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The Best Landscape Design Process for Your Home in Lancaster, York, or Reading, PA

Posted On: October 11,2018 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

landscape design layout lancaster paDeciding to have a large landscape project completed at your home is an exciting endeavor. Of course, whether it’s an outdoor kitchen, a patio, a pavilion, or all of the above, you want to be sure that it’s built right. That means hiring a landscape designer to professionally complete your design.

But excellent landscape design isn’t exactly cheap and you want to know that investing in it will be worth the cost. You may have been searching for “landscape design near me” online but you’re still not exactly sure what you’re going to get for your expense. The last thing that you want is to invest a lot of money into a “design” that took someone a measly 15 minutes to sketch.

When we talk about investing in high-quality design, we’re talking about a design that a professional has spent many hours (maybe even multiple days) formulating. It’s more than just a sketch. It’s a detailed landscape design plan that takes into account not only all of your wants and needs but also calculates grading, drainage solutions, and many other important details.

landscape-design-softwareIn the past couple of decades, we’ve heard many perspectives from our clients.  Some of them, unfortunately, chose another landscape company that didn’t spend enough time on a previous design plan and unfortunately ended up disappointed with their results.

But the others learned that good design is a process and is actually quite involved with meetings, brainstorming, and of course, skill. This is what eventually led them to choose Earth, Turf, & Wood and we’d like you to completely understand what that really meant when formulating a plan for them.

Since this may all be brand-new to you, and in order to give you an idea of what you could expect if you decide to engage in the design process with us, we’ll walk you through that experience, step-by-step.

The Best Lancaster, PA Landscape Design Process

Going through the process of developing a high-quality landscape design is not something that is completed overnight. In fact, at Earth, Turf, & Wood there are several phases of meetings that we go through to develop a final design.

Step One: The Initial Consultation

The first step is a one-hour consultation. This is an important meeting and it’s ideal for all decision-makers of the home to be present to ensure that everyone’s ideas are on the same page.

A landscape design consultation either takes place at our office or at your home and is free of charge in most situations. During this initial step, you should plan to provide photos of ideas that you like and we’ll also have our portfolios ready for viewing.


We think of this initial consultation as a “listening session,” in that our landscape design team, is listening to all of your wants and needs. This includes your likes and dislikes, your budget for the project, and what your vision is for the space.


After the initial consultation, if you decide to move forward, we will then charge a landscape design fee in order for our designer to get to work on your design. The design fee is deducted from the last bill that you pay for the project, so it is not an “additional charge.” Paying a design fee indicates that you are serious about moving forward and allows us to secure your spot in our schedule.

Step Two: The Reveal Meeting

Once you’ve paid a design fee, our landscape designer will develop your custom design and schedule a “Reveal Meeting” to unveil it. This is almost always held at the Earth, Turf, & Wood office and we again request that all decision-makers are present.initial landscape design

At the Reveal Meeting, we’ll not only show you the design, but we’ll discuss preliminary prices. We try to compose preliminary prices so that there is a little bit of leeway if you decide to change materials or make other alterations. Following the Reveal Meeting, we would require a retainer to move forward. This is typically 10 percent of the overall project cost.

Once the retainer is collected, we will take whatever time is needed to tweak the design and before moving onto the final contract. There is no pressure to get to that point. All the retainer says is that homeowners like the direction the project is going and are committed to having Earth, Turf, & Wood complete the project when the final details are sorted out.

Step Three: The Contract Meeting

On a larger project (such as a large patio with an outdoor kitchen with utility runs, pavilion, etc.) we will meet a third time to finalize all details and move into a final plan before we begin construction.


If it’s a smaller project (such as just adding some landscape beds), we would likely have you sign a contract right after the Reveal Meeting if you plan to move forward. If there aren’t more decisions to be made, we can move forward right away. But for a large project, such as an entire outdoor living area, it’s not uncommon to go through several meetings making tweaks to the design until it’s just right.


In general, we only like there to be about a week in between meetings so that we can keep things moving forward. However, we know that our clients’ schedules are busy and this isn’t always possible. Sometimes our designer also has to attend meetings with the township or meet with supervisors in between meetings in order to verify township requirements on your landscape design plan.

Step Four: The Final Design

After getting your approval on the finalized landscape design, we’ll move into the construction phase, following the design as our detailed guide. Just like you wouldn’t have your home built without any plans, you should not begin construction on a major outdoor project without a high-quality and well-detailed design guiding the process.

Hiring a Landscape Designer

There are many approaches to landscape design and you can’t assume that all companies will handle it the same way.

While one company may outsource their design to someone that doesn’t even work within the company (potentially causing disconnects between the design and the actual construction), others may just perform a quick sketch and call it a “design.” Chances are, that’s not what you want.


You should end up with a landscape company that puts time, energy, and skill into a detailed design. This will help you to feel confident that a landscape contractor like this will bring that same level of attention and detail to all aspects of your project.


There’s no question that it can be a time-consuming process—on our end and on yours. It’s a commitment in terms of ongoing meetings and decision making. However, the more time that is invested in your design, the more accurate and precise it will be, and that’s a big deal.

Making a Great Choice for Landscape Design in York, Reading, or Lancaster, PA

In the end, your wise choice in hiring a landscape designer who goes through all of these steps will ensure that you wind up with the project that you truly desire. That’s because each step of the design process is focused on honing the design to perfection.

Kolb-outdoor-kitchen-pavilion-16But when you work with a landscape company that does a quick sketch up, without a high level of detail, how can you really be sure what you’re going to get?

Unfortunately, we’ve heard some horror stories from homeowners who invested their hard-earned money into an outdoor living project that didn’t turn out the way they’d wanted. Had they chosen a company that was committed to the design process, they would have known what they were getting and been able to make changes early on. With good design, there aren’t any surprises when the project is complete. That’s why your choice, in this early stage, really matters.

Put simply, choosing a company that invests in your landscape design could be the difference between a brilliant finished project and one that falls short of your dream.

If you’d like to have a conversation about landscape design for your Reading, Lancaster, York, or Hershey, PA home, contact us for a free consultation or give us a call at (717) 276-9447.

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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Earth, Turf, & Wood

188 North Reamstown Road
Denver, PA 17517

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Serving Southeast Pennsylvania including: Lancaster, Reading, Lebanon, York, Hershey, Harrisburg and surrounding areas.