Don’t Move – Improve. This mantra from a past San Diego Home and Garden Show rings at least as true today. As a landscape designer of eleven H&G show display gardens, I stood under that ‘Don’t Move – Improve’ streaming banner in 2008. At the time, the real estate market had taken a severe hit and it did not make any sense for homeowners -- even those few thinking of upgrading -- to attempt any move from their suddenly devalued houses. Today the stock market soars, yet the slogan still applies to all of those, myself included, happy with their home but still seeking their own personal outdoor paradise.
Here in the San Diego area, staying home to enjoy our outdoor spaces makes as much or more sense as anywhere in the country. Simply, we enjoy the best weather in the country right outside the backdoor. So why not create that vacation paradise at home? Some folks want to simply add and upgrade landscape features to make it more enjoyable while others are undergoing extensive remodels. Popular hardscape features include outdoor kitchens and fireplaces, spas, sport courts, outdoor accent lighting systems, water features, rain capture devices, and outdoor media (television, sound systems, and security cameras). Softscapes need to be improved and updated too, with designer-crafted specialty landscapes (native, California-eclectic, succulents, grasses), vegetable gardens with raised beds, water-wise plants, and lawn alternatives the most popular additions. New and renovated landscapes look noticeably different from those installed in the past. The modern landscapes are invigorating and inviting, the old landscapes look tired and dated.
The change in San Diego and California to water-conserving landscapes gives more incentive to renovate. California has been blessed with substantial rains this year yet the move toward drought tolerant and native California gardens has not slowed. The past decade was one of the driest on record and governmental bodies have not let us forget that lawns and water-loving flora are no longer welcome. Reservoirs are overflowing and yet it is a good bet that water rates will climb another eight to ten percent this year. Even if you and your neighbors don’t care for any of the new looks, these landscapes translate to more money in the pocket with less to pay out to water districts.
The ‘Don’t Move – Improve’ mantra rings especially true in San Diego and throughout California, a movement that is increasing now that the local economy is thriving. If you are stuck in your home – enjoy the stay.
“Are you sitting down?” When the installation estimate arrives via the friendly landscape contractor, it’s a good idea to be resting comfortably on the sofa. Most folks simply do not have a good idea of what an outdoor project will cost. This is understandable. not only do labor or materials prices fluctuate, but it is difficult to grasp the many hidden facets that take time and resources in creating a landscape.
“I want to convert to drought tolerant plants.” This statement sounds simple but this project is often not as straight forward as it seems. Taking out a lawn and putting in drought tolerant landscaping may seems easy, but usually includes not only the cost of installing the new plants but the added price tag to remove the existing landscape along with possible equipment rentals, trucking and dump fees, grading, irrigation work, drainage installation, rock and gravel additions, soil amendments, mulches, and so on. Add delivery fees and a porta-potty to the estimate and suddenly this small project has grown tremendously in scope. Imagine the hidden complexities and resulting costs of projects with walls, patio and walkway surfaces, overheads, water elements, outdoor kitchens, and fireplaces?
I fully understand why homeowners do not realize the costs of these projects because it is sometimes difficult for me to comprehend all the costs involved, at least until the final plan is in hand and the materials and labor are calculated. As the designer, I try to educate my clients as to what to expect on installation costs, while working with budget goal that has been established. Once the design is complete, if the installation estimates exceed this budget goal then it is time to scale back the features in the landscape or possibly implement the landscape in phases. In other words, we can shoot for the dream landscape and see where we land. The good news: we do often land right around our target number. And for a fortunate few, the final cost is below the budgeted amount.