Having a perfect render is great for today, but having a plan that understands the realities of your neighborhood is great for tomorrow. In a recent article published by the San Diego Union Tribune, reporter Dirk Sutro examined the history of palm trees in San Diego. While he argues that the palm tree is an iconic symbol of the city, the professionals he interviews have differing opinions. "They look like a telephone pole with a poof on top," said garden designer and television host Nan Sterman. Landscape architect Andrew Spurlock suggests that gardeners should plant date palms instead of Mexican fan palms, likely due to the latter species' aggressive expansionism and messy growth. Having the local chops to understand the maintenance requirements for different local botanical icons can be the difference between a landscape you love in a decade and one that you regret.
Understanding the future impact of your landscape is a key step, but it might not be enough. In large sections of the American southwest, concerns about water usage continue to grow. On June 2, Arizona's state Department of Water Resources announced that the Phoenix area doesn't have the groundwater capacity for currently planned housing. This means that new builds will have to look elsewhere for water supplies. While landscape planning in other regions might not need the same urgent attention to water needs, it's still a a good idea to look at local trends in both climate and resource availability. Taking a conservative guess at what your region might look like in a decade will help to future-proof your landscape.
It's all too easy to come up with something that looks amazing on your screen without realizing exactly how much it will cost. It's extra important to factor in land clearing or brush removal services in your estimate and not just factoring in the cost of new plants and structures. Don't forget to make sure you understand what kind of base soil you're working with. Getting partway through a build and realizing that your local soil isn't suitable for your plans is a great way to add several thousand extra dollars to your project. Taking the design phase slowly and doing a bit of extra legwork while you're making 3D renders might be boring, but it's probably going to save you a lot of time and headache in the long run.
3D landscape design is a brilliant tool that allows designers to manipulate and visualize landscapes in real-time. If you want to get the best results, however, you'll want to treat it as a step in a larger project and not just as a way to make a killer render. The landscapes you design will function best with local context and knowledge, future-proofed ideas, and careful due-diligence when it comes to budgeting and knowing your site. Sticking to these principles will help ensure that you can turn your 3D landscapes into real, functioning places that stand the test of time.