Process of Design-Site Analysis

Site Analysis and the Importance of Good Documentation

If you are following along, you are getting a good idea what to think about before you put a spade in the ground. You also are getting a great understanding how to talk to a contractor to express your vision. And you can intelligently make sure he does not miss something important to further complicate and alter your future plans.

Design professionals many never show you these diagrams, or may only do them for very large projects, but what you are seeing is design thinking. I hope to have you thinking like a designer on your next project.

Your home is here to stay most likely, so when you do your landscaping or garden plan, think about what I have mentioned.

Even if you are revising your garden, go inside and look out. You should see what you want to accomplish and what pretty vignettes you have the ability to create. Just remember, if you make your home and garden a reflection of you and your tastes, you will be a very happy homeowner.  And if you work with a professional, make sure they understand your desires and needs.

Tomorrow, we move onto the next step in the process of design. The Needs Diagrams and what they mean to a successful project. How do you incorporate functional need and have it work seamlessly into your design?

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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22 Responses to Process of Design-Site Analysis

  1. What a professional! I have been following your design posts with awe, Donna. Your depth of detail and extensive knowledge is praiseworthy. Some nice tips too for the gardener at the end of the design process including how the sun angle varies considerably with the seasons and how stone mulch can be used to stop rain splash on wooden fixtures.

    • Thanks. I will have many tips as the design progresses to Design Development. This is the stage having schematic drawings, the time when all the decisions come together into a workable plan. It is where an architect or designer tries out many ideas and rectifies the ‘whys’ of the design. Like for instance, in the views plan today, where it has a negative view to a neighbor’s property and above ground pool, a flowering tree solves that issue nicely. No more seeing topless bathing.

  2. Where do you get the information about the difference between winter and summer sun angles Donna? I have a terrible tendency to forget how much less sun there is in winter, not just in terms of duration but because it is lower in the sky so that shadows from surrounding buildings and trees are longer.

    • The information will vary as to geographical location and season, but it is found in architectural books or you can enter your longitude and latitude to find the sun’s azimuth anytime of the year or get a diagram showing it through the seasons. If I can locate a slide chart I have, I can find it for any time, location, etc. anywhere. This chart gives the angle at anytime, so we can anticipate for shading situations. It is more for building design than landscape design, but is important because structures shading, say in cities, have a huge affect on the quality of life for us and the plants.

  3. Donna says:

    wow..such great info…I am happy to see that even though I have no formal training, my experience for over 25 years have made me consider many of your points…of course I have so much to learn yet!! Thx teacher!!

    • Experience is the best teacher. I have had 6 years of university, 23 years professional practice and Master Gardener training and teaching, and I have to admit learning my most useful info did come at the hands of field work, in both architecture and landscaping. I was and still am a sponge in the field. There are always others with better ideas and methods to learn from. When you love your work, learning is fun.

  4. Connie says:

    My collection of historic photos of our house has shown me that prior owners of our place have also struggled with the landscaping of the front of the house. It seems that every twenty years or so, the front of the house is barren. It’s barren now, because we removed a 15′ tall hedge of Burford holly, and we are now weighing our options for a truly-permanent solution. Old house = boxwood, is my thinking. Which one, though? I’ll let you know.

  5. Cat says:

    Thanks for sharing your extensive knowledge Donna. Like Janet, I particularly enjoyed the information about how much of a difference there is for available sunlight between summer and winter…I’ll use your tip to find more specific information about Austin. Thanks!

  6. This is great for making those plans this winter. When spring comes, it’s too exciting to start a project. Sometimes, the plan isn’t complete. I have tons of photos of our projects. They really help.

  7. Site analysis sounds so much more professional than “wandering around the yard mumbling to herself”. You are a true expert!! Excellent info, as usual!! :o)

    • It is professional, but to keep in mind the bigger points like sun, views, circulation, gives you better design clarity. It is less over whelming when thinking about where to start. I always start with circulation first. How you access and leave a site, home or even a garden room.

  8. You are providing an invaluable outline for us all. Now if we can just have the discipline to follow it.

  9. I’ve always tried to avoid analysis because it seems like a lot of extra work and I’m lazy. With this patio addition, it’s probably about time I started paying attention to advice like this to prevent headaches or worse, disasters.

    • Analysis does not have to be so detailed or even written down if you can keep the points in the back of you mind. Writing it down is good for large project and if you want to keep things organized. I do not form these diagrams unless it is a huge project. But they make it easier to follow the thinking process seeing it in graphic form.

  10. Donna, A most valuable and important post. I so wish I had taken before shots of my land! That is great advice as is considering the sunlight throughout the seasons . . . plus lots more solid practical suggestions. Hiring the right contractor . . . very important. If they cannot see your vision . . . or will not attempt to . . . one might want to look around more.

    • I myself only have a few images when I purchased, but if I bought a large property new today, I would have a hundred images, taken at all times of the year. I always tell homeowners to live in their home for a full year before making decisions outdoors. Follow the sun for a year and document. This is a great way to have a successful garden. Plants will be thankful. Plus so will people when you have great lighting/privacy for outdoor spaces. Where you position trees is a big reason for living in a place and learning the lay of the land.

  11. lifeshighway says:

    You, this is exactly why were have always hired a landscape architect. We did not do if for this house, most because we thought we understood after 3 times how to go about designing the grounds of the house. Mostly I find, we also walk around mumbling to ourselves.

    Fascinating article. I have book marked it for further reference. Thank you so much, Donna.

  12. earthymind says:

    i think site analysis is the first step to every design,architectural or landscape!!we have been learning this since the first year of architecture.however there are very few practising architects who actually carry out this process in practise.
    Your site analysis is indepth and it has helped me in gaining a few points for my thesis site analysis…thank you so much!!

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