Karen McGrath Design

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About Karen McGrath
The Design Process
Flow Chart
Press and Publications

The Garden Design Process


The End Result Should be Beyond Your Expectations

My work is focused on creating for you a Landscape Master Plan that will be installed by either a landscape contractor or by yourself.

Our design work starts with in-depth conversations about your wants and needs for the exterior spaces - what you like and don't like about your site, how you intend to use it, and what you have always dreamed of having. Preferences in garden styles, colors, plants, and construction materials are also discussed.

Next, I analyze the site, including existing features, plants, views, topography, drainage, required set-backs and other local zoning matters. Photographs and measurements of the site are taken for reference throughout the project. This information from the property and from you is synthesized into a DESIGN PROGRAM which lists our design goals for your new outdoor space.

With this in hand, I create your landscape plan and put it together with a complete design package.

Landscape Planting Plan. This is our main tool for communicating the design ideas and information needed to make your garden. It addresses every square foot of the project area and describes what is to be done where, as your time and resources permit. New garden elements and special features will be described and related to each other and the existing conditions. All plants, including their quantities and their spacing, will be shown, as well as areas that will be paved, mulched, or covered with stone. I will also note the locations for general types of landscape lighting fixtures to enliven your garden when the sun goes down. You'll receive full-scale, black and white copies and also a color-rendered copy of your plan.

Plant Schedules. These are essentially your shopping lists containing all your plants, arranged by both their botanical and common names, the quantities needed, and the recommended sizes you'll need to buy.

Illustrated Master Plant Catalog. This is your very own customized garden guide based on my own database containing descriptions, name pronunciation, horticultural information, and color photos of each plant in your new garden.

Other Information. I also include a variety of helpful materials, idea photos, gardening tips, sources for furnishings, illustrative sketches, etc.

Professional Access. As one of my clients, I am available to you free of charge to answer your questions via telephone or email

Advantages of Having a Plan Prior to Building


Once you have a Landscape Master Plan for your property, you can build it out in phases, as time and resources permit, with the comfort of knowing it all fits together to create a beautiful and unified outdoor setting.


The Landscape Plan is an important and effective communication tool that conveys how your garden should look when it's completed, whether you put it in yourself or have others help you build it.


It is especially useful to have detailed plans when obtaining construction bids, as they will give contractors a clear idea of what they are bidding on. This results in more accurate bids, which are less likely to be changed as the project unfolds.


Considering the high cost of construction these days, money spent on a well-designed landscape is considered to be a good investment. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal document that if you spend 5% of the value of your home on landscaping, and do it wisely, you will get back 150% and more of your investment.