When it comes to the landscape design of your timber home, a little advanced planning can go a long way—especially for a new construction project.

That’s the tried-and-true advice of landscape architect Danna Cain of Atlanta-based design-build firm Home & Garden Design. It was three decades ago that, as a graduate graphic artist, Danna’s career took a turn toward garden design, eventually leading her to become a certified landscape architect. Her experience in residential work and planting makes her a unique expert in her field.

The benefits to preparation and forethought reveal themselves in the short term as well as over time. When proper soil and shrubbery are considered, Danna explains, the results are not merely eye-catching; they’re advantageous to the environment, the time you’ll devote to maintenance—and, ultimately, even your pocketbook.

Danna offers her recommendations for customized residential landscape design, from working on a budget to protecting existing vegetation to finding a look that’s native to your home’s locale. But most important of all, she says, is planning ahead and finding the professional designer that’s right for you and your landscape project.

Timber Homes Illustrated: What’s the first piece of advice you offer to consumers considering the landscape of their home?

Danna Cain: I have a few tips. First, I highly recommend they invest in a professional design. Even if they’re on a tight budget, it will save in the long run, as mistakes can be very costly. A professional will point out aspects of the project that the consumer may not realize such as integral drainage and erosion control.

If they need to cut costs, they can consider handling some portions of the actual installation themselves. I’d also recommend spending time to define what it is they want for their property. Make a list of priorities of what you want and what you dream of down the road. When consumers start looking at designers, be aware that every company has a different methodology, and they need to find the best fit.

Take the time to understand cost, and realize that some companies may quote a flat fee versus an hourly fee. But be aware that a person with experience charging an hourly fee probably can do the job in a lot less time than somebody right out of school.

Search out a landscape architect or garden designer who specializes in residential projects that encompass hardscape and planting design. Not all landscape architects do homes; most do commercial planning. And not all landscape architects are proficient in the use of plants the way that garden designers are. I’m both a landscape architect and a garden designer, and that’s not common.

THI: At what point in the homebuilding process should consumers consider their landscape design?

DC: As early as possible. At the very least, they should try and get a broad concept of where they’re headed. I recommend beginning by designing the size, shape and location of all of the hardscape, as well as defining all bed areas versus lawn areas. This is especially important for building “green” or desiring an organic garden, since both methods strive to eliminate the use of chemicals or toxic substances and encourage wise use of all resources. You’ll want to be consistent to your approach from the beginning in a way that’s synergistic.

THI: What can consumers do to limit land damage during the construction process, particularly for a large or remote lot?

DC: It’s very important that both the homeowner and the builder have an understanding about how trees are damaged and killed. Tree roots extend all the way out to just past the canopy of the tree. Orange fencing or a physical barrier is the best way to protect the tree, but we’ve found that you also need to be clear that encroaching into the tree-save area will not be permitted. Consider adding a penalty into the contract for any damage to the trees. We’ve had contractors take down the temporary fencing for a day to bring the bulldozer in, over the tree roots, then re-erect the fencing. This defeats the purpose.

Contact Danna Cain and Home & Garden Design at www.homegardendesign.com or call (770) 938-6688. The address for the web site maintained by the American Society of Landscape Architects is www.asla.org.