The Value of Custom Design

By Christie Coxley, President, APLDWA

The complexities that arise in designing a garden or a landscape come from the necessary intersection of multiple disciplines in order to address all the layers that abound in nature. To succeed there needs to be some proficiency with numerous fields of study: horticulture, soil biology, engineering, and art to name a few.

With stores, showrooms and the internet full of beautiful, well-made items available simply by pulling out a credit card or clicking a button, why would people happily wait 16 weeks for planter boxes? Why agree to a custom outdoor kitchen, knowing that as a result the stone patio will be delayed another month or two? What is so wonderful about that fabric, that wood, that ironwork that makes it worth the extra expense, the extra work required, and the inevitable wait?

Garden entry gate. Images courtesy of Courtney Olander

There are practical reasons of course. It is often impossible to find an outdoor kitchen or fireplace that will fit precisely, that will match the specific dimensions of the space. Quality can also be a factor. But often the impulse is far more romantic and far more creative. You can't order a railroad garden from a catalog.

800 sq. ft. railroad garden. Image courtesy of Alan Burke, ASLA

Most humans have an innate draw, and some a natural ability, to work on the land--to build things, to plant things and to imagine beauty. It is gratifying to have something specially made, exactly as envisioned, or better than imagined. That's a reason people hire designers in the first place. They want to be involved in the process of creating something that is unique and personal. And, designers bring not only their own skills, but also those of craftsmen-and-women capable of amazing feats and stunning work.

Zinc planter with integrated trellis. Image courtesy of Christie Coxley

Often when people hear the words 'custom-made' they think 'too expensive', but in the long run, custom-made can actually be a better investment. It is more often than not, the only way to bring solutions to steep slopes, tight spaces and to address views and privacy. For us, as designers, designing and building custom garden spaces and elements is a way to bring our talents to the market. By working as a resource for design ideas, construction techniques and industry connections, we provide our clients with beautiful and functional gardens that they can enjoy for a lifetime.

Flagstone patio with built-in bench. Image courtesy of Katie Weber