What services do you provide?
Do I really need a designer for my garden?
How much does it cost?
What is your landscaping background?
What does a garden designer do?

The garden designer’s mission is to make sure you get the garden you desire. Every garden is collaboration between designer and garden owner; the designer brings skills, knowledge and experience. You bring ideas, needs, memories and preferences. Together we create a garden that is uniquely yours. This process of working together goes through four phases:

Discovering Needs: We begin by gathering information about your needs and desires for outdoor living space, recreation and beauty, taking into account your building and maintenance budgets. The results are written up into a report we review together. At that point you decide which parts to go ahead with, and the next phase begins.

Drawing the Plan: We measure and photograph the site, making notes on orientation, climate, slope and conditions in adjoining gardens. With this data, we draw the Preliminary Plan, including new structures, paving and plantings you desire, and meet with you to go over it. After you have studied the plan and made suggestions and amendments, the final Master Plan is drafted and copies are made and delivered to you.

Construction: Next, blueprints are sent to contractors for competitive bidding on the job. We suggest qualified builders for clients who request it. Once you select the firm to install your garden, we meet with the contractor to go over the plan and answer questions. Often, our clients ask us to oversee the installation of the garden and work as their advocate to ensure that no details are overlooked.

Maintenance: Once the garden is built and planted, it needs regular and proper care to grow into its full beauty. We consult with many clients and their regular maintenance crew to schedule pruning, mulching, fertilizing and irrigation inspection and adjustment; we even show them how to care for the plants themselves.

What services do you provide?

Custom Garden Design
When your garden, or a part of it, needs complete remodeling, Elizabeth confers with you and evaluates your garden site to create a plan that suits your family’s needs and budget. You receive a preliminary plan, illustrations showing views of the new garden, and a report to review at your leisure. Then your changes additions are incorporated into the final plan, that’s drawn to scale with plant lists and detailed instructions, ready for contractors to bid on.

Project Management
Getting the garden built is a time-consuming project. Elizabeth can manage the installation including coordinating schedules of builders, carpenters, irrigation and lighting specialists, providing samples and colors of materials for your approval, making sure materials are on hand and that questions are answered so the project moves ahead smoothly and without needless delay.

Planting Plans
When the plants are the problem, Elizabeth consults with you about favorite varieties and colors and your maintenance resources as she analyzes the existing garden conditions and creates new designs for your beds and borders. You receive a plan drawn to scale with complete plant list and instructions on soil preparation and installation, all set for you and your landscapers to use.

Maintenance Consultation
In order for your new garden to grow into its full beauty, Elizabeth will work with your gardening crew on maintenance issues including fertilizing, replenishing soil and mulch, deadheading and pruning of perennials, shrubs and small trees. She has taught homeowners how to do this work themselves. As a Marin Master Gardener, she is up to date on the latest information and resources.

Garden Consultation
Jump-start your own garden projects with an on-site consultation. Elizabeth will spend a 2 hour session with you in your garden conferring about plants to use, design ideas, building materials, pruning and other plant care questions. The session ends with drafting a To Do List with notes on plant names and sources. This is a cost-effective way to start improving your garden while targeting your budget where it will make the biggest impact.

Do I really need a designer for my garden?

While minor garden problems can be solved easily, most gardens benefit from a professional designer’s ability to come up with comprehensive, cost-effective solutions. When you have long-running, frustrating garden problems and don’t have time or expertise to come up with solutions and implement them--that’s the time to call on a garden designer. Specific situations include:

You have moved to Marin County from another part of the country. Because this is a Mediterranean climate, there are a unique group of plants that grow well here—most are not usually grown in other parts of the U.S. In addition, we have a long dry season and limited water supplies, so gardens need careful planning to be successful.

You have moved into a new house and the garden needs remodeling so it works for you and your family.

Something has changed in your garden—perhaps a tree has fallen down, or you are expanding your home—and the garden needs to be modified.

You have a vision of your ideal garden and need someone to draw it up into a plan that can be built.

You know what your garden needs but you don’t have the time to organize and manage the contractors, carpenters, and irrigation and lighting experts and their schedules.

You have an established garden where plants are overgrown or declining; there are fewer flowers and more bare spaces. Plantings may need to be replaced to suit the changed environment.

What does it cost?

A well-designed landscape is an investment that repays you in two ways: In personal enjoyment of your garden and in enhanced valuation of your home.

Studies show that homeowners who install well-designed landscaping realize returns of 150 percent and more on their landscaping dollars when it comes time to sell or refinance their home. For more on landscape as an investment, see Smart Money magazine’s article in the March 2003 issue.

Like many designers, I estimate the costs of a design project and let clients know right away what the total fees would be. I have worked with clients on large and small projects ranging from on site consultations (starting at $150) to complete garden renovations.

What is your landscaping background?

Elizabeth Navas Finley is a garden designer and educator with over 20 years experience in the Bay Area.

She studied design and horticulture at the University of California Extension in San Francisco, Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, and with British designers Robin Templar Williams and Duncan Heather.

Travels to England, Spain, France, Italy and Japan have added to her design background, and training as a Master Gardener through the University of California Cooperative Extension, has increased her technical knowledge of soils, climate, plants and diseases.

Her articles on design and horticulture have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday, Home+ Garden, Herb Quarterly and in the anthology, “Bay Area Gardening”. She has given talks at the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club, the San Rafael Public Library and Sloat Garden Centers in Marin.

Member: Association of Professional Landscape Designers

UC Certified Marin Master Gardener since 1996

Mill Valley English Country Gardens | San Anselmo CA Water Saving Gardens | CA Rock Gardens | Novato Italian Gardens | Mill Valley Japanese Gardens | Novato Rock Gardens |