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The Landscape Design Process with Erica Bowman of Andromeda Designs

By Erica Bowmen

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Andromeda is a full-service landscape architecture and garden design firm based in southern Vermont and serving New York and New England. Andromeda has been building Gardens of Enchantment since 1998 under the direction of Erica Bowman. A long-time student of gardening and design, Erica earned a large part of her instruction in her early years working for the Compleat Gardener of Lambertville, New Jersey and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. After receiving a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University, Erica extended her business to include full-scale design.

What are some important questions to ask the landscape designer before beginning the designing process?

It is important to get an outline of the design procedure in the form of a proposal. Then you know what to expect and how much to expect paying for it. I normally begin each process with a site visit and then a detailed breakdown of the scope of work.

Style questions aside, I need to know the installation time frame and budget before I begin. It makes no sense to create an unbuildable design, no matter how pretty on paper. Sometimes people install the landscape in phases. In that case, I would need to know the approximate budget of each phase and the intended stagger period.

If you could, please list the steps of the general landscape design process:

The process always starts with a phone conversation and then goes to a site visit. There I listen to what the client wants and needs out of the landscape. From there we determine style and do a site evaluation. I often create a new site survey that incorporates evaluation information onto a base map. From there I create a concept plan that shows basic ideas and rough organization. We go over this together, sometimes with a piece of trace and colored pencils to make changes and record new ideas. I finalize the concept plan and move onto the schematic plan. This shows, in detail, the shape, flow, and location of the design components. It indicates roads, walkways, architecture, planting beds, trees, and other site features. Once this is approved, we can go on to a variety of detailed construction drawings that range from planting plans and grading plans to building plans for walls or outdoor structures. Often times these come as phase two of the design process. Once this is done and installers are chosen, we can begin. It makes sense for me to oversee the process of installation, especially in the layout phase. In terms of gardens, I like to come back and make minor adjustments over a long period. Gardens need continuous tweaking, no matter how you plant them!

How do you suggest clients prepare for a this process?

It helps if the client develops a collection of images that fit their style type. Most people are very visual this way and can better communicate taste through pictures than words. I recommend starting a Pinterest board.

What are some common issues you face when it comes to designing landscapes?

Every landscape is different and so each garden must be designed with its specific site factors in mind. Sunlight exposure, soil wetness, soil type, pH, and climate zone are just some of the factors that influence plant selection.

What advice do you have for the homeowner during this process?

Take time and make the Master Plan. Then you have a map of the whole landscape and you can chip away at the installation at whatever speed works for you.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you?

ericalbowman@hotmail.com or www.andromedadesigns.com

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