Landscape Design vs Detailed Proposal

by Ben Bowen

Landscape Drawings or Detailed Proposal?


If you are reading this you are either my sister (Hi Holly) or are considering a landscape project. We would love to help you get from landscape ideas to a finished outdoor space, and their are two basic paths we can take to get you there. The first is a formal landscape design and the second is a detailed proposal.

Which is right for you?

Landscape Design

What is a landscape design? Well, it is both a process and a product. We (with me doing the heavy lifting) go through the process of designing your garden. At the end you have the finished product; drawings on paper that can guide the installation of your landscape.

The process is pretty simple. I take pictures and measurements. You send me any inspiration pictures you have (we have already had a nice long discussion, so I have a pretty good idea what you like). Then I work up an initial version of the design. We meet and discuss. You think, we email, a couple rounds of revisions are done and.... you have a final design.

The final product is not complicated either. I produce simple "plan view" documents- all major structures and elements are in scale, with symbols representing plants, boulders, water features, etc. No renderings or 3D walkthroughs, just great ideas presented as clearly as possible. 

Formal landscape design has some real benefits. You may find it easier to visualize the finished garden with the drawings helping you. And if you are going to complete the work in phases, perhaps DIY-ing some portions, the design will ensure that everything comes together well in the end.

But there are drawbacks as well. If your budget is tight it can hurt to put at least $1000 of it into paper. And the landscape design process is not always quick, usually taking a minimum of 3-4 weeks and quite often much longer.

So, should you have a landscape design done for your project? Maybe. But don't decide without considering your other option:

Detailed Proposal

What is a detailed landscape proposal? It is exactly what it sounds like: a very detailed proposal for installing the landscape elements and features that you are considering.

The process is similar, but simpler, than the the landscape design process. There are still discussions, pictures, emails, and (usually) revisions. But I don't do drawings, so things move much more quickly. You can have your proposal in 3-5 days typically.

The proposal is simple and easy to understand. The project is broken up into key elements such as front plantings, back plantings, boulder setting, irrigation, paver patio, etc. Each element gets described in detail. This includes pictures, links to information, and a price. You will also get optional items that allow you to add features and/or control the budget for your project.

No design needed for this landscape.

No design needed for this landscape.

We revise the proposal until it just right. Based on your feedback I can adjust plant choices, hardscape materials, sizes of key elements, etc until the proposed landscape perfectly matches your style and budget.

Detailed proposals can be a great way to go. The process takes only a week or two. And (this is the big one) the proposal doesn't cost you anything. All of your landscape budget gets to go into the landscape.

But there are limitations. It is not possible for a proposal to be as precise as a design, so there will be more site decisions involved. If you are able to look at our portfolio and trust we will decide wisely then this is not a problem. And only you can know if you are comfortable with words, links, and pictures- but no drawings.

Which Option Is Right For You?

If I sent you a link to this post then you get to decide that. I feel your project could easily proceed either way. But here are a few things to keep in mind as you debate:

  • Landscape designs are best for projects that are $15K-$20K+. If your budget is lower (not a problem!) then it is probably not wise to spend on drawings.
  • About 60% of our projects proceed with just a proposal. This Cedar Hills landscape was done in two phases without a design as was this Wilsonville Japanese garden.
  • Still not sure? Then start with a detailed proposal and have me do a design once you are comfortable with the direction.

Whatever you choose, landscape design or proposal, I look forward to working on it. There is no right or wrong, just a choice that you will be most comfortable with. Still not sure? Email me and we can talk it through. 

Either way your landscape will thank you.