Secrets of a Landscape Designer

By Bridget Kelley Huzar February 27, 2013 06:00 AM
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Secrets of a Landscape Designer

Shhhhhh….don’t tell anyone, but I am about to tell you some secrets! Most people that have a garden designer work at their home are unaware of the interesting process of creating the final plan. I will let you know our secret ways…if you promise not to tell!

When we (designers) pull up to your home, we immediately asses your house and property. I look at the era and style of the architecture, and how you have decorated or made it your own. All of these items are clues to who you are and what you like. Before we even talk to you, we can tell what your personal style is and what you will respond to. For instance, if you have a colonial home with baskets on the porch, you will probably respond to the suggestion of adding window boxes or a bench along the front walk. This design profiling is crucial to a successful plan. The landscaping should enhance your home and your curb appeal should reflect your personality.

The more you give a designer to work with the better the outcome. Cut out pictures of plants or landscapes that you admire. Even if you have colors or themes that you want to see or not see, all of this will assist the designer in creating a plan that is really “you”. After walking the property, the homeowner and I jointly determine their needs and desires and it’s time for the site analysis.

The designer will analyze the site for views, circulation, wind, sun, shade or any other site restriction or benefits that needs to be taken into account in planning. If the homeowner wants a vegetable garden by the kitchen door, you need to determine if there’s enough sun and proper drainage. Possibly, the designer may want to plant a wind break of Spruce on the north west side of the property to protect the back patio.

Part of the analysis involves measuring everything. I mean everything! This is the most uncreative, uninspiring, “un-fun” part of the job. Can you tell that I don’t like to measure? Unfortunately if you do not have all of the science and correct measurements, you can’t possibly go forward and create the art.

I will be discussing in more detail about the art and science in my next blog.  I’ll skim this part and just say for now that it is wonderfully involved!

Once the design is completed, I generate a plant list from the plan. This helps the homeowner know what the heck I was talking about after I leave them with the prints. Most of the time clients nod their heads like they understand all about the proposed plants, until the next day when I am sure they look at each other and say “which one had the little blue flowers???” They can check the plant list and cross reference the plan as well as an online photo resource.

The client can now choose an installer or dive in and do it themselves. The designer will recommend a contractor or assist the homeowner in their own installation. Some clients have hired me to come with them to garden centers and pick out the plants, and some have asked me to place them in the yard, according to my plan. I will be giving more information on choosing a quality landscape installer in the next few months.

So, this is between you and me. I hope you can keep a secret!

Bridget Kelly Huzar is a Landscape Designer with over 17 years experience, and is the off camera designer and expert consultant for a “curb appeal” pilot on A&E filmed in the Philadelphia area. You can contact her through