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Expert tips for creating a beautiful landscape
February 1 2012
(ARA) - It may be cold outside, but homeowners are already dreaming of creating beautiful garden settings around their homes come spring. Landscaping success doesn't have to be hit or miss, and if it has been for you, it may be time to call in a professional landscape designer.

Why? Because in the long run, hiring a landscape designer can cost less than doing it yourself. You'll get a 'doable' design created right the first time, saving you the cost of repeated tries at getting it right or planting the wrong plants in the wrong spots. A professional landscape designer envisions creative solutions to the most difficult outdoor challenges - problems they've more than likely solved before.

Plus, a high-quality landscape increases home sale prices up to 10.8 percent, compared to a home with a simply average landscape, according to the Journal of Environmental Horticulture.

Here are some tips from professional landscape designers to create your dream garden.

First, consider your space and any 'issues' that it has. Hiding an unsightly air conditioning unit, adding privacy and changing boring views to beautiful ones are issues that landscape designers face with many clients.

'As a certified landscape designer through the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, I see the big picture,' says Boston-based landscape designer Maria von Brincken, APLD. 'A designer sees the problems that you see, and often the ones you don't, and can offer solutions to create beautiful, functional and earthy-friendly landscapes to add to your lives.'

Next, do your homework. Tear out favorite pictures from gardening magazines, and start making a file on what you would like for your dream garden. While not everything might be possible for your garden, it will give your landscape designer a visual starting point. Don't forget about hardscape such as patios, decks and fencing; designers can help with these also.

Take your time. Brincken warns of the temptation to impulsively buy plants at a garden center and attempt a garden make-over. This can be a costly gamble for those without experience. Many homeowners find that it takes the help of a designer to create a well-planned landscape project that includes both plants and hardscape.

While there is a cost to hiring a landscape designer, it is ultimately more economical to work with an expert to create a plan specific to your yard. The project is completed in a timely manner and within budget when you take your time and create a landscape plan. Expect to spend about 10 percent of the total cost of the project on the design.

Consider what you want to achieve with your landscape. 'People are busy, and they want to have an outdoor space that makes them feel comfortable, not frustrated and worn out from gardening chores,' says Judy Nauseef, APLD, of Iowa City, Iowa, and president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (www.apld.org).

'They also want to maximize their investment in their home,' she adds. 'Having a well-designed landscape gives the homeowner more living space and also helps with resale value.'

Research and reach out to a few landscape designers. Be sure to interview several designers to find one who meets your needs and personality. Review the portfolio or Web site of each designer, and visit some of their work if possible. Finally, if you have a budget in mind, share this with the designer up front.

Get ready to get dirty. 'You can hire a landscape designer for a range of services. You might choose to hire a designer for a two hour consultation for ideas and suggestions that you might implement yourself,' says Patricia St. John, APLD, of Berkeley, Calif., and APLD incoming president. 'You could also hire a designer to give you a complete design for your garden. When it comes to implementing the design you have choices -- involve the designer while you hire a recommended landscape contractor or even do some of the work yourself.'

Also, you do not have to complete the whole plan at once. A landscape can be installed over a period of time as well. Homeowners can decide what areas are most important and start there.

Take the first step to a dream garden. With the help of a professional landscape designer, you can create a plan that will work for your landscape and you. Finding a designer is easy: visit www.apld.org.

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