Plant palette when working out of state

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Plant palette when working out of state


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    When you have work out of state (in areas with a different landscape/environment), what is the best way of establishing your plant palette of commercially available plants? Websites, visiting nursery’s, Etc.?


    William…..During my LA design career, I have designed many projects in (14) different States, so, I do “understand” the issues in specifying plant materials in areas that you’re not familiar with.

    My approach was to make a few phone calls to local Landscape Contractors and explain to them that I was designing a major project in their city. That I would appreciate it if they would assist me in developing a good “Plant Palette” to work with. I would also ask them if they could give me approx. plant prices (installed)…that I would keep that info. “confidential”. I also told each Landscape Contractor that I would be sure to include their companies in the bidding process. I normally was very successful using this process to get good plant material information.

    You can also GOOGLE…and do a Plant search for particular city. But, IMO, it’s important that you get on the phone and talk with Landscape types in the area who are very familiar with local Plants.

    I also included in my LA design proposals, the cost for me to make at least (1) Inspection Trip to those out of state job sites…normally, a Final Inspection. I’d take photos and do an Inspection Report for my clients. Needed to make sure ALL contractors followed my Construction and Planting Plans…and to ensure that the ADA (Handicap Accessibility Guidelines) were in full compliance. I also looked for any safety or liability issues that could cause issues for my client (and for me). I would charge my clients a Flat fee for my trip, but, would request that my client pay for all of my travel expenses (which wasn’t a problem).

    Also, for all design work that I did out of state, I applied for and received a State LA License. My projects were normally large projects, so the LA fees I was earning more than justified the cost of getting that LA License. It’s just a good idea to check on-line with the Landscape Architect’s State Board on License requirements in their State before you perform any design work in any different State.

    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner


    I like to talk to the wholesale nurseries in the area to get a feel for availability. Using books or climate zone charts can get you into trouble. Some cities or county agencies provide approved plant lists, which can help you become familiar with what is allowed and likely to succeed. If there is a county extension office or landscape architecture program at the local university, this can sometimes provide insights as well. Travel is the best option though 🙂


    I tend to agree with much of what you have suggested here, Jeff.

    Though, I will add this…..The reason I always contacted local “Landscape Contracting Companies” is to not only ask their help in putting together a “plant palette” that works for that location, but also, I needed to know the “installed unit costs” for all plants, trees, grass, steel edging, etc. I would ensure that I would keep that (cost info. – confidential) and be sure to get their company on the bid list. A vast majority of my Out-Of-State projects were major Multi-Family developments – $30 to $50 Million developments; so, those Landscape Contracts were very cooperative.

    I only had maybe 2 or 3 projects in my 40 plus LA career that did NOT have a “budget”, so, getting “installed unit costs” was important…to ensure that I designed within my client’s budget/s. Same deal for hardscape materials, swimming pools, water features, etc.

    Yes, Nurseries would be another good source (but, my thinking is that “some” of those nurseries are going to want to sell or market what they have in stock.

    For me, going to an out of State city in person to develop a plant palette wasn’t very practical, as I was designing from Texas and designing projects in Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, etc. But, yes, I do agree, visiting an out of State City in person would be the best option (I would think you’d have to allow for the cost of a trip in your design fee).

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