Here's a list of common questions...

...and some no nonsense answers!

These are the questions we've answered below:

  • What exactly is a “property analysis” and why is it the starting point of a landscape design project?
  • How is your property analysis service different from the ads I see that list “free consultations?”
  • Wait a minute: you say you do free consultations.  What is your free consultation, exactly?
  • How much do you charge for the property analysis? 
  • How do you determine when a project will move beyond a property analysis to a landscape design?
  • How does the landscape design process work?
  • How does the landscape design actually get implemented?  Do you do that?
  • How do you price a landscape design?
  • How do you get paid?
  • Do you install or maintain?
  • What about gardens?  Will the landscape companies maintain them too?
  • What types of landscape design jobs do you do?
  • Do you do commercial sites?
  • Where do I buy the plants you suggest?
  • What if I can’t find a plant you specify or go to the garden center to buy it and don’t like it?
  • Can I transplant the plants I have now, or use some of them in your design?
  • What is the difference between a perennial and an annual?
  • What exactly is a low-maintenance landscape?
  • When you say that you use native and naturalizing plants, what do you mean? 
  • I had a bad experience with a landscaper/designer/landscape architect once before.  How are you different?
  • Will you work off Cape Cod, like Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket or on the South Shore?

Have any others?  Contact us at 508-394-7974 or shannon@secondnaturegardenworks.com

 

What exactly is a “property analysis” and why is it the starting point of a landscape design project?

A property analysis is a process where you and I walk the property and determine the most pressing landscape needs. I discover, through questions and a visual review of your property (and often key places within your home that offer a view of the grounds), what your preferences are. We consider the current and desired uses of the property, physical and structural issues as well as environmental concerns. Small issues or a slight redesign of various landscape features can be accomplished in this one meeting that has a typical duration of one to three hours. If the project requires more than a property analysis, we will use the information gathered to launch a full-fledged landscape design. Either way, any design project starts with a property analysis.

How is your property analysis service different from the ads I see that list “free consultations?”  

If you know what you want and you essentially need a crew to do it, by all means, get the “free consultation”.  This concept works on the assumption that you will hire the crew that comes with the representative.

If you don’t know what you want or need, beware.  The “free consultation” is a take-it-or-leave-it service.  Since neither you nor the representative has any investment (other than their time and travel expenses) in the process, the advice you get may not be the advice you seek or need.  The free consultation giver will attempt to sell whatever service their organization provides, such as telling you that a stone wall is a vital addition to your landscape even if you live on a sand dune.

They are not selling time.  They are selling what will come next which is far more profitable.

A "free consultation " might end up being very expensive in more ways than one.

Wait a minute: you say you do free consultations.  What is your free consultation, exactly?

It's free to speak to me, to find out how I work and to find out if you think I'm a good fit for your project.  More than likely, we'll move right into one of the services I've described, unless you are auditioning several different people.  I will not be giving you a free landscape design on the spot unless you are willing to make the modest investment that will pay off for years to come.   After all, I've spent a lifetime and a heck of alot of money training myself to create really wonderful, boutique landscape designs.   I don't give that away.  Rest assured, however, that I won't ever be a hardcore salesperson who won't leave the property until I get you to buy. 

How much do you charge for the property analysis? 

The property analysis is a two to three hour investment and you can expect to pay $300-450 for the service.  Keep in mind that this is a small price to pay to avoid spending thousands on landscape changes you may not want or need.

How do you determine when a project will move beyond a property analysis to a landscape design?

The scope of the project is the major difference.  A property analysis is a 2-3 hour project that seeks to solve a particular problem.   The most common deliverable is a sketch and plant list.  For instance, perhaps you have a corner of the yard that never looked right or your front foundation plantings are well past their prime.  We can probably handle those types of challenges in a consultation.

When a landscape requires a new theme, a new planting scheme, hardscape or involves a fair amount of problem-solving, a landscape design becomes an important tool.

A landscape design builds on the property analysis.  I’ll interview you to determine your needs and desires.  You don't have to know what they are on the spot, by the way.  I'll figure it out!

From there, we will launch the landscape design project that will transform your property and your experience of your Cape Cod landscape or garden.

How does the landscape design process work?

After the property analysis, we will determine an estimate for design services.  Once you agree to it with a down payment, we will do the measure-up of your property.  Using that document, Shannon layers on the proposed landscape changes.  She will meet with you to show you the evolving project and to get your input.  She will note any changes and requests, and finish the plan.  Shannon will meet with you again to deliver a hand-drawn plan - to scale - and answer any questions you may have.

How does the landscape design actually get implemented?  Do you do that?

More often than not, we manage the installation.  We do this with trusted landscape professionals that we know, or maybe with your landscaper if you have one you want to use (and can do the work with the proper skills).  Our oversight ensures that you get the landscape installed according to the plan, and that you have an advocate on the job.  You can, basically, not even be there when it's happening because we will be, and we will be staying in communication with you.

We’ll discuss which landscape companies we’ll ask to estimate the installation project along with ongoing property preservation practices.

How do you price a landscape design?

A landscape design is quoted by the job, and can sometimes be estimated on site.  If not, we'll make a proposal after the initial site visit by phone or email.

How do you get paid?

The property analysis is paid for on site at the time of the session.  If a landscape design is determined to be the next step, one third of the estimate for the design fee will be collected before the work begins.  Another third is received when Shannon meets with you to show you the evolving site plan.  The final third is due at delivery of the finished plan.

If you decide to retain our services throughout the installation process, we will quote that separately, based on the job as a whole or the amount of time we expect to be spending on the project.

Do you install or maintain?

We work with top-notch area landscape companies who will install the project and maintain your property afterward.

What about gardens?  Will the landscape companies maintain them too?

Rarely!  Most landscape companies either can't or won't do that sort of work unless they are large enough to have dedicated and specially trained crews.  If you've ever asked someone to weed your garden and discovered that they pulled out most of your plants, you know what we mean by 'specially trained.'

On occasion, Shannon will take on a garden herself.  More often, she will refer the care of the garden to someone else who really can do a good job with the maintenance.  She will work with you to suggest improvements, if necessary, and create a plan of action to provide the garden care you want.

What types of landscape design jobs do you do?

We focus primarily on homeowners looking for a personalized, individually-crafted and artistic landscape.  Shannon incorporates native and naturalized plants wherever possible and strives to create landscapes that can stand on their own without dependence on regular watering, fertilizing and non-stop care.  Perennial and/or annual gardens are a mainstay of her designs, but only if appropriate.   Shannon has also been consulted numerous times to draw plans for properties with conservation restrictions for both homeowners and developers.

Do you do commercial sites?

Yes, we do commercial landscape design and manage the installations with your landscaper or ours.   We have designed a healing garden, hotel gardens both large and intimate, historic gardens for historic buildings, spec homes, municipal building and traffic plantings, all the Doane, Beal & Ames and Nickerson Funeral Homes across the Cape in the 1990's, church grounds, a traffic-stopping gas station garden on 6A in Dennis that no longer exists, a native landscape at a youth hostel, a wall garden for a building in Boston, sign gardens and plantings for hotels and shopping centers, plantings for neighborhood associations, entrances and entire site plans for new commercial developments, various Stop and Shops around New England, parking lot plantings, a couple of public parks and even a fast food restaurant.

Where do I buy the plants you suggest?

If you are having a landscape company install a plan, they will usually buy the plants for you as specified on the landscape design document.  If you are buying plants yourself, Shannon can suggest area garden centers and nurseries who sell the specific types of plants you are looking for or purchase them for you.  It is common to have to shop at several different stores to get everything on the plant list.

What if I can’t find a plant you specify or go to the garden center to buy it and don’t like it?

You can let Shannon know and she'll do her best to suggest an alternative.

Can I transplant the plants I have now, or use some of them in your design?

Some plants are worth trying to transplant, and some aren’t.  Sometimes it is better to start new.  If a transplant can be done without too much damage to the plant and be kept well-watered throughout the season, it is likely to add value to the new landscape.  We make every attempt to reuse good plants if we think they will make a significant contribution to your new landscape.

What is the difference between a perennial and an annual?

Both are terms used to describe a plant that lacks a woody stem and are referred to as “herbaceous” plants. The perennials grow and bloom year after year while an annual grows and blooms in one growing season and dies after a the first hard frost.

What exactly is a low-maintenance landscape?

'Low-maintenance' is a relative term.  To us, it means a landscape that features plants that require few resources.  For instance, a thick green lawn is not low maintenance.  You have to water it, fertilize it and mow it regularly, in addition to thatching and monitoring and treating weeds.  Lawns require a huge input of resources.

Many of our clients are proud of their lawns and want to keep them as large as possible. While we're not against lawns, if there is room for compromise, we do attempt to minimize them where possible.  Ground covers and group plantings of native and naturalized plants go a long way in creating a lower-maintenance or low-maintenance landscape.   Just the addition of gardens instead of solid lawn cuts down on maintenance.  Even a perennial garden is easier to maintain than lawn and requires less resources.

There is one other huge factor in the making of a low-maintenance landscape…and that’s your tolerance level.  In other words, where are you on the scale from casual/loose to formal/tightly-ordered? This is a discussion we will have at some point in our interview so that we can create the look that suits your expectations.

When you say that you use native and naturalizing plants, what do you mean? 

Shannon chooses plants that have a good chance of settling into their new home because they are well-suited to the climate, the soil and the general conditions of your landscape.  Let’s say you have dry woods and you want a groundcover.   A native plant like lowbush blueberry that Nature would probably put there anyway, or some woodland plant that is well suited to those conditions would be a good choice.  It would be unwise to plunk a hydrangea into dry woods, for instance, as they need a lot of water and will not thrive in certain conditions.  Consider, too, your avian and other wild visitors, how they will use your landscape and what plants will favor them.

We take the issue of invasive plants very seriously and strive not to use anything that has a tendency to behave badly anywhere in the landscape.  Some common "invasives" include oriental bittersweet, privet, burning bush, bush honeysuckle, autumn olive and barberry to name a few.  If they are already a part of your landscape, we may suggest ways for you to better use or manage these plants.  We won't add them, however, no matter how much you might beg. Principles are principles!

I had a bad experience with a landscaper/ landscape designer/landscape architect once before. 

How are you different?

Most likely, you didn’t fully understand what you were buying.  It is the job of the practitioner to help you understand.  The design is an extension of your interests, not an extension of the designer’s interests.  You are the one who has to live on the property after the work is done.  The design needs to be what you want, and it is the designer’s job to fit the landscape to you.  The process of designing the right landscape/garden design should be a personal experience - not one size fits all.

We don’t have a crew to keep busy.  We don’t have plants to sell.  We only have you to satisfy, so we make a plan for you and only you.

 Will you work off Cape Cod, like Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket or on the South Shore?

Of course! We sure do love to get off the Cape once in awhile.  It's beautiful here and all, but yes!  We've worked in places like Taunton, Milford, Boston and Kennebunk, ME in the recent past.  Don't hesitate to ask.