There are many reasons to engage a landscape architect to prepare a design for the grounds of your house. The most likely is either that your local Council requires you to have one as part of your development application (DA) / construction certificate (CC) application or that you would just like to add beauty, utility and value to your property with a revitalisation of the garden.
If you plan to put in a substantive development application to Council, it’s likely that they will require a landscape plan to be submitted at the DA stage. For smaller development proposals, a landscape plan may only need to be prepared at the CC stage – a requirement that is often highlighted in a condition of consent approval.
Whatever your reason for getting a landscape plan done for your residence, here are 5 things to remember –
1. Ideas and inspiration. Your landscape architect is going to ask you questions about ideas and requirements you have for the grounds of your property. In addition to coming to terms with the actual brief of the job, they’ll likely want to know things like how you imagine using your property’s outdoor spaces, your mindset about plants and gardens, what stylistic things you are attracted to and whether you like formality or things being a bit rough around the edges. Take a bit of time to think about the above points before you meet your landscape architect – this preparation will help both to guide the design and to ensure that your needs and likes are met.
2. Input and feedback. After giving them your brief, your landscape architect will (if they haven’t already done so) analyse the site and other requirements and then formulate a concept plan for your property. They would then meet with you to present this concept. This is very important, as it provides the opportunity for you to be part of the design process, understand the outcomes of the scheme and tweak it, if required. Changes to a concept plan might eventuate because of ideas you’ve had since your original consultation or because of previously unconsidered matters that arise based on the landscape architect’s presentation. Ideally, you’d have another design discussion with your landscape architect prior to the finalisation of the scheme.
3. Grab the opportunity. If you need to engage a landscape architect as part of a DA or CC submission, I recommend you think of their engagement and the plan they produce as more than just a quick ‘box ticking’ exercise for your local Council. Instead, use the opportunity of the landscape architect’s engagement to have meetings with them and provide your own input and ideas (as above). The aesthetic and functional outcomes for your property will be all the better for landscape planning at the earliest stages of your development thinking.
4. Research your neighbourhood. I encourage clients, as do local Councils, to think about their properties as part of their environs. Regularly in residential design, allotments are treated like islands, with little stylistic reference to neighbouring lots or the streetscape. A good landscape architect, with reference to Council planning documents, will consider things like predominant garden styles in your immediate neighbourhood, mature tree species near your site and matters like how your front fencing selection might visually impact a streetscape.
5. Have a starting point. Provide your landscape architect with a detailed site survey plan. As with architectural design, having an accurate base plan to work from is vital. A detailed survey plan essentially includes the next level up of information from a survey contained in a property transfer. The detailed survey plan would have things like existing trees, paths, service lines and levels information plotted onto it.
Ari Anderson is a registered landscape architect and heritage consultant and undertakes residential, commercial and institutional landscape design projects for clients in Sydney and surrounds.