What is the Process?
Second Nature Design develops specific solutions that combine your desires for the landscape with what it can support. We begin by measuring to make a basemap, examining the site’s existing conditions, uses and functions and combing that information with what you have in mind and our creative expertise to develop the Concept Plan. We meet to review the Concept Plan until it becomes the drawn expression of your desires in concert with the realistic possibilities of the site. The Conceptual Site and Planting Plans are the drawings that follow from which the licensed contractors and/or landscape architects, engineers work.

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How Long Will It Take?
Depending upon the complexity of the project, the Design Phase takes from three weeks to several months. Your availability and involvement in the process are important factors as we work together.

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Once the Design is Finished, Then What?
To ensure the integrity of the design, Second Nature Design liaisons during the construction phase. We have developed working relationships with some of the industry’s most talented licensed contractors, landscape architects, engineers, woodworkers and nurseries. To be certain that the finishing touches, furniture and art are according to the plan, we will shop for them or take you shopping. For many projects, we custom fabricate art from sculptures to plaintings—living paintings that hang on fences and walls. 

Why Work With a Designer?
A designer provides the skills to clarify your intention for the landscape and to make it work on all levels: architecturally, environmentally, botanically, seasonally, immediately and in the long run. Through site analyses, sketches, concept plans, and budget estimates, the designer works with you to select the most appropriate materials and plants for your site. By investing in a professional designer you save money, resources, and time—it’s much easier to change your mind with a pencil than with a contractor’s shovel. Established relationships with the best people in the industry help ensure your vision manifests.

What is the difference between a landscape designer, a landscape architect and a landscape contractor?
Landscape designers provide design ideas, conceptual plans and planting plans according to The Standards of Practice of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD™). Alma is certified with the APLD. Designers do not provide structural analyses or engineering specifications, rather civil/structural engineers, landscape architects or landscape contractors do. Designers have strong aesthetic sensibilities, understandings of the interplay between materials, and provide horticultural advice and information. In the Bay Area, design fees range from $75-175/hour or 10-15% the construction costs.

Landscape architects have undergraduate and/or graduate degrees in Landscape Architecture, are licensed by the state of California and are trained in designing and engineering exterior environments. Throughout the Bay Area, their fees range from $150-500/hour or 10-20% of the project construction cost. For assistance in finding a landscape architect, visit the ASLA web site.

Landscape contractors are licensed by the state of California and implement the plans of landscape designers and architects, as well as their own plans if they offer design/build services. Some landscape contractors have horticulture backgrounds. Contractors submit fixed price or a time & materials bid.

How Should I Plan?
We design in every season. If you begin your design in winter, you will be ready for early spring planting. Late summer is the perfect time to take advantage of an autumn installation allowing the plants to settle during the rainy season.

Everyone's garden needs is individual. That is why we offer a range of services. Our contractors understand complex retaining systems, elaborate water walls, and traffic-friendly patios. Our irrigation experts are water-wise, lighting professionals are bright, and our ongoing care teams have two green thumbs, and yards of knowledge.


In this step we meet at your site, listen to your ideas, offer design and/or plant suggestions, provide cost information, and references for professional services that you may need. This is an appropriate step for established gardens with a trouble spot, or an area that needs a new feel—hopefully it’s time to say farewell to the lawn, revisit the swing set and introduce a water-wise planting scheme. This service is $120/hour for the first hour and $95 for additional hours, plus travel time one-way if more than 20 miles from San Francisco, payable at the time of the visit.

Every landscape design project is unique, depending on the site, the level of detail/ custom elements (sculptures, fountains, etc.), the size of the property, and the extent of renovation or installation. The process is described fully in the PROCESS section. This is $95/hour for senior and $45/hour for junior, plus travel time one-way if more than 20 miles from the studio. Generally, a thoughtfully designed urban lot is a $3,500 investment. Second Nature Design requires a 30% retainer to secure your place on the schedule, 30% at the Concept Meeting, and the balance when you receive the Conceptual Site and Planting Plans.

Second Nature Design has established relationships with some of the best nurseries for native, climate appropriate, and hard to find plants in the Bay Area. Alma researches, selects, arranges for and checks deliveries, as well as stages and as an ISA Certified Arborist expertly prunes the plants before planting (which helps them establish more readily). This service is $75ph and whenever possible we offer 25% discount off the retail cost of plants.

To make certain the design’s integrity is upheld, we liaison with the licensed providers on the job. Project Coordinating Fees are by percentage of the total or $75/hour.

The talented sculptors, metal fabricators, wood workers with whom I work transform ideas into three-dimensions. Finding or making the right table, chairs, benches, hammocks, potting tables, sheds takes time. I am happy to shop and share my resources. Finishing touches such as pillows, art on walls, lights are essential to give the garden a complete feeling.

I am an ISA Certified Arborist, specializing as a pediatreecian--aesthetic pruner of small/young garden trees for beauty and integrity. My roots as an arborist came from establishing and years running the Ongoing Tree Care department of Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francsisco. Looking at the bigger garden picture, we provide chemical free ongoing care to maintain the garden design's integrity and keep in touch with you.