Charles King Sadler, Landscape Designer
This owner of King Garden Designs in New York’s Westchester County is also a certified arborist.
What’s the biggest misconception builders have about landscape designers?
The biggest misconception people seem to have about landscape-design services is that they are expensive, or that a professional design will create high-maintenance, costly gardens. A designer can work with your budget to create an affordable plan that fulfills your vision without making costly mistakes and wasting years in which the garden of your dreams could be growing. Hiring a landscape professional could be a smart investment as well. Thoughtfully designed grounds can add significantly to the value of your home.
What tips do you have for builders when they work with landscape designers?
Builders can ensure the most successful outcome for clients by inviting a designer to help develop the outdoor spaces from the beginning of a new build or renovation project. A professional can test soil, help determine the best location to site buildings, and create a drainage plan. Including a certified arborist as well can ensure that existing trees and shrubs are protected from construction damage.
What problems do you commonly see on construction sites?
I often see construction damage to tree trunks, shrubs, and root zones from machinery and vehicles. Poor-quality soil—usually what was excavated from the foundation and that is sometimes filled with clay—is placed in planting areas. I find all kinds of construction debris—drywall, concrete blocks, rubble, trash—buried on property. Newly constructed homes are often landscaped quickly with plants that may look good now but will not survive and thrive. They’re usually planted too close together and will quickly outgrow the area they’re situated in.
What’s the biggest mistake you encounter in landscape design?
The biggest mistake I see is having the wrong plant in the wrong place. Before you begin designing, ask what the site requires with respect to your goals: shade, flowers, privacy screening, etc. It’s important to know how a site will look from a variety of vantage points and at different times of the year. Determine whether deer or other wildlife pose a threat to plantings. Once Endless Summer, Limelight, and Oak Leaf hydrangeas, as well as Knock Out and Drift roses, provide months of flowers, foliage, structure, and colorful bark in a garden while requiring little care once established.
Can you say something about designing for all seasons?
A truly noble garden is beautiful in all four seasons. Using native plants adds great interest to your garden and animates it by attracting local and migrating birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
For example, here in New York, evergreens are important for winter views such as from the kitchen and the dining room, and plantings that yield berries add character and attract birds in winter months. Interesting bark and colorful stems also illuminate the garden during winter. Longblooming and reblooming plants such as Endless Summer, Limelight, and Oak Leaf hydrangeas, as well as Knock Out and Drift roses, provide months of flowers, foliage, structure, and colorful bark in a garden while requiring little care once established.
Do you plant with an eye toward increasing a home’s performance?
Yes. Strategic planting for sun and shade is crucial. A truly successful landscape helps reduce energy costs. By strategically planting deciduous trees on the east and west side of a residence, you can create shade during hot summer months, which reduces cooling costs. After their leaves fall, they will then allow sunlight in to ease the heating load in winter. Taller evergreens planted northwest of a house will help baffle the intensity of cold winter winds, which again helps reduce heating costs.
What drives your design approach?
The home’s architectural style is a key factor in the design process, as are the site’s characteristics, such as its exposure. How much wind travels through the property? How much sun and shade is there? What’s the soil quality? The answers to these questions inform the design and help create a link between indoor and outdoor spaces. My design approach is to harmonize the home’s interior and exterior by paying careful attention to the site’s topography.
What drew you to landscape design?
I was drawn by the mix of design, art, and horticulture, not to mention the joy of being outdoors in all seasons and of experiencing the beauty and grandeur of nature and wildlife. I embrace the challenge and excitement of listening to a client’s vision and then bringing it to reality with living plants. Caring for a garden and then seeing it mature over the years is by far my greatest joy.
For the complete interview, visit FineHomebuilding.com/extras.