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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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!


Five Stars All Around

We hired H&G to help us re-do our landscaping after a different local landscaping company did a sub par job with plant selections and installations. That company also was very hard to deal with. H&G stepped right up with Jennifer creating a new planting scheme comprising of native plants with some we had never seen before and which we love! She is extremely knowledgeable and pleasant to work with – a true landscaping charm! Jon did the installations and also did a fantastic job. He was very meticulous on planting and finishing the job neatly with mulch. Unlike that other company’s installer, Jon left us extremely happy with the job done. Customer service on the phone – pleasant, patient and helpful. The only, and ever so minor aspect of their work, is they don’t offer a guarantee on the plants or install. I suppose that’s becoming industry standard. However, now looking over all the plantings with a bit of time passing, I am confident that there won’t need to be any replacements. Watering is of course the key element. Thank you H&G, the country cottage landscaping we’ve wanted is now ours – FIVE STARS!

Chris Dombrowski
Ford's Colony | Homeowner

True professionals

Had these guys build a surface-grade patio in May 2023. They looked at the project, sent me a proposed scope of work and contract via email, took a deposit of 1/2 the total via bank transfer. They set a date weeks later to start the job. They showed up on time, worked professionally and cleaned up at the end of the day. Whole job took 3 days, and they even replaced all the patio furniture on the last day. The final product was precisely what I asked for, done in a high-quality, workmanlike way.

H&G are not the cheapest guys out there, but for the extra money you get a professional product, professionally executed, on time, on budget. Honestly: I don’t think it gets any better than that.


Ken Blakely

Beyond Satisfied

We had an ugly uneven weedy patio and a driveway that needed reshaping and gravel. The transformation is stunning. Your representative Brian was patient and helpful in designing repairs to our satisfaction and your work crew was exceptional. Edwardo the work site foreman was extremely knowledgeable and professional and created a beautiful patio. His crew was superior.

Tim & Cynthia Porter

Joe Hertzler goes the extra mile

Hertzler and George were contracted to perform some landscaping for a seller of mine to get the home ready to show. They had just finished an extensive re-landscaping of the next door neighbors entire yard. I was very impressed by their attention to detail and their desire to satisfy their client. Joe Hertzler goes the extra mile to achieve complete client satisfaction. They provide a complete mix of landscaping design services and maintenance of existing landscaping

Tim Parker
Liz Moore Real Estate