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Design Process

The art of creation requires inspiration; bringing that inspiration to life demands thorough planning.

Ginkgo Leaf Studio uses a comprehensive process to create a landscape design that meets and exceeds our collective vision.

The process below outlines how our plans are generated and what steps are taken to produce and refine your completed landscape design.

Initial Consultation

Our first appointment is to meet at your home with everyone involved in the decision-making process. Prior to this meeting, you will be asked to complete a Landscape Design Questionnaire. This completed document will provide us with background information for your property and the design elements you are interested in incorporating into a plan.

At this first meeting, we discuss your lifestyle, as well as project objectives and budget considerations. We also present our design philosophy, a sampling of previous projects, and the computer aided technologies we use that produce each project. If you decide to proceed with Ginkgo Leaf Studio, a formal Design Agreement will be drafted and mailed to you. This proposal summarizes and outlines the scope of the project. After we have received the signed contract and retainer, the fun begins!

Site Analysis

This is the first phase and gives us a complete understanding of the site before beginning our design work.

• Site Measuring & Plant Inventory– We measure the property to locate your home, other existing structures and visible utilities. We measure every door and window on the house, which will impact the future design in terms of sight lines and circulation. Existing walkways and patios (if present) may be measured for reference as well. We inventory existing vegetation and evaluate existing site conditions, including views, drainage, sun, shade and wind. This data is entered into AutoCAD, and is combined with plat of survey information (if available) to create a base map drawing: a basic outline of your property.

• Digital Photography – Photos are taken of the entire property to create a visual ‘map’ of the site, which is used as a continual reference tool throughout the design process. Areas of focus and sight lines from doors and windows are also photographed. These photos can also be used to produce dramatic ‘before and after’ images. Architectural details on your home are recorded.

• If necessary, municipalities are contacted to obtain the most recent regulations and code restrictions that apply to your property. The design will then be tailored to meet these requirements as needed.

• Grade Elevations/Site Surveying – If necessary, grade elevations will be taken on the property to consider grade changes that may affect the design and/or drainage.

Conceptual Design

Based on the project scope, the conceptual plan helps establish the design direction. Starting with overlays of the base plan, we use sketches to explore the potential elements that may fulfill the project objectives. The architectural style of the home is considered and influences the direction of the design and even material choices. We then fine tune the design elements into a complete conceptual design as a two-dimensional hand drawn and colored plan. It consists of:

• Hardscape/ Plant Layout – This is the form and spatial composition of the design. It outlines the theme and order of the design, taking into account circulation, views and the relationship of outdoor spaces. Walkways and patios are drawn, and walls, steps, fences and overhead structures may also be incorporated in the plan at this time. Plants are located and identified; however, quantities are not included. We will review and discuss the layout and function of spaces and arrangement of planting beds with you. Initial materials are selected based on function, form, style/ character and budget. We may review physical samples of hardscape materials in conjunction with this plan.

• Plant Palette Photos – This print-out of plant photos shows the color and form of plants, as well as how the plants are combined and interact with each other in the design. Custom prepared, it helps you to envision how the finished plant layout will look.

• Cost Projections – When we meet with you for the conceptual design phase, we will have already pre-costed the entire design. The design is broken into logical sections (i.e., front yard, backyard). Details are listed in an a la carte format, making it easier to understand where your money is going for each aspect of the design.

Master Plan Design

This is the culmination of the design phase. Your comments and suggestions are incorporated into formal, detailed CAD generated plans which are the final generation of the design. An additional revision is included, if necessary before the design is finalized and ready to be bid.

• Construction Documents – Full color AutoCAD drawings of the finished landscape plans are provided to you with all necessary details listed, including a final plant list(s) with specified plant sizes. All plant varieties with quantities are called out, structural elements are drawn with more precision, and material selections are noted. Most important, full construction specifications are incorporated into the plans, directing the landscape contractor on every detail of the design including installation standards. The landscape contractor will use these specifications to provide their quote.

• Plant Portfolio – This bound booklet of plant photos becomes your reference guide for every plant in your design. It is matched to the final version of your plans.

• Pre-construction – Your plans are sent out for quotes from our landscape contractor and related subcontractors for concrete, carpentry or irrigation.

Project Liaison Service

We feel that a close collaboration between the client, our team, and the installation contractor is essential to a successful project. After the contractor(s) is retained, our liaison service enables us to act as your representative, guiding the implementation of the design and making adjustments or alterations as needed during – not after – the actual work on site. Our many years of experience has proven this service is invaluable, ensuring that quality installation and our shared vision are optimally realized.


• Contractor Bid Review – We entrust a select group of contractors and craftsmen to implement our clients’ projects. When bids are received, we perform a formal bid review which scrutinizes and breaks down the contractor’s submitted numbers. A comparison report is presented to the client to help clarify what each contractor is offering by comparing apples to apples when reviewing the bids. 


•  Installation Review – Prior to construction, we mark existing features or plants to be removed or transplanted. We meet with the landscape contractor at project start on site to review the overall project goals. We make regular site visits to monitor the workmanship and progress of the work being done. This often includes verifying the layout and location of hardscape elements such as walks, patios or walls before they are installed. This is scheduled at key points in the construction schedule.


•  Nursery Plant Selection – The plant palette we select in our design work reflects the ability to distinguish from thousands of choices available for the Midwest climate and follow the well-respected mantra of ‘right plant, right place’. Instead of depending on just a few sources to fill an order, we frequently utilize several vendors to supply our specified plants. Unlike contractors who ‘phone in’ the order, our team personally selects the nursery stock (from multiple sources if needed) for your project ensuring you receive the very best plant specimens. Only healthy, well structured, strong rooted plants are hand selected at proven local nurseries.


•  Onsite Plant Layout – As construction proceeds and the plant installation phase is reached, our team is on site to make sure plants are placed as intended in the design. We guide the contractor on the placement of large trees and shrubs and we hand locate smaller shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses. Having the designer’s eye on site and is invaluable as we can adjust plant locations as necessary due to site conditions that may vary from the plan. We also review the installation of plants by assessing planting depth, vertical orientation and spacing.

•  Final Walk Through – This is an onsite meeting with you to review the completed project. This ensures that the finished result fulfills the established budget and design intent to your satisfaction. If damage of hardscape items has occurred or plants have died, a punch list is prepared for the landscape contractor to complete. We review plant care and answer any questions you may have.


•  Follow Up Review – Only included with our Project Liaison Service, we visit your property the following year to review the condition of hardscapes and missing plants. If any warranty items are noted, we contact the landscape contractor on your behalf to have them taken care of. We may also offer maintenance suggestions that will help you to keep your project looking great for the future.