Landscaping Tips : Steps of Planning a Landscape : Step 2 - Inventory

Steps of Planning Landscapes

Step (2/9): Inventory

       Once you have an idea of what you hope to accomplish, you’re ready to tackle the actual design. This steps involve documenting what you have to work with. A designer will measure the site and record all existing features, which he or she will later used to prepare what is aptly called a base plan that is drawn to scale on a grid. All future design phase will then be drawn on tracing paper that gets layered atop the base plan to reveal potential conflicts and obstacles. For that reason, the base plan should display every element of the existing landscape, including sheds, pavement or pools, even if they’re going to be removed. The base plan document will have directional orientation so you’ll know how the sun revolves around the property and where sun and shade areas are located. This means that your inventory must include all of these issues.
       If you’re working with a designer, make sure to show time vistas that only appear in certain seasons, and point out trouble spots, such as areas that may turn swampy in a heavy rain or where street noise is too loud at certain times of day. You also may want to find the survey or deed for the property to aid in the base plan development. If you’re doing the project on your own and developing your own base plan, you’ll need to make note of these issues. In this step, it’s also important to collect as much information as possible about problems that could be created by surrounding sites. Don’t think purely in terms of privacy issues or views you’d like to shield, but look at usage patterns as well: Where does most of the nearby foot traffic take place? Vehicular traffic? In what other ways are the surrounding sites used that may impact your own?
       If drafting even a rudimentary base plan seems too large a task, your inventory can be a simple survey of your property. Some basic questions you should answer as you do your inventory:

  • What is the style of the house? Is it traditional, modern, or other? How will that affect your outdoor space?
  • What materials were used in the construction of the house? Is it made of wood, concrete, shingles? How will they affect materials for your outdoor space?
  • Examine how one enters the house—is it the most appropriate means of entering the house? Is the walkway made of harmonious materials? Does it need to be enhanced or changed.

  • Does one access the house from the street or from the driveway? What is the material of the driveway? Is it compatible with the house?
  • How does the existing landscape relate to the geographical area? How does it relate to neighboring houses?
  • From within the house, examine the views of the property. Is there anything of interest framed through the existing windows and doors?
  • Walk the perimeter of the property, and note the scale and size. Are there any particular areas that seem more suitable for a particular use?
  • Are there any existing terraces, decks or exterior structures? Are they attractive and/or functional?
  • Are there any extenuating environmental considerations? Excessive sun, rain or wind? Do you live near the ocean? In the desert?
  • Notice the quality of light. Is there heavy shade? Partial or full sunlight? How does the light change with the seasons?
  • Are there any areas of the property that are disagreeable? A view of a neighbor’s garage, excessive traffic noise or power lines?
  • Are there any particular strengths of the garden that would suggest a particular design direction? Focus on existing features, such as the house style, trees, ground levels and views.

Nine Important Steps of Landscape Planning

Part 1 of 9: Pre-Design and Wish List

Part 2 of 9: Inventory

Part 3 of 9: Analysis

Part 4 of 9: Bubble Diagrams

Part 5 of 9: Concept Design

Part 6 of 9: Detailed Design

Part 7 of 9: Construction Drawings

Part 8 of 9: Installation

Part 9 of 9: Maintenance


Natural Landscape and Irrigation specializes in landscape installation in the Greater Portland Metropolitan Area including Lake Oswego, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin, West Linn and surrounding areas. Please feel free to contact us for more details.


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