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Exceptional vs. Typical:  Landscape Design in Lancaster, York, Hershey, and Reading, PA

Posted On: October 16,2017 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Typical landscape design vs. exceptional creations in Lancaster, PA, Hershey and Reading.Imagine stepping outside in your dream backyard—the yard that you’ve been thinking about for quite some time. Your favorite colors are reflected in the plant material.

That idea for a unique water feature is in just the right spot where you can enjoy the sound of the water while reading a book on the nearby bench. And your patio was designed in a way that it’s not only gorgeous, but it’s extremely functional and you aren’t quite sure how you ever lived without it.

All of these elements of your new backyard are made possible by a critical factor— design. The landscape design for your Lancaster, York, Hershey, or Reading, PA home is where it all begins and therefore you want it to be exceptional. The design is going to dictate the entire process of your landscape project from start to finish and you want something that isn’t just average or typical like every other home on the block. You want something that is one-of-a-kind and that goal starts with the creative process.

Typical landscape design vs. exceptional creations in Lancaster, PA, Hershey and Reading.A lot of people don’t realize how important it is to invest in an exceptional landscape design and may even be reluctant to pay for it. But that’s usually because folks don’t think about how the design will impact the entire process and how vast the differences in design can be from one landscaping company to the next. You could run the risk of getting something you felt was appropriate, but turned out to be drab and unoriginal. Unfortunately, that may not be something you realize until it’s too late.

But let’s be honest, a lot of landscaping companies in Lancaster, PA and surrounding areas do decent work—they just don’t all perform at a level that the industry would define as exceptional.

Some landscape designers are going to be above average, at best, and some people might even be okay with that. But if you’re looking for an end result that is truly exceptional, then it’s important to understand these differences when it comes to landscape design. Knowing how to determine this is a great advantage for you to start with.


Understanding Landscape Design in Lancaster, York, Hershey, and Reading, PA

The design process typically starts with a consultation, which is a brief initial meeting to discuss general ideas and costs. The initial consultation is usually free of charge. However, once you choose to move forward with the project, and you move into the actual design phase, you should expect to pay for high-quality landscape design work.

In a typical landscape design process, your meetings may be brief. The direction of the project may feel like it is more about what the designer wants (or is comfortable with) than about what you want. This may be done by someone who has the assumed title of “designer,” or even the company owner, but they don’t necessarily have the combination of experience and professional design credentials that you may assume they should have.

Typical landscape design vs. exceptional creations in Lancaster, PA, Hershey and Reading.

The degree to which various typical landscape designers are fit for the job can truly run the gamut. A typical landscape designer may have a two-year associate’s or four-year bachelor’s degree. No licensing is required to be a landscape designer and there are no ongoing certification requirements.

While some professional credentials are better than the company that has a self-appointed designer with no actual schooling, it still pales in comparison to an exception, the Registered Landscape Architect (or RLA), which requires at least a five-year degree. An RLA must work under another landscape architect for at least two years and also keep their credentials current by participating in continuing education. An RLA is part of the exceptional design process. An RLA is a  talented individual that has handled hundreds, maybe even thousands of landscape designs in Lancaster, York, Hershey, and Reading, PA.

Typical landscape design vs. exceptional creations in Lancaster, PA, Hershey and Reading.

Another big difference in the exceptional design process, with an RLA, is that it feels more like a two-way street where your opinions really matter. You’re not being pushed in the direction of what the designer is comfortable doing. The process is about what you want out of the project. The RLA is there more as a guide, offering advice on what might work and what might not as well as suggestions from their vast past experience.


Why to Pay for Design Work

Not everyone charges for landscape design work in Lancaster, York, Hershey, and Reading, PA. Although “free” might sound enticing, you have to wonder what you’re really getting with a free landscape design.

landscape-design-software.jpgWill they have multiple meetings to discuss every possible detail with you? Will your ideas be accounted for or will you just end up with the landscape company’s typical cookie-cutter design that they’ve done again and again? With an exceptional design, an RLA is investing dozens of hours of work into your project. When you think of it that way, it’s easy to see how you’d have to invest in that process.

Many times when a company says they offer free design, they’re not actually doing a design at all. They’re just working from basic concepts they’ve used in the past. But you wouldn’t agree to have your house built without a detailed set of blueprints and you shouldn’t agree to a landscape project without a design.

landscape-design-software.jpgIn a worst-case scenario, the finished product could have catastrophic problems such as a typical landscape design that did not take stormwater runoff from the neighbor’s yard into account. Or a faulty retaining wall that collapses over time. On a smaller scale, you may hate the plant material that the landscaper chose for you since you weren’t closely involved in the design process. Now you have to pay to have them re-done or just live with plants you dislike.

Other times a typical landscape company might work from a design, but they might outsource that work. While that’s better than nothing, this is characteristic of an average design process. In an exceptional process, the design would be done in-house so that there is a seamless transition between the design phase and the building phase instead of your project needing to change hands.


Choosing Earth, Turf, & Wood for Your Landscape Design

At Earth, Turf, & Wood, we have an in-house RLA who handles all of our design work. Our exceptional design process is complex when compared to the average landscape design process. You can expect comprehensive meetings with our RLA in which every single possibility and detail is discussed. Your wants and needs will be taken into account but we’ll also suggest ideas from past experience that you might want to consider.

So often a client will describe an out-of-the-box idea to us that they worry won’t be possible. Other landscape companies might say it’s not, but these are the kinds of ideas that we love to bring to life. Take, for example, the client that described a fire/water combination feature to us. Most companies would have said they needed to build two entirely separate features but we created a fire fountain like the client described.


Sometimes our experience lends itself to making suggestions to take projects even further. We had one client that required a retaining wall for functional purposes. Instead of just building a typical, plain wall, we suggested creating a water feature that would give the wall a unique and exceptional feature. The water wall featured a fleur-de-lis symbol which was a personal favorite of the homeowner.

Typical landscape design vs. exceptional creations in Lancaster, PA, Hershey and Reading.

That same client also requested a game area. We created a pea gravel surfaced game area complete with quoit pits and corn hole courts and even added benches and lighting for observers. Always thinking about this age of technology, we also added nearby outlets as a means of providing charging areas for cell phones near the benches.

Typical landscape design vs. exceptional creations in Lancaster, PA, Hershey and Reading.

These are not unnecessary extra steps that we take, but steps that we feel are vital to ensure the finished project is what you envisioned and something that you love. We don’t take a typical approach to creating the same design again and again. We take an exceptional approach in which we believe every little detail counts.

You have a choice to make—choosing a typical landscape design process for your Lancaster, York, Hershey, or Reading, PA home—or choosing something exceptional. The latter is obviously could seem like more of an investment but if it comes down to a project that you love or one that you wish was done differently (and may need to pay to fix later), you may find that it’s worth a bit more of an investment at the onset.

That investment will not only ensure you wind up with an exceptional finished project but can also help ensure that costly complications are avoided. As mentioned, you tend to get what you pay for and with something as important as re-creating your backyard, it’s simply not an area to cut corners. You’re truly unique, just like your backyard should be.

If you’d like some exceptional landscape design inspiration check out our comprehensive idea gallery. Or, if you’d like to get the process started, 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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188 North Reamstown Road
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Serving Southeast Pennsylvania including: Lancaster, Reading, Lebanon, York, Hershey, Harrisburg and surrounding areas.