Specifying Plants

Here is a question asked by a client considering hiring us to design a landscape for their home in Williamsburg, Virginia. I thought the question and my answer are worth highlighting.

Q: My husband and I very much enjoyed meeting with you and discussing the design of our landscape in Williamsburg. We look forward to working with you to enhance the property. We reviewed the Letter of Agreement for Conceptual Design and have a question with respect to the project scope. The contract states that the plant design will be conceptual and show “rough quantity and types”. We understand that to mean that the actual quantity will be determined at the time of planting, based on the size of the plant at that time. However, we are not sure what you mean by “types”. Will the design state what kind of plant is recommended? We think it will be hard to visualize what the design will look like without knowing what plants are to be installed in the prescribed area.

A: Probably what is needed here is some clarification as to what I mean by “types.” When I say “types” I’m referring to whether it is an evergreen shrub or something deciduous, as well as how big the plant needs to be. We’ve found that the best approach is to design with “types” first. Then when the conceptual plan is approved and everybody understands what the goals of the design are, we can go back and determine exactly which species the plants need to be.

For example, I may see in my mind a sparsely planted area that has only a handful of plants, while you may be thinking about a botanical garden with dozens of varieties. The amount of time it takes to specify these two scenarios is quite different. So instead of spending a lot of time selecting plants and then finding out our design is not what you had in mind, we’ll put together a design using symbols to show how many plants there will be and where they’ll go. But we won’t call out the exact species for each plant.

Here are some examples. If the function of a plant is to serve as a screen – for instance blocking an electrical box or some other small feature – the type of plant would likely be an evergreen shrub that grows 3 to 5 feet high. If the function is a showy display or focal point, the type of plant would be something that has a special interest, say, flowers or bark or shape. If we have to consider the dozens of possible plants that could be used in either situation, it would add many hours to the conceptual design process.

A mistake people often make is to focus too early on individual elements such as plants, rather than the overall organization of the space. If you design a house, you don’t usually start with the furniture; you start with the layout of the rooms. Here’s a quote from one of my favorite books:

“Patios, pathways, fences and walls should be given first priority, as they contain your dreams. But don’t fret – there is a big difference between first priority and top priority, which is reserved for plants. It is for them you are setting the stage.” – Thomas Hobbs, The Jewel Box Garden

We’ve completed designs like yours many times before and the method I describe is what we’ve found to be best. I realize you don’t know us very well and I can imagine moving forward is quite unnerving. Our method works, it has worked many times before, and it will work in your case. Tell me what I can do to win your trust.

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Bed Transformation!

Once again I am very pleased with the excellent work H&G did on my property.  They turned a section of my ugly front yard with invasive Bermuda grass into a beautiful and simple flower bed with mulch and many small bushes.  This striking transformation adds greatly to the house’s curb appeal.  I look forward to them coming back out this fall and replacing the rest of the front yard with sod and removing all the undesirable Bermuda grass.  Brian was easy and pleasant to work and plan with.  He always responded to my questions immediately.  Jon and his crew were likewise very nice, efficient, and perfectionists in planting my new yard.  Many thanks and accolades to H&G once again!

Sandy Hall

So thankful to be a customer!

when i returned to williamsburg in 2022, it was a real challenge to find a company willing to take on “yet one more customer” – i was ignored and turned down by others… but hertzler and george came to my rescue and i could not be happier – wonderful staff, professional and so friendly, i completely trust them to service my yard!  merry christmas and happy new year to everyone and H&G!


Drainage Help

I would like to let you know how happy we are with the service we received recently.
We had a drainage issue in our yard and did some research, learned your company was highly recommended and decided to see what your company could do.
From the first contact, we had a great experience as the lady that answered the phone was very nice. She put us in contact with Brian Kemp who we also liked from the start, and we made an appt for him to come and take a look. He was right on time, very thorough, and just a very nice fella who we both liked right away and had confidence in. We really liked how he gave us options and listened to what we wanted. We scheduled the work, it was done right on time, and it looks great! Brian was even nice enough to do a video walk through for us afterwards as we weren’t in town. Just great service from start to finish! Thank you Brian

We will definitely be back with more projects in the future.

T.M. - Ford's Colony

Thank You

Just a short note to thank you for all the help you gave us with our garden this year. Jonathon again did a wonderful job doing the bed detailing this summer, as did the mulching crew in the spring. I don’t know the name of the woman who supervised the mulching crew, but I want to let you know how professional she was. In fact, the entire crew was pleasant to work with, especially to experience the care that they took with their work.

Thanks also for being so flexible with the changes we requested for our mowing schedule.

E.L. - Ford's Colony

Always Helpful

Brian came out last week to try to assess a problem we are having in our yard.  He arrived on time, was extremely courteous and took a considerable amount of time analyzing our situation.  While he was unable to reach a solution, he did take the time to research and recommend another business that might be able to help us.  That kind of customer service will make us more likely to call on Hertzler & George if other issues arise.  Thanks, Brian!