanks for the responses. The University of Minnesota actually is very big in the green industry and they do offer classes and there arboreteum is on of the best. Its 5 miles from my house. I spend time going there and reviewing plants and such. Just wish the offerd better classes geared towards people in our industry better our knowledge not so much kids looking for a degree.
  8. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    DreamsToDesign has given you some great advice.

    One thing to think of also is that if you acquire some basic landscaping design principals, then you can actually understand how some existing landscapes around your area were designed and installed. Ultimately you can see what other companies have done and not necessarily steel their ideas, but use some of the same principals in your own designs.

    I use Pro Landscapes by Drafix. The only reason I knew how to use a program like that is from publishing and graphic design classes that I took in High School. Most of the functions are very similar to Adobe and Microsoft publishing programs.
  9. Chilehead

    Chilehead LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Stockbridge, GA
    Messages: 1,956

    Make sure you receive the proper licensing. here in GA, I once drew up a design for a client that happened to be an engineer. I did not charge him for the design, just the landscape work. Wouldn't you know that the first day I am on the job, he has several officers and city agents waiting there to issue me a fine and cease-and-desist order. I was really surprised. While there, the city's civil engineer tells me that a design can't be sold to a client without proper licensing. When I told him that I was not charging a fee for it, he said that I was not even allowed to draw one up for free if I am charging to do the work. I had to pay $1000.00. Yup, you better be a licensed architect and/or at least check the laws in your state.
  10. Steiner

    Steiner LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 409

    Take it for what its worth. Designing landscapes is about 3 things in my mind.

    1. Knowing core design principles like grouping plants, shapes, formal vs. informal design, balance, unity, color etc.

    2. Knowing the plants, their placements, and their needs. Soil knowledge and a good soil sampler.

    3. Knowing how to use the software to present it.

    In my opinion number 3 is the easiest to master. Go to a art supply place, get some plastic templates, a few markers, squares and good quality drafting tools. There is something comforting about a real, and I mean real, drafting table and the results it produces. Only my best customers get my hand drawn work. When you get good, switch over to a pro software program; you will never look back.

    Number 1 can be gleaned from books or by simply observing others work and critique it. Everywhere I go I look at other's landscape and I critique, think about and study what was done, and I look for ways to improve. Look for design books on landscape. I have a few great books and I read them all the time. Basically, if you are mindful, and you love it, you will be a master.

    Number 2 is the hard part. Plant knowledge is a huge body of core knowledge, it's immense. Read books, go to suppliers, look up every plant you see. What I did, was hire a good horticulturist and from time to time pick his brain, and I also started my own plant book (binder with sleeves) for customers. Every time I use a new plant I create a new picture page that lists history, names, soil and sun requirements, and every other attribute. And now I have a pretty good handle on plants, and every day I get better. That book makes plants easy for customers, and I am learning plants at an incredible rate.

    My typical design process: Yes, it's a process.

    1. Observe site alone
    2. Let customers talk, ask open ended questions, ask what plants they like and hate. All while walking on entire property. (think sales)
    3. Look at beds close up, check soil and light conditions. Feel soil. Look for downspouts or other issues.
    4. Look at beds far away for perspective, balance, unity, shape etc.
    5. Have clients look through plant books, explain plants and see if their eyes gleam. Show them formal and informal complete landscapes and see what they are drawn to. Get a commitment.
    6. Site measurements.
    7. Rough sketches. Thought.
    8. Refine hand drawings. Thought. Mount on matte boards.
    9. Sketchup 3-D software. Thought.
    10. Presentation
    11. Revisions and so on and so on..........More thought.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009

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