Whether you are looking to make an outdoor place an outdoor room or renovate an indoor space, the rules of design really don’t change. Designers are challenged with site constraints whether we are designing a small space or 30 acres. I always ask my clients many questions to help translate their thoughts into design goals that our HDG design team can then meet. How do you want to use the space? How many people do you want to accommodate in the space, and will pets or children be considered for this design? All of these questions assist our team in making crucial design decisions that lead us to the correct design for our client.

When reviewing conceptual plans the only feedback from our client that matters is whether or not a client likes and is excited about the design intent. Only with that conceptual approval can the design move forward into the process of fine tuning and detailing. Colors, patterns, and material selections absolutely matter at a later stage of design, but very rarely do these small details achieve the client’s primary design goals.

To put our design skills to the test, HDG teamed up with Construction Performance of Houston and went indoors to transform a galley kitchen into an open room concept that visually connects every public space in the house and meets the residents’ primary design goals.



First, HDG started with a new floor plan that considered the daily goals of the residents and the occasional need to accommodate very large groups. The HDG team more than doubled the available counter space and adjusted the hidden storage areas. The partition wall was removed and replaced with a custom island allowing entry from all areas of the home.  The island doubles as a kitchen table with counter top height overhangs on 3 sides, and it can easily provide serving space on all 4 sides when hosting large groups.  The island dimensions were specifically selected to allow a single slab of granite (without joints) and counter overhang on 3 sides that did not require additional bracing. As budget and future planning was a concern, many moveable furniture pieces were proposed in-lieu of additional built in cabinets due to the constraints of the original window and door locations future construction of a large built in refrigerator.

 The Design





After a floor plan was solidified, all of the small details easily fell into place.


© HDG Landscape Design, 2016

HDG on DIY Yardcrashers

20130919_174749HDG Landscape Design was fortunate enough to be selected as the first and only Texas designer for DIY Yardcrasher’s Houston episode.  The California crew and host soon realized things really are bigger in Texas after receiving lots of donated resources from generous local companies including Tomball’s beloved nursery, The Arbor Gate.  We were about to embark on the biggest Yardcrasher’s project in the history of the show, and we still only had the designated 1.5 days available to install.

Thankfully, the design process started for HDG Landscape Design in September 2013, but the design process was the quickest executed in HDG’s history to date. HDG was hired 24 hours before visiting the episode’s property, was notified just 2 hours in advance of the location of the property, was only allowed 30 minutes on the property while the crew was there to ensure no one interacted with the owners, and our team worked diligently in one of Houston’s famous rain events to measure the site and take photos as it would be the last time we saw the property before filming in just 2 months.

To make sure we would be ready for filming on time, HDG prepared a detailed plan, material inventory for purchasing, and site furniture selections in just 4 business days, and the team got to work finding local Houston vendors to support the project. Through this process a major but seemingly minor change was made to the design. The main patio designed with large set Oklahoma Flagstone was vetoed by the show’s producer and replaced with a raised wood deck. This decision was not agreed with by HDG due to the site’s slope, issues with Houston’s climate and floods, and wildlife issues for this particular site located in rural Tomball including mosquitoes and rodents.  For the reference of the reader, it is recommended that a project located any area with known drainage issues or potential flooding (such as areas in and around Houston) includes appropriate drainage solutions in their project’s budget.

Cook Road - 10.19.2013-Landscape Plan - 11x17

As an additional bonus for the home owners, HDG prepared 3-Dimensional graphic representations of their project to present to the owners on the day the project began in mid-November 2013. These graphics did not give the owners an instant look at what to expect in just 1.5 shorts days from the project’s beginning, but it gave the behind the scenes team including HDG and the producer an opportunity to plan where to shoot footage and final photos from in advance.


HDGLandscapeDesignGraphic3 HDGLandscapeDesignGraphic1

The first day of filming went off with a slight hitch or two.  The “off camera” fun was had to fix the unknowns found on site, and a generous neighbor lent the owner his tractor to remove a particularly difficult tree stump.


Even in November, it was hot and humid out in Houston, but the behind the scenes team worked hard from 7:00 am – 11:00 pm to make sure we stayed on schedule.


HDG’s role on this day included project layout, directing the behind the scenes team, educating the host about the types of plant and hardscape materials selected and design intent behind the layout, construction, and small details in the design so it could be relayed to the audience when on camera, and most importantly reassuring the producer that we were staying on schedule with the largest project ever constructed on the show.  By the second day it was evident that our hard work at night after the show left made all the difference in keeping the project on schedule. All that was left included fun scenes to film including dressing up pottery with edible plants, laying out the dry river bed, and putting in final touches with site furnishings.


By 3:00 pm on the second day of filming, the behind the scenes team and California crew was ready for final photos and filming.  With a short 24 hours of labor and over 20 team members, the seemingly impossibly large project was made possible. For Holly and Barrett, this project finished just in time to host friends and family for Thanksgiving festivities.

Charming Southern Retreat


By nightfall, the crew and team enjoyed the cool night around the fire pit fitting 12 people comfortably on the seat wall alone.


The “Behind the Scenes” Team waited silently behind the camera during filming, and then quickly got back to work between takes.


Home owners Holly and Barrett reflecting on the whirlwind installation.

Find the Charming Southern Retreat Episode on DIY Network Show’s  YouTube!

© HDG Landscape Design, 2016


Agave spp. is one of the most spectacular show stopping plants for the southern landscape with the most common species of this genus being Agave americana, also known as Century Plant, due to its long lifespan. The Agave species is most recognized as being used in tequila. Agave can grow to a height of 4 to 6 feet tall and wide and thrive in zones 8 to 11 with full sun and little water. It is hardy in South Texas, most of central Texas, and can be used in the Dallas area, but may be damaged with extended temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Agave americana has bold, broad, and thick leaves that range from green, blue-green, silver-blue, and variegated in color. It can live from 10 to 25 years before producing a flower stalk up to 15 feet tall with magnificent yellow blooms in late spring to early summer. As the plant ages the older foliage begins to gracefully arch downward while the younger leaves stay rigid and upright. After it blooms, the Agave dies but soon is replaced by small offshoots that gather around the base.  Small offshoots will begin at the base of the plant long before it will bloom, and they should be removed regularly to allow the primary plan to maintain a gorgeous shape.

20160625_170013Agave should be used with caution in some landscapes and should be handled with care due to its sharp spines on the tips and margins of the leaves. Despite its sharp features, Agave is often utilized as a focal point in residential and commercial landscapes, and it is best paired with soft and colorful textures to provide bold contrast to its broad leaves and silver to green color. It also can be quite interesting as a container plant, but one should be considerate of the potential size of the plant when selecting a container.


Other Varieties:

Agave parryi var. truncate or Artichoke Agave is a dense, blue-gray rosette of wide oval shaped leaves that develop in large clumps. It too has sharp spines on the tips of the leaves in a dark brown to black color. It is a waterwise plant and can serve as an interesting mass planting due to its offshoots. It is 2-4 ft wide with flower spikes 15-20 ft tall appearing after 10-15 years.


Agave ferdinand-regis or Ferdinand Agave is a slow growing, compact succulent forming a rosette of green to blue green leaves tipped with black spines. The leaves of this agave are accented with white marking which give it a more interesting and geometric coloring. It reached 18” tall and wide and is one of the smaller agaves available.


*Warning: This plant does not like wet, soggy soil, and roots will rot in this condition.


© HDG Landscape Design, 2016

Endeavoring DIY

20131118_094215If you didn’t read the article on Hiring an Installer, then I recommend it before continuing. The same concepts will apply.  With a DIY project, service must be the highest priority on your list. You will need the help of a team of professionals who have done it before to “do-it-yourself,” and you will need to act as an installation company would to determine when you should install, how long it will take to complete your installation, delivery, material sourcing, etc.

First, find a design company (HDG Landscape Design or Easy Landscape Plan) that will not ask you to install with their company.  Design-build firms have less design experience in a calendar year because a majority of their time is spent selling and installing landscape installations. Design-build firms focus on a short plant list that they have access to or in unfortunate cases they will select materials they know a home owner cannot find on their own in order to encourage an installation with their company.  Design-build firms are fantastic for their knowledge and experience with installation, but they are not likely to be the right resource if you want to save money with a DIY. HDG Landscape Design and Easy Landscape Plan are design exclusive companies offering plant size recommendations to work within a budget, phasing recommendations, plant images and descriptions to assist with care of your plants after installation, and a material spreadsheet for easy purchasing.

The material spreadsheet and plant descriptions are a valuable resource. They will assist you in understanding the design as well as the recommended material sizes to purchase in order to have a landscape that makes sense when it is installed. They will also help you with future maintenance (mulch replenishment and how to maintain plants).  The plant sizes on the material spreadsheet give advice as to how large a plant material should be purchased. Larger sizes are recommended for slower growing plants or accent plants, and smaller sizes are recommended for the shortest layer or fastest growing plant. These sizes can be manipulated to decrease or increase the final installation cost, but be aware that your team has tried to select the best sizes for you already with all variables considered.

Pick a nursery with staff that can make time for you when you are ready to purchase and know about plants and plant varieties. A trained nurseryman will take your material list and go with you to select all the plants you need. If they don’t have the quantity in stock that you need, then they will be able to understand the importance of the particular missing plant in your design and will not recommend something that is not comparable. Even better, they are likely to recommend you to a nearby nursery that does have more of the same plant in stock or offer to call you when they have more in their inventory. For the Houston area, we recommend The Arborgate in Tomball, Texas. HDG Landscape Design has several clients that drive 150 miles round trip to purchase from and gain the expertise of the trained professionals and visiting lecturers at The Arborgate.


Ask your material sources if they have delivery options.  If you do not have a vehicle that can haul a lot of weight, then be willing to pay for a delivery from each vendor  which can range from $45-$85 (mulch & soil, plants, etc.).

If you are not willing to do the behind-the-scenes work along with your team of professionals, then DIY might not be the right fit for you. Consider comparing the cost estimates in the “Hiring an Installer” section to determine if DIY really is more affordable with the time and effort you will need to put into it.

If you do not know where to start, then it is best to start by Hiring a DesignerHDG Landscape Design provides a well thought out design to meet your needs. It does help to know your goals up front, but HDG has experience with every type of property and knows the right questions to ask to help you find your answers.


Quick Budgeting Tips

Imagine the front yard of the most beautifully landscaped house on your street. If you like how many layers of plants they have, then calculate how deep their beds are from their foundation. If you cannot measure that, then estimate by assuming that each large/medium shrub in the layer takes up 3 feet of depth and each small shrub/perennial/ground cover takes up 18 inches of depth. Multiply the desired depth of the beds by the linear footage of your foundation (or location where you intend to install plant material). We will assume that you either do not have an irrigation system and will hand water or you know how to adjust your own irrigation system. We will assume you can remove plants on your property without buying additional equipment to do so, and that you already have the equipment you need to install. With only a few variables to consider (standard sized plants (small), new soil, new mulch, no purchased delivery) your estimated cost for a landscaped bed area can be between $10- $12 per square foot without tax.


Check out our links below to get a better understanding of costs and hiring professionals.

Hiring a Designer

Hiring an Installer

Hiring An Installer

When you are considering hiring an installer, start by determining what is the most valuable to you. The rule of thumb is that you receive a good value for 2 of 3 things offered by a landscape installation company (or most companies for that matter).  Those things are service, price, and quality. For instance, if you want a very affordable installation, then you may need to find some patience prior to calling an installation company. This may be because you will receive poor quality materials (or worse, poor installation that causes the plants to suffer once your warranty has expired), or you may receive poor service which can make working with a company tedious and frustrating.

I recommend starting with a professional design company (like HDG Landscape Design) that can give you a quality design and additional support materials that will allow you to bid the same design to multiple installation companies. Design-build firms offer design and installation services, but in the past my clients have received partially complete plans from design-build firms which makes it nearly impossible for another company to provide a comprehensive, competitive bid. Landscape installation companies in Texas tend to charge within 10%-20% of one another, and  it is not unusual to request multiple bids for a project especially if it is your first time to hire a professional contractor. The more expensive the company does not necessarily mean you will receive an increased level of service and quality, so make sure you consider other factors about the company to help make your decision about what is most important to you. Larger companies may be more expensive, but they have the purchasing power and contacts to source unique, higher quality materials in bulk and the additional cost you pay for is a higher level of expertise, service, and quality in terms of materials and installation. Smaller companies may be start-ups that really need that one great client to help their business take-off. You may have a lower overall cost but there are hidden risks (such as not having insurance) and rewards (such as not have a realistic understanding of the time it will take to complete an installation which gives you services for free due to their mistake). No matter what the cost, I always recommend requesting information regarding a company’s insurance and a contract with a warranty agreement, change order agreement, and specific scope of work that is signed by both parties.


Quick Budgeting Tips

Imagine the front yard of the most beautifully landscaped house on your street. If you like how many layers of plants they have, then calculate how deep their landscape beds are from their foundation. If you cannot measure that, then estimate by assuming that each large/medium shrub in the layer takes up 3 feet of depth and each small shrub/perennial/ground cover takes up 18 inches of depth. Multiply the desired depth of the beds by the linear footage of your foundation (or location where you intend to install plant material). With only a few variables to consider (existing irrigation, existing plants, standard sized plants (small), new soil, new mulch, labor) your estimated cost for a landscaped bed area with a minimum depth of 7 feet can be between $20-$24 per square foot without taxes and other fees  (delivery, travel, etc.).

After working with over 25 installation companies in the state of Texas over the past few years it was noticed that many companies have minimum installation fees in order to ensure a project is profitable. I have a lot of respect for a company that cares enough about their business and employees to find the breaking point between a profitable and non-profitable job. I have noticed that it is difficult to find an installation company that offers services for a project with a budget under $10,000. It is rare to find a professional, business minded company that offers services for a project with a budget under $5,000. If your project falls into the category of “low budget,” then consider holding off on your project until you have other outdoor living or landscape needs that meet the minimum budget of a professional company you trust. At the very least, start by Hiring a Designer to create a phased design to begin budgeting. Showing a design to an installation company tells them you know exactly what you want and where you want it which saves them time in the service they have to give you and saves you money (remember the “rule of thumb” at the beginning of this article).



Check out our links below to get a better understanding of design fees, design professionals, and DIY.

Hiring a Designer

Do-It-Yourself (DIY)

Hiring A Designer

Photo by Texas A&M University Faculty/Staff
Photo by Texas A&M University Faculty/Staff

There are many types of landscape designers and companies offering design services.  Each company has different goals and approaches to design. Determine what your goals are, what design services are most valuable to you, and pick a design company you trust. Look on the company’s website for a description of the designer’s background you will be working with to help you determine if the designer will be a good fit for you. Most companies that offer both design and installation services (design-build firms) do not have the designer overseeing the installation, so be prepared to work with a salesperson and a crew leader for each part of the process from design to installation. (This is a normal and efficient practice, and companies that operate efficiently will offer a fair price for their services.) It is this type of common practice that makes it easy to use a design exclusive company (like HDG Landscape Design) to design your project first and work with a contractor of your choice without feeling beholden to the company that created your plan.

If you are looking for just a spruce up with seasonal or perennial flowers or the addition of up to 25 shrubs, then working with your local nursery is a FREE opportunity to receive one-on-one assistance.


If you have a low budget for installation (see Hiring an Installer), then consider designers that can be found remotely online. This will keep your design costs lower so as to not take away from your installation budget. Easy Landscape Plan, for example, offers a wide range of services, but they reduce their design fees by removing extras such as phone meetings and on-site meetings. Did you know almost all commercial properties are designed by professional Landscape Architects before the site is even built? These professionals use their experience and excellent plant knowledge to design without visiting a site. The Easy Landscape Plan team has the same professional design abilities, degrees, licenses, and the experience to do the same for residential properties. It’s a simple process that is a perfect fit for DIY projects like The Sherman Residence in Austin, Texas. Designing with a remote designer starts at $250.


If you have a lofty or long-term budget for installation and require a professional set of plans with experience and knowledge to match, then HDG Landscape Design might be the right fit for you.  Although we offer our services to any property size and budget, multi-acre, remotely located properties, large scale installations, or phased designs requiring excellent site planning are among our specialties. Working one-on-one with our Lead Designer may cost you 3%-5% of your long-term installation costs (see Hiring an Installer).



If you are looking for a company that offers both design and installation services (design-build firms), then reference our link below (Hiring an Installer).

Check out our links below to get a better understanding of costs, hiring installation professionals, and DIY.

Hiring an Installer

Do-It-Yourself (DIY)