Unless you've just won the lottery the truth for most of us is that the private landscape oasis of our dreams just doesn’t match our budget.
Why settle for second best?
There is an approach that can get you closer to your dreams, albeit, not all at once: a multi-phase landscaping design and build implementation. In this approach you get the design done up front but you implement the project over two or three years.
Be sure to discuss your interest in having a multi-phased approach with your designer because the designer will need to take into account a number of key considerations in the phasing of the project. For example,
- You don't want to bring in heavy equipment multiple times because that would greatly increase the cost.
- Logistically and practically, some things just have to be done in a certain order.
- You want to consolidate major purchases (e.g., wood for decking and fencing, patio stones, or brick).
- You want to make sure that each phase builds on the last one and what’s completed already will not have a negative impact on or be damaged by the continuation of the project.
- You want to consider what is most important to you and your lifestyle because sometimes life happens (e.g., job lay-off, pregnancy, etc.,) and the project needs to be postponed. You should end up, if possible, with what is most important to you.
- You want to make sure that each phase of the project is a logical breaking point and won't make your landscaping look half finished. Done well, nobody will be able to tell that what’s already completed is part of an ongoing landscaping project.
If there are new trees and shrubs in the plan that aren’t going to interfere with or be disturbed by subsequent phases of the project you may want to have them put in the first year so they have time to grow and fill out throughout the implementation period.
So, let’s look at a sample implementation plan. In the pictures below you can see two logical phases. Let’s assume that they wanted to have their front yard done as well. So, the implementation could look like*:
Year 1. The deck and privacy fence. Because more than anything they want to enjoy entertaining in their back yard. Behind their deck, until phase three is done, is sod, a few existing shrubs and bushes, and whatever new ones that are decided on.
Year 2. They do their front yard, driveway and entrance.
Year 3. They add the stone patio and water feature to the back of the yard.
But, there are some bigger bushes at the very back. These were be put in the first year as mentioned above.
Not every project is is suitable for a multi-phased approach so be sure to talk to your designer. For example, a project based primarily around one material and task (e.g., building a deck and fence) or laying a stone driveway, patio, and walkway) may suffer because you lose volume discounts and operational efficiencies.
You should also discuss your budget with the designer to make sure that each phase of the implementation matches what you can afford.
Breaking a project up over several years may allow you to opt to do certain tasks yourself—saving the larger or more technical parts of the construction for your design and build team. But, keep in mind, it still has to be worthwhile for your design and build a team to add you back into their schedule so you should definitely discuss this with them. You also want to make sure that you are using a reputable company because you don’t want to find out that they are not in business next year. Don't pre-pay for next year's work and be sure to get a copy of the plans for your own files just in case. Make this a deal breaker.
Any multi-phased landscaping design and build approach will usually cost a little more but may allow you to complete the project without financing. On the other hand, you may want to have a conversation with your bank about financing. Saving yourself from the interruption to your home and family life multiple times may be worth getting it all done at once.
Ultimately, you will have to weigh all of the factors: the inconvenience of the interruption, the extra cost of a phased approach, financing costs, the ability to pay for it in phases without financing, etc., to see what works for you. If there are parts that you can do yourself, it may be a great approach. The key, however, is to start with a great design that matches, as close as possible, the private landscape oasis of your dreams.
*This project wasn't actually done in a phased aproach and is used here for illustration purposes only.