Estimating Landscape Costs

by Reginald Durant, BTN Executive Director

Folks ask us all the time what it would cost to landscape their yard with natives. Landscape costs are difficult to estimate. EVERY project is different. The variations are not necessarily a visual, as irrigation and Landscape drainage, the most expensive part of any project (besides grading) are all buried and unseen once completed.

There are many things to consider before you even begin thinking about costs. Irrigation, most times, cannot even be designed until the landscape has been designed and watering needs are known. If you already have irrigation, then it is quite easy to provide list item prices you could then add together to at least know that cost. But until the landscape design is completed, a full estimate of installation is almost impossible.

You must take into consideration the number of plants, if you want trails, or paths. What type of paths? I.e brick, gravel, DG, pavers, cement, boardwalk, Etc. Is their a site drainage issue? Where do areas need to be drained from and to? Can we build on site impoundment to prevent non point source pollution such as a dry creek bed, French drain, catch basin or something else?

Do you need a trellis for vines? We use all steel aviation cabling with steel lags into walls or fencing, or connected to aviation grade aluminum piping for stand alone structures. Are fences or gates needed or desired? Are there sight line limitations? Power line height restrictions for plantings? East, West, South, North exposure? What type of soils ( which accurately determines the plant community we will select from so that the plants will be successful)? What type of grading? Can we build topography? Native plants, while successful in flat ground, really prefer sloping grounds and topography to really excel.

How much of the above work will the client be doing themselves? Are there other contractors, such as roofing/gutter, paving, general contractors involved, that our project would depend on our revolve around?

There are no cookie cutter SUCCESSFUL native gardens. Every one of these questions, and many more, need to be addressed during the consult and design process before we create an installation estimate and plan, based on the already completed design.

We have had projects we estimated at less than $7,000 installed​. We have had some that have come out as three stage projects, with each stage estimated at over $40,000. The size of the area has only a small impact on the cost, much of the cost is in the ground itself. A large area may have addressed all of the previous large cost Items previously, while a small garden may need extensive drainage and an entire irritation system installed.

I hope this better explains costs, and what you should be looking at in your project before you proceed.

2017 California Native Plant Society Garden Tour

by Cassandra Winston, BTN Communications Intern

It’s about that time again…On Saturday, April 8th, the California Native Plant Society is holding their Annual Spring Garden Tour! A Back to Natives design in Santa Ana’s celebrated Floral Park Neighborhood will be featured on the tour! Every year the California Native Plant Society, also known as CNPS, holds a garden tour that showcases beautiful landscapes that are mostly made up of native plants. The gardens demonstrate that native plants look as attractive in a front or back yard as they do in wide open spaces.

Speaking of backyard, did we mention Back to Natives will be featured on the 2017 Tour? Back to Natives has been part of the annual CNPS Garden Tour for at least seven years (we’ve lost track), and we will also be featured in this year’s tour. This year tour participants will be able to see the newly installed backyard design in addition to the front which has grown exponentially since the Floral Park Home was featured in 2016.

Back to Natives’ landscapes are unique due to their ability to adapt to unpredictable climate. Drought resistance features include micro irrigation systems that conserve water by distributing it directly to individual plants – not to the entire landscape – and only as needed. Individual heads are also adjustable so that different plants in a station can receive different amounts of water while that station is active.

Looking back on the recent heavy rain events, minor floods are possible. What happens to all that excess water from the downpour? Well, Back to Natives also installs landscape drains – we call them gravel burritos – underground to carry excess water away from the house and away from the plants so that they do not drown. Instead excess water is diverted underground to replenish the aquifer. Soil excavated from installing landscape drains and hardscape is retained on site and used to create topography in most landscapes. The soil is saved from the landfill while the native plants are given the chance to thrive on a well-drained slope. The mounds even give the landscape additional visual interest and a sense of privacy.

Make sure to visit the Back to Natives landscape at the CNPS Garden Tour on Saturday, April 8th to check out our garden first-hand. According to CNPS, it is “one of several outstanding, successful, beautiful Orange County gardens on the tour.” The event is from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. and tickets are free! Register at occnps.org for admittance; a guidebook with information and directions to all of the gardens will be included as well. This Back to Natives landscape will also make an appearance at 25th Annual Floral Park Home & Garden Tour on April 29 and 30. More info at floralparkhometour.com .

Visit our education page to learn more. If you would like to donate to Back to Natives, click here to see how you can make an impact on your community and environment. Nature thanks you.

What Native Plant Landscaping is NOT

landscape-design
A Back to Natives Native Plant Design. Want your own? Click HERE.

Sometimes native plant landscaping gets a bad rap. That is because there are those who feel that a native plant landscape simply means deciding to not mow, and neglecting to research the plants that are actually native to their area. They do not create a design or develop a plan. I perform habitat restoration, but I also use my skills to create beautiful and sustainable native landscapes here in California. I always use a plan and then maintain the landscape for the animals, but also considering the aesthetic appearance of the plantings. Without some modicum of design, your neighbors will not appreciate the beauty of locally native plants and want them in their yard.

A beautiful, mature native plant landscape by Back to Natives.
A beautiful, mature native plant landscape by Back to Natives.

Don’t fall prey to hubris and think that just because you planted it, or just didn’t bother to mow it, that you created a natural wildland beneficial to you, your neighbors and to local wildlife. Yes some native animals can use a nonnative weed lot, but it is subsistence living for them, not thriving, quality habitat. A weed lot with no rhyme or reason in your front yard creates enmity around the idea of native gardens, not encouraging the use of local natives in landscaping! This gives a bad name and a black eye to what I and so many others are trying to accomplish, namely to show the real beauty of native landscaping, with little to no maintenance and little to no irrigation.

Just ceasing to mow is not landscaping. It is being an inconsiderate neighbor, and an irresponsible environmentalist by allowing nonnative invasives to establish a seed base from which to invade nearby natural areas! Yes some native animals can use nonnative weed lots to subsist, but weed lots are not viable long term habitat for native animals to thrive in. We must work to turn weed lots into habitat areas. – Reginald Durant, BTN Executive Director

Looking to buy some native plants? The Back to Natives Nursery is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10AM to 3PM. We have numerous species of locally native plants for sale! Please email us to inquire about plant availability, and PLEASE obtain directions before getting in your car! The best directions can be found on our website. See you soon!