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Old 03-02-2012, 11:47 PM   #1
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I've had poor experiences with landscapers and would appreciate advice from pros...


I recently bought a home and am planning to do some landscaping around the foundation on three sides. The house was built into the side of a hill, so from back to front there is a one-story incline. The house was built five years ago and has a poured concrete foundation. I'll probably do something fairly typical, like the landscape rock in the photo below, and with some shrubs here and there. At present grass is seeded up to the foundation, but much of the area within one to two feet of the foundation is just dirt. Grass won't grow there, so it looks like crap and I'm concerned about erosion over time.

My experience with landscapers in my previous town was not good (full-sun plantings placed in the shade, noxious plants that weren't legal to transport in some states planted as hedges, etc.). So I hope to get some advice here so I'm armed with information and can make sure it's done correctly. Here are questions that come to mind:

-- Regarding prepping for the rock... I'm thinking we dig out the sod where the rock will be, lay down some sort of industrial strength fabric, put rock on top of that, and install a border of some kind. I'd like to be able to mow right over the top of border (in other words, I don't want to have to run a string trimmer all around the border which I would need to do if it is sticking up). Is that the way it should be done?

-- Since the east and west sides are on a fairly steep slope, is there anything we should be doing to stabilize the soil to prevent erosion going forward?

-- Will I have trouble keeping the rock from rolling down the hill and piling up at the bottom? Or does it tend to stay put petty well?

-- How deep should the rock be?

-- Is there anything that some landscapers recommend that I should NOT do?

-- Are there any types of rock that I should avoid?

Any suggestions would be appreciated.


I'M EXPECTING TO END UP WITH SOMETHING LIKE THIS, EXCEPT WITH A BORDER AND SOME PLANTINGS:

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Old 03-03-2012, 12:35 AM   #2
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Ah. The ol' desert landscaping trick.
It'll stay put unless you always shuffle your feet through it.
Ground cover for erosion.
(have French drains been installed?).
3-6" deep with the rock over dark plastic or fabric.
1-1/2", 2" river rock (round, smooth. Crushed rock is hard to walk on, though it locks into place better).
I'm not a pro, but I've seen houses I've built landscaped like this.
You can tap border down until just the round bead of it touches the soil, about an inch. So if you don't cut the grass shorter than that...

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Old 03-03-2012, 06:31 AM   #3
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Do yourself a favor and hire a real landscape designer or landscape architect. Go to the association directories to find one of us (actually have not practiced in years). Nothing against the Bubbas who do landscape work but they are not all the same. Most cannot draw or even read drawings for instance. A landscape designer or architect will know who is good and save you tons of money in the long run. With willing clients, we never left our work in the hands of mediocre landscape maintenance people either.

And, clients liked me and the process of working through defining environments for them, children, pets and even enlaws. My clients got the best plant materials just to start. You cannot even dream of getting what, even in retirement, I can buy for your home. At a fraction of the cost of retail and box store nurseries.
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Old 03-03-2012, 02:13 PM   #4
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Sdsester, thanks for that. My local Ace Hardware store has a landscape designer on staff. It's a large store with a lot of new construction going up nearby. Here's what they say:

Our landscape designers possess a special skill. They ask good questions and they listen to you. They will discuss the following with you:
  • How do you spend your time in the yard?
  • Is the space used for entertaining?
  • How much time do you want to spend on maintaining the yard?
Design services include:
  • An on-site visit to obtain measurements, soil & light conditions
  • A custom design based on your needs
  • In-store presentation of design
  • Referral to local landscape installers
Design fees are $125 for first side of house, $25 for each additional side. Commercial fees are $65 per hour or as agreed.


I was thinking about hiring them, but now that I've seen your post I'm going to call them and get the ball rolling. Thanks!
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Old 03-03-2012, 04:11 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobsmithhome View Post
Sdsester, thanks for that. My local Ace Hardware store has a landscape designer on staff. It's a large store with a lot of new construction going up nearby. Here's what they say:

Our landscape designers possess a special skill. They ask good questions and they listen to you. They will discuss the following with you:
  • How do you spend your time in the yard?
  • Is the space used for entertaining?
  • How much time do you want to spend on maintaining the yard?
Design services include:
  • An on-site visit to obtain measurements, soil & light conditions
  • A custom design based on your needs
  • In-store presentation of design
  • Referral to local landscape installers
Design fees are $125 for first side of house, $25 for each additional side. Commercial fees are $65 per hour or as agreed.


I was thinking about hiring them, but now that I've seen your post I'm going to call them and get the ball rolling. Thanks!
There you go. If you do not like the person, shop around. It is not the way I would structure fees but makes sense I guess. I used to get minimum of $150/hour if drawings were needed. I only worked on whole plots, not just one side of a house. I did negotiate whole plot fees.

Last edited by user1007; 03-03-2012 at 04:14 PM.
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Old 03-04-2012, 02:13 PM   #6
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This a great resource for finding qualified landscape designers: www.apld.org
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Old 03-11-2012, 06:34 AM   #7
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You've got me curious if the area you want to rock has irrigation in it or not. That's a question you'll want to address with the designer. If you don't want weeds growing up through the rocks, (even if a barrier is down), you may need to consider moving the irrigation. If so, that can throw off the design a bit and get into some of those issues you've dealt with in the past. I personally prefer ground cover if that is the case, but it may be a non issue.
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Old 03-23-2012, 03:56 PM   #8
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sdsester, we had the landscape designer come out two weeks ago to meet with us and look at our house. We met today to go over her plan. It was a fantastic experience and I want to thank you for advising me to do that.

For any newbie (like me) who wants to do some landscaping but has no idea where to begin, hiring a landscape designer is definitely the way to go. I paid $175 for a complete design drawn to scale, with all plants selected, problem areas dealt with, all of our questions answered, and written instructions on plant care. Also, the designer will work directly with three landscapers and provide all the information to them and they will get estimates to us. We don't even need to call them - they come to us. She will also follow up with them to be sure we're on track, and this is a huge plus for us. She has far more clout than we do because she is a primary source of their referrals. So this really makes it much easier for us.

The designer we hired owns a large greenhouse and sells plants. We aren't required to buy plants from her, but we have decided to do so. Her prices seemed quite reasonable, and her plants are guaranteed one year, including the labor to replant them. She knew exactly what plants do well in our area and how to arrange them so the whole look is classy. They don't stock plants that don't thrive locally. They try them first at their own homes and experiment with them at the greenhouse before they will stock them.

She gave us a ballpark estimate of what the total cost will be. She was able to give us the exact price for plants if we buy them from her, and a ball-park estimate for the rest. It seemed very reasonable to us.

Anyway, your advice is greatly appreciated. Now that I have been through the process of working with a landscape designer, I wouldn't even consider skipping that step. It's really a crucial element to the process and I expect I will actually spend less than I would have had I not gone that route. Plus I will likely have far fewer headaches and do-overs. So thanks!

Lighting Retro, I don't have any irrigation set up, so there shouldn't be an issue. I'm in a good growing area with plenty of rain (usually) and a garden hose if needed.
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Old 05-06-2012, 05:40 PM   #9
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sdsester (or anyone who knows the landscaping field)... I have a couple of questions. I interviewed two landscape guys who were recommended by the designer. I had to prod them to get their estimates, and I did hire one guy contingent on him getting the job done in a little over one month (by May 18). This is roughly a $7000 job. He said he should have it done in three weeks or less. Now he's dragging his feet and blaming the weather - talking about extending it for several weeks. This has been a pretty decent spring, actually, with farmers in the field way early, and most corn already planted.

I don't want to be unreasonable. But this guy strikes me as a slick operator, so I don't want him to be able to string me along either. I think he's competent to do the job, but I don't entirely trust him. So I have two questions:

1) How dry does it really need to be to come in and install a couple of small (8 foot by 8 foot) concrete pads? He needs to do that first.

2) How dry does it need to be to cut away some sod and install fabric, rock, and plants around a foundation?

My soil is pretty heavy clay, and I'm on a 15 degree slope so water drains off fast. So... would you come in and work maybe one day after a rain? Two days? Would a one inch rain keep you from working for a week? I'm just trying to get a rough idea of how dry it really needs to be.

Thanks.
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:37 AM   #10
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A couple of general comments. First I've found following your instincts can work out pretty well. In fairness landscape contractors get very busy this time of year and a lot that worked for me would not even do residential work unless through a designer or landscape architect.

Your clay soil could be a real factor and it can take it a long time to drain or dry out enough to work with and you do not want to risk compacting it if you can avoid it. That said we are at may already and you do want to get plants in before summer if you can. I do not think it is out of line to pin the guy down with understanding of weather issues.
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