The Red Fern Landscape Design Process: Phase 4

In the final phase of our signature design process, we get to the stuff that you can touch, keep, and see. After all the preliminary background work, and all the conceptual design, and the final design work is finished, it's time to get our clients some lovely and useful materials that they can use to install the designs and to serve as reference materials for years to come.


First up is the design book.  Once the design work has all been done, and we're all satisfied, we package the design into an 11x17-sized book that will easily fit in a drawer or on a shelf.  Rather than some rolled-up sheets that you'll never open, this will serve as a reference in the future. This book contains the story of your design. Always a teacher, I have found there is so much value in including all the steps it took us to get to your final designs. We show the entire process - the base plan, our conceptual drawings and inspiration boards, and the final, annotated design.  This way all our decisions are there, so that if any changes are made in the future, you can check back to see why the landscaping looks the way it does.  


We also add more detail, like views of the final landscape from a variety of vantage points so that you and your contractor can visualize what the final installed design will look like. There are hardscape sheets with materials specified, and plant lists with each plant and its spacing noted.

The beauty of having all these supporting sheets along with the master plan, planting plan, and hardscape sheets is that you can communicate WHY we did what we did. Many landscapers don't do all the background work that it takes to produce an informed design, and fewer still actually communicate what decisions led to the final design. You have a visual story of your investment that will serve you for the future.

The other book you'll get is an 8.5x11-sized reference book that's chock full of information. We include a bloom chart for the entire year so you know what's blooming or has interesting foliage at any season, a data sheet for every single plant in your design, plant lists with every plant listed out so it's easy to do an inventory, maintenance information with a plan for the entire year, and installation guides for trees and shrubs, since these are your biggest plant investment and are often planted poorly. You can use this to communicate with the installer and make sure things are done correctly.


Lastly, our final design phase includes my involvement in the installation process. Depending on the project, this could be a multi-year commitment. I work with professional, licensed contractors that value education and service. I serve as a liaison for you with your contractor. as you go through the process of instilling the landscape. 

This includes me being present and/or available on install days, so that the contractor can follow up with any questions or concerns. We will be checking in on installation if it goes on over a few days or weeks, and know where the project stands.  With all the hard work put into the design, I want to be certain that it's installed correctly and you get what we dreamed up.  


Our final phase is the culmination of a lot of hard work and communication.  Design is basically creative problem-solving, and I love the entire process from start to finish.  We take on a range of projects throughout the year, and this method ensures that our clients are taken care of all the way.  

The Red Fern Landscape Design Process: Phase 3

The next step in our design process is the "real" design.  Combining the background practical information from phase 1 with the aesthetic, stylistic direction we got from phase 2, we rely on solid design fundamentals to site actual things in physical places.  We're not dealing with concepts any longer- we’re making the plan that will be used to create your landscape.  


Landscape design, at its core, is a problem-solving venture combining art with science.  Decisions are informed by site analysis and horticulture practices (the science piece) alongside design fundamentals and inspiration (the art piece).  You can’t separate the two and still have a useful, beautiful outdoor space.  Phase 3 of our signature process unites these two pieces.  We treat the residential site like a series of outdoor rooms, created for people to actually use.  People arrive, move from one space to another, relax, play, eat, socialize, entertain, and even work – and we figure out how to carve out intentional spaces that allow for those things to happen seamlessly.


In Phase 3, we give the bubbles and squiggles from the conceptual plan actual shape and character.  Our design process looks at form composition – the 2D shapes we’ll use to create our outdoor living spaces. A squiggly bubble that was marking the spot for a patio in the conceptual plan might become a hard-lined rectangle, serving as the core that everything else links off of.  Or maybe that bubble becomes a patio with a gentle curve that leads your eye past it and towards a lovely view in the distance. Form composition allows us to consider the layout of the space and the appearance and geometry of how everything connects in it.  

We also evaluate with design principles like rhythm, order, and unity help make sure we’re creating a cohesive space. Repeated elements emphasize an area and allow the front walkway to coordinate with the back patio, for example.  Bold foliage might grab your eye and draw you towards the front door, while an arbor in the corner shares the same arched shape as the fence’s gate.  We consider all these details to make sure that the design functions well and does its job:  bringing the party (and the people) outside.  


After form composition and design principles, we consider this thing called spatial composition.  This is basically the process of evaluating the three-dimensional rooms we are creating. Along a walkway – how high do the plants come up on each side? On a patio – is there a pergola or cover overhead? In a seating area – can you see out in all directions, or should you be sheltered by a hedge? These are the spatial composition questions that drive our design process forward. What’s fun about landscape design, compared with residential home architecture, is that we get to decide all the rules! It’s our call how high the “ceiling” is, how thick our “walls” are, and what they’re made out of.  We have so many choices in an outside space: walls can be a planting of grasses OR a stone retaining wall… the ceiling can be the open blue sky OR the arching branches of a tree. 


During this phase of the design process, we are considering more and more detail to create the master plan. Once the initial design is ready, we present it to you during our working design meeting. Either at the studio or using a shared screen, we go through the design and talk over the whybehind each element.  We show you in 3D what the space will feel like, what the views will be, and we articulate all the plants and hardscape materials that are used.  You have a chance to weigh in, ask questions, and give feedback, which we take and use to adjust the design as needed.  This process goes back and forth until we’re both happy with the decisions the design is complete.  

Landscape design gets to be this combination of down-to-earth data and ethereal inspiration. We always celebrate when phase 3 is completed – it’s like giving birth to something completely new.  Stay tuned for phase 4 – this is when all that good stuff actually gets used.  


Next up in our tour of the Red Fern Landscape Design signature process is Phase 2: the Conceptual Design.  Once we are done with all the basic core discovery work from Phase 1 and we have the background we need to make good decisions, we move towards the design concepts for your landscaping.  

Landscape Design Process Ideas Landscaping Des Moines

In our conceptual design phase you share with me all the secret Pinterest boards you have- the fire pit you love, the big tree with a bench underneath it… All those Houzz ideabooks with pictures you’ve squirreled away. These are useful to our process- even though we won’t replicate exactly what’s there- because it gives us the ideas, the feeling, the look that you’re going for. And pictures really do speak louder than words.  Going through all these helps me know what you want AND it helps you know what you want. I will look through the images you share, reference the answers you gave on our questionnaire and my notes from our initial meeting, and I’ll make sure I have a sense of the style that appeals to you.  

Next, I curate images to create your inspiration board.  These 12 different pictures give us something to work off-  we’re not trying to copy them, but to use them as a jumping-off point to create a design unique for you.  

Landscape Design Des Moines Landscaping
Landscaper Des Moines Design

The two boards shown above are great examples.  One is very modern and clean and simple, the other is loose, romantic and wild and full of curves.  The inspiration boards show us the lines and shapes and materials we’ll use.  We’re going to make two very different projects from those two looks.

While the inspiration boards help, the plants are what make our outdoor spaces come alive.  The plant palette helps you know what I’m talking about when I pull out plants for your landscaping.  The palette shows you the core features that we’ll be taking advantage of: evergreens with a soft blue tinge, big blousy flowers during the dog days of summer. Again, these aren’t set in stone, but it gives us an idea of what we’re looking for.  

Landscaping Des Moines Landscaper Ideas

We take the inspiration board and the plant palette, mix in your responses to our questionnaire, allow your design program to weigh in, and run those past the site analysis to create the conceptual plan.  

Landscape Design Des Moines Landscaper

It might look just like a bunch of shapes and squiggles, but actually the conceptual plan is the WHY… the big decisions are made here, and the details wait until Phase 3.  Your landscaping is an important investment, and we don't just quickly drop some things in the ground. In the conceptual design phase, we know the basic shapes and layouts of beds, we know what’s going where and how it’s all connecting to each other.  When we meet, we’re still talking in broad strokes, but because we have inspiration boards, plant palettes, and the conceptual plan, we can get on the same page without wasting any time and get ready to hone in deeper to the master plan. 

The Red Fern Landscape Design Process: PHASE 1

Maybe your landscape is a blank, new-construction slate, complete with a tiny, useless deck, some not-so-interesting sod and a couple of spindly trees.  Or maybe (like me) you inherited someone else's shrubs around the house, a patio and deck that need lots of work, and a walkway that makes no sense.  If you're hoping for landscaping that shows off your house, brings beauty to your life, and gives you more reasons to enjoy life outdoors, you need a plan.  A landscape design ties together all the pieces of the puzzle - an educated understanding of the nuts and bolts of your specific site, a clear reflection of YOUR style, and a knowledgable selection of plants and materials that are worth the investment.  

We take all the problem areas of your property and all the dreams you have about living more of your life outdoors, and we create solutions that bring that party outside.  Ever wonder how it all goes down?  We follow an in-depth, comprehensive process to give clients a landscape designed to live in.  On the website there's a simplified overview of our process, but here's a more detailed run-down of what we do and what you get when you hire Red Fern to transform your property.  We'll walk you through each step of our signature process, so that you can imagine yourself surrounded by lovely plants and walking over to a patio or fire pit that you WANT to sit around.  We'll start with Phase 1, which gathers all sorts of information to keep the landscape design moving forward.   

Signature landscape design process

There is so much information to gather!  We start with our signature questionnaire, which lets you work through what you're really after.  There are all sorts of questions meant to pull out both the practical details of the site and also the more subjective style and impression you want to have.  We use this during our first meeting at the site, where I work through what the scope of the project is- how much we're trying to accomplish.  We talk, walk the property, and answer tons of questions.  This initial meeting helps both of us- you get to articulate what you're after and size me up to see if I'm a good fit, and I get to see the site and fully understand what your goals are. 

After this first meeting, I create something called the Design Program.  This is super valuable even if you don't take the project any further.  I write up all the elements you're looking for along with your style, beloved colors and plants, and all the other info that gets things going.  You get the program along with your proposal so that you'll know exactly what the design fee will cover: every project is different, and we need to make sure that the fountain you want designed isn't lost in all the other elements of your new yard.  

Landscape Design Des Moines

Once the project is booked and the start date arrives, I get going with all sorts of practical work.  If you already have an accurate site map, I'll use it; if not- I create one.  We evaluate the entire scope of the project, noting every major tree, building, existing hedge, and structure that's there.  This is called the site inventory.  Next up, the site analysis happens when I evaluate it all:  what's shady, where the water tends to collect, which old trees are hazards, the important views, and on and on.  The site analysis is an important working document that drives all the pretty stuff that happens later.  

Red Fern Landscape Design Des Moines

Circulation and use analysis tell us where you go now, what it's like, and how it could make more sense.  Is the trash can in the dumbest spot possible?  Do people cut across your lawn rather than walk over to the walkway?  Do you avoid the veggie garden because you hate walking through wet grass?  How do guests get from parking to the front door?  All of this helps us down the line, because form really does follow function.  A homeowner myself, I'm not going to design something that isn't first useful.  

Red Fern Landscape Design Des Moines

All of this core discovery work gets us set up to begin to create - to layer some beauty on top of all this data.  Tune in next week as we move to the conceptual design phase, where we ask even MORE questions and begin to develop the design direction for your project.   

So, there's Phase 1.  It's certainly an in-depth process, meant to solve problems rather than create them.  Are there areas of your landscape that need attention?  Are you unsure of where to begin, or what plants to choose, or how to achieve the outdoor escape you long for?  Reach out and start with the questionnaire! We have a few design project openings for this fall and winter, so that you'll be all ready to go in the spring.