The Mind Behind the Design

Landscape Design| Landscaping| Outdoor Living

I don’t know about you, but I have often wondered what all goes into creating a landscape design.  I have been amazed at the process of our designer going to a property, coming back to the office to create a design, then the landscape team taking that design and creating a gorgeous landscape or outdoor living area.  So I thought that I would interview our designer, Doug, and learn a little more about the process.  

About Doug

Doug grew up loving the outdoors, building things, and drawing ideas of things he wanted to build–the perfect combination for a landscape designer.  As a junior in high school, he realized he should figure out a way to turn those passions into a career. His parents encouraged him to attend a design camp at NCSU that introduced attendees to graphic, industrial, fine art, landscape architecture and architecture design. He decided to pursue landscape architecture and went on to  earn his degree in landscape architecture with a minor in horticulture. Doug went on to work for the JC Raulston Arboretum and the NC State Parks System as a designer.

While he was in high school, Doug attended fine arts classes for three years five days a week taught by a local college professor.  This fine art background heavily influenced and equipped him as a landscape designer. Landscape design is like painting a canvas, but instead of using paint and brushes, the artist uses hardscaping, turf, mulch and plants.  

Why Invest in Landscape Design?

Doug said a couple of times during our interview that “landscaping isn’t rocket science.”  If you take some time and effort, many people can do a great job installing landscaping at their own home, so why would you hire a designer?  Doug allowed me a new perspective on this. Just like any artist, a landscape designer is going to bring creativity and an “outside the box” approach that the average person may not have.  A designer will look at things holistically and consider how your entire landscape will flow together. Many of us think about landscaping a project by sections instead of as a whole. Doug sees it as though he is designing a series of outdoor rooms, and each room of the landscape needs to flow seamlessly into the next.  

Many homes in our area are very linear, large houses on small lots.  Landscaping in an organic style helps to break up some of the monotony and soften the home.  Not to mention, a great landscape will make your house “pop” compared to the other homes in your neighborhood.  Doug recommends paying for a designer to create a landscape design, regardless of who does the installation.  This benefits a homeowner greatly and gives them something to work towards.  A home is a huge investment, and taking time and consideration to create an outdoor space that all works together is very beneficial and fiscally responsible.

The Design Process

When Doug first arrives at a property, he first seeks to understand what the client’s preferences are.  The client’s happiness is paramount–if they aren’t happy with his realized design, then in his estimation, the project is a failure.  Doug starts at the house and works out into the yard. Every great design needs a great backdrop, and that begins at the foundation of the home.  From there, he takes into consideration the amount of sunlight, the flow of water, and the existing landscape. When he is surveying the property, Doug imagines the landscape “like a picture”.   Sometimes, when he is out at the property, he may start sketching ideas on the property survey right then and there. He also takes pictures and videos of the property from different angles that he uses during the in-office design time.  

Back at the office, Doug takes the basemap of the property, grabs a few sheets of tracing paper (a designer’s right hand according to him), pencils, pens and markers, and gets to work.  He mostly free-hands sketches and uses the tracing paper to try out ideas and decide what works and what doesn’t. Once he has finalized what he believes to be the best plan, he meticulously draws out each aspect of the design. He has found this method is quite effective in getting the customer a quality design quickly.  

Doug’s style is organic, tidy, and flowing. He loves incorporating natural elements–like boulders and stone–into a landscape over manufactured items.  His primary goal as a designer is to create beautiful spaces that will be enjoyable for the client. He loves to work with a client, create a design, and see that design become a reality that brings the client joy and satisfaction for years.

Not Quite Ready for a Designer?

Doug had some useful advice for those who want to make some landscape improvements on their own.  Drive around in neighborhoods similar to the one who you live in and take pictures of homes with landscaping that you admire or like.  Look for houses that have a similar style to yours. Take those pictures to your local garden center (yes, FGS) and let them help you choose the plants you want to use or ones similar to that.  Make sure you understand the nuances of your landscape considering the sunny/shady areas, drainage, wet spots, dry spots, etc.  All these factors are important for any garden center staff person to help you find plants that will look amazing in your landscape.   Ultimately, we want you to find success and “our kids” to thrive with you.

Here at FGS, we are so grateful to have a talented designer like Doug who creates amazing designs for our clients.  If your interest is peaked and you would like to see what design Doug can create for you, we would love to hear from you.