Garden coaching

How to work with a garden designer for less money

We just wrapped up a phase one project with a homeowner and realized it was the perfect example of how to get the most of a garden designer for less money.

The homeowner has a large area in the back section of her backyard and wanted to turn it into a woodland wonderland. However, the client wanted to save money and cash flow by stretching out the project, as well as by doing some of the work herself.

Here is what it looked like on our first visit.

Easy. This is what we call a Garden Design/DIY/Coaching job (we just made that up).

Here is how we did it. First, we put the design down on paper. Here are those pieces.

The next step was to figure out what could the client do herself in order to save money. The design already called for four berms in order to transform the flat space into a more interesting landscape, so we ordered 10 yards of dirt and the homeowner wheelbarrowed it all to the back yard creating four big berms. That saved a good $1,500 in labor. The client also decided to do the final mulch, and to lay the top dressing down for the paths … saving another $1,000 or so.

After that decision, we looked at the available budget for the first phase and decided what would be the best bang for the buck. In consultation, we choose to look at what takes the longest to mature over the greatest amount of time and get started there, first. In other words, we put the bones of the garden in first.

The bones are those trees and shrubs that will perform the functions of screening, focal points and elevation. Because the budget didn’t call for bringing fully grown plants in by crane, we decided to go with shrubs in five gallon containers and trees in 10 gallon containers. All in all, the first order was roughly 100 plants in that category and these plants will grow to provide different heights, colors, textures, shapes and more.

Once we set aside the money for the bones, we saw we had enough to do another major project in the design. It made sense to install the 20-foot diameter bog garden. The client did not want to dig that out, and didn’t have the experience creating a sustainable wetland, so we installed it with 50 wonderful bog plants. Over a short amount of time they’ll grow (right now they are all the same heights, that will change), knit together, and be a unique conversation piece for visitors. Plus, it allows us to save money not having to irrigate that section as well.

Finally, we had enough money left to add in 50 more smaller plants to fill in some of the berms, plus start on a future seating area behind the bog. The homeowner also had twenty plants in other parts of her garden she wanted us to use, so we threaded those into phase one as well.


Here is where the relationship between client and garden designer gets fun. While we wait for phase two, we instructed the client to collect plants she likes and finds on sale, and every time she gets 15 or so, call us and we’ll come over to place them where they should go. Then, the client will dig them into the ground. Repeat. We do this for two reasons. One, we love to coach and help our clients do as much on their own and in the budget they can afford, but also, we want to maintain the integrity of the design and we are just pompous enough to believe we know best where each plant should go (lol).

And that is how we did phase one for $8,000, and how we empower the client to go forward. In Phase Two we will continue to build out the back of the space, bring in BIG boulders, plus likely either go forward with all of the hardscape, or if the client’s budget is still soft, we will focus on the middle section for planting combining our install team and the client’s own muscle.

Want to do something like this? Call Ken at 253-691-4495.

Garden coaching

Garden Designer Seattle/Tacoma questions to ask

Part #1. Looking to hire a garden designer for your Tacoma, Seattle, Olympia home? For life in this part of the country, here are a few added questions to ask when choosing.

  1. How will your designs take into consideration the large number of gray days in the NW?
  2. With global warming, how will your designs take that into consideration?
  3. How do your designs work with local wildlife/insects?
  4. How do your designs improve my mental and physical health?
  5. How do your designs evolve as the size of my family does the same?

Watch for more questions to ask in the near future.

Garden coaching

Hire a garden coach

Here are three good reasons to consider hiring a garden coach.

  1. Trial and error is expensive. While you plan to make gardening your lifelong hobby, why not get off on the right foot and save money by laying out your design the affordable way with someone that can you pick plants tuned to your land. This will cut down on losing expensive plants because they aren’t right for your regular and micro climates, soil type, and other critical conditions. A garden coach also helps you do the cost-saving work by offering tips and suggestions to stretch your budget – everything from where to find deals on plants and hardscape materials to avoiding the mistakes that cost you money done the line.
  2. Design is important. How you choose and arrange plants, hardscapes and other focal points affect your mood, health and enjoyment of the garden. There is an art to landscape design, and while you plan to learn about that over time, you can get your garden started with a rock solid plan that will bring you instant enjoyment.
  3. Peace of mind. One of the big reasons people don’t garden more is because they are overwhelmed by the process. They are insecure, worried they don’t know how to properly prepare soil, or that they’ll create a high maintenance monster. Garden coaches are a resource – a bundle of information. They’ll keep you on the right track, offering only the information you need, leaving you all of the BEST parts and enjoyment of a wonderful hobby.