The landscape designer they would hire again

by Jon Nunan

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Your landscaping makes a huge impact on the look and function of your property as a whole, and it is well worth the effort it takes to keep it looking as good as possible. However, while there are more than enough landscaping companies to go around, some projects are too large or too involved to simply hire landscape services. Is your project big and/or intricate enough that you should hire a landscape architect? Is your landscaping in the kind of shape where hiring a landscape architect is simply not necessary? If these are the kinds of questions that pop into your head when you look at your front lawn, this story may give you a better idea of what exactly a landscape architect can offer!

The Decision to Hire a Landscape Architect
The two-year undertaking at Jose and Mary Armario's Hinsdale, Ill. home was so extensive and held so many opportunities for snafus, they knew that they couldn't hire landscape services from a company that couldn't handle the load. Having a good idea of what they wanted (the design and installation of a swimming pool, a patio and outdoor kitchen, a driveway, a brick wall, two porches, and fresh landscaping throughout the yard), the Armarios decided to hire a landscape architect.

A project this extensive requires more of an investment than anyone would leave to chance; through HomeAdvisor, the Armarios found Gary Blanford of Blanford Designs, Bolingbrook, Ill. From that point on, both homeowners agree that all went smoothly.

Picture Perfect Results
The choice to hire a landscape architect is not for everyone, but the knowledge and expertise that comes with that decision were crucial factors for this family to create a backyard that's perfect for relaxing and entertaining and a rejuvenated front yard and main entrance that shows off their 1887 Mediterranean-style home.

The Armarios' new landscaping includes unique features such as a free-form, lagoon-style pool with a connected spa, all surrounded by natural stone. Other highlights include a built-in grill, granite countertops and fire pit. A new brick wall provides backyard privacy, and gardens surround the paver patio. The couple couldn't be happier with Gary's ability to interpret their vision into a workable plan for the yard.

"We love it — it turned out very, very nice," Mary said. "We've moved a lot and redone a lot of homes, and it's very hard to find a contractor you would hire again. But I can say that we definitely would hire Gary again."

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Hire a Landscape Architect with Experience
One of the most difficult questions to answer when you hire landscape service is this: do you go with the best quote or the most agreeable company? In this case (and in many others, for that matter), going with experience didn't disappoint. A landscape architect for more than 25 years, Gary takes a unique approach to working with clients. Not only does he design each project, he serves as the general contractor and closely oversees each undertaking from start to finish. Gary communicates with each subcontractor and makes sure that everyone knows what's going on with everyone else, giving clients a single, direct point of contact for these often-extensive projects.

Gary's experience has taught him that individual attention to his clients is probably the most important part of an involved landscaping project. Blanford Designs works with only a handful of clients at a time, which allows Gary to devote significant personal attention to each homeowner he works with. "Clients love it," he told us. "They like the fact that I'm on the job all the time. I don't disappear and let another firm come in and build it."

Two Satisfied Customers
The Armarios cited Blanford's ability to keep their project and subcontractors organized as a critical component of the job's success. They noticed that workers on various aspects of the project didn't trip over each other and even though they were scheduled tightly to prevent down days as one subcontractor finished its phase of the project and another got started. The Armarios also noted that Gary was always accessible throughout the process. "If something went wrong, he was right on it," Mary said. "He was easy to reach and had good follow-through."

Two years after starting their landscaping overhaul, the Armarios are loving their rejuvenated yard and have Gary Blanford to thank for it.

Should YOU Hire a Landscape Architect?
Of course, the experience of a single household can't represent what is likely to happen on every job. However, in this particular case, the decision to hire a landscape architect over hiring landscape services is one that had to be made to get these kinds of results. If you are wondering whether or not you need the expertise that comes with a landscape architect, the most basic way to tell is to ask yourself this question: Does the work you want done require only improvement to your existing landscaping, or will it necessitate changing the entire form of your property. If the former is your answer, you'll probably be fine with more basic, less expensive landscaping services; if the latter is your answer, take a tip from the pros and hire a landscape architect!

Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.
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