Here are answers to some common questions about the SLAP service. Don’t see your question? Contact us at 541-602-3575 or via the Contact page.
WHO’S BEHIND THIS?
Internationally renowned landscape architect and landscape contractor Owen Dell, RLA, ASLA is the mastermind behind the Sustainable Landscape Action Plan™. Owen has a 44-year commitment to sustainable landscaping, and he has pioneered many of the environmentally beneficial practices that are currently used in the landscaping industry. Owen is one of the prime movers in the growing field of sustainable landscaping, and the Sustainable Landscape Action Plan™ is the natural next step in his long history of innovations. Owen is the principal of the respected landscape architecture firm Owen Dell and Associates, LLC in Corvallis, Oregon. He is also the author of the acclaimed books “Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies®,” and “How to Start a Home-Based Landscaping Business,” as well as many articles and publications. He has written for major publications including Sunset Magazine, Fine Gardening Magazine, National Gardening Magazine, Southern California Gardener, Pacific Horticulture, This Old House, and others. Owen is a popular educator, in constant demand to teach professionals and home gardeners throughout the United States and internationally. For over five years, Owen was also the co-creator, co-writer, and co-host of the popular Southern California television series Garden Wise Guys, the world’s only known sustainable landscaping sitcom. Owen is a true renaissance man of landscaping.
WHO DOES THE SLAP™ WORK?
Here’s the best part. Owen does every SLAP™ and every follow-up visit personally. You get the benefits of his years of experience and you get to work directly with him to optimize the performance of your property and get your costs down. Owen is a great teacher and will take the time to make sure you understand every aspect of the plan. You get only the very best, from the originator of the SLAP™ process!
WHAT’S WITH THAT ACRONYM?
Yes, terribly sorry about that. “SLAP™.” It’s not very pleasant, is it? Well, we liked the term “Sustainable Landscape Action Plan™” because we felt it told the story of our service better than any other term we could think of. The acronym came along for the ride. But rest assured, our service is totally non-violent and we will not harm you or your landscaping.
I LIKE MY LANDSCAPING JUST THE WAY IT IS. WHY SHOULD I CHANGE IT?
Please don’t be offended; we’re not saying that your landscaping is ugly. That has nothing to do with it. In fact, a landscape might look very nice and still be wasting money and resources, like a beautiful gas-guzzling car. The fact is that you may not have to change your landscaping at all. Much of the waste in landscapes comes from poor management, like overwatering for instance. Often, just by changing behavior, waste and costs come way down and the landscape looks the same or even better. And in those instances where physical changes are recommended to optimize your savings and get the best performance out of your property, we can suggest ways to actually improve the appearance of the landscaping while supercharging its efficiency. A little change can result in impressive savings.
WHAT KINDS OF ACTIONS WILL WE HAVE TO TAKE TO GET THE SAVINGS?
If the main problem is poor management, it’s often possible to realize considerable cost savings and improved environmental performance without making any physical changes at all. Other times, we might recommend minor improvements such as upgrading elements of the irrigation system to make it more efficient, or removing overgrown or high maintenance plants. And of course some properties need major alterations because the entire landscape is inherently wasteful. In most cases, minor physical changes, combined with improved management, are all that’s needed.
SO ARE YOU A GARDENING SERVICE?
No. We don’t do gardening. We don’t do landscaping. We don’t have trucks or lawnmowers or shovels. We did all that for many years and our deep experience with the hands-on aspects of landscaping and gardening help make our advice that much more valuable. These days, we are a consultancy firm only, specializing in sustainable landscape architecture, SLAP™ services, management consulting, and garden coaching. But if you need a gardener or a landscape contractor, we will be happy to recommend qualified companies.
WILL I HAVE TO FIRE MY GARDENER?
If you’re happy with your gardener, consider yourself lucky. A professional gardener should have no problem implementing our recommendations. We will provide a simple to-do list format that’s easy to follow. For an additional fee, we can work directly with your gardener to make sure that the changes get implemented properly so that you receive the savings you’re looking forward to.
WILL MY LANDSCAPE NEED TO BE REDESIGNED?
That depends. If we can get enough savings out of behavioral changes, you won’t need to spend a penny on redesigning or making physical changes. But of course some landscapes are inherently inefficient and really need a makeover. And of course it also depends on how much money you want to save and how far down the path of sustainable landscaping you want to go. We make sure that all proposed changes are evaluated for their cost efficiency, and we will provide you with a return-on-investment analysis for any infrastructure changes, so that you know what you’re getting into and what the payback time is for each recommended element. (Please note that design work is not part of a SLAP™. For instance, the SLAP™ will show you how to save money, water, and labor by changing to more appropriate plant species, but it won’t tell you what species to use or provide you with a planting plan. The purpose of a SLAP™ is to analyze and recommend, not to re-design.)
CAN YOU HELP ME IF I NEED DESIGN WORK?
Yes. We are a fully licensed, award-winning landscape architecture firm specializing in sustainable landscape design. We’d be pleased to provide you with a proposal for landscape plans, consultations, and coaching.
WHAT’S MY LANDSCAPING GOING TO LOOK LIKE AFTER WE MAKE THE CHANGES?
It may look the same as it does now. Or there may be minor changes, such as allowing sheared shrubs to grow into their natural shape. If there are major changes to be made, things could look very different. Rest assured, any changes will IMPROVE the appearance of your landscaping as well as making it more efficient. We’re in the business of creating beauty, not ugliness, and sustainable landscaping is better looking than most traditional landscaping. If you have to make physical changes, you can look forward to them because you’re in for a treat.
ISN’T THIS JUST A COME-ON TO SELL ME MORE SERVICES?
No, it isn’t a come-on. The SLAP™ is a stand-alone service that delivers results. If you want to commission us for some of our other services, we’re happy to help you out, but we don’t use the service to get a foot in the door and then pressure you to buy more. We’re a highly regarded professional landscape architecture firm with deep roots going back over 44 years. We don’t need to run a high-pressure sales operation. (And we don’t even offer garden maintenance, landscape installation, or other services that would compete with your existing team.) We charge enough for the Sustainable Landscape Action Plan™ to cover our costs and a reasonable profit, so that we don’t have to hustle you for more work in order to make money. If a competitor comes in with an offer to provide a similar SLAP™-type service at a much lower price then you would be justified in asking them the same question.
HOW LONG WILL THE SLAP™ PROCESS TAKE?
The SLAP™ itself takes 1 to 2 hours on site (longer for larger or more complex properties) plus office time to prepare your customized report, which you will receive a few days after the on-site work. How fast the recommended changes can be made depends on how quickly you and your landscaper or gardener can get to work on them.
HOW LONG BEFORE I SEE THE RESULTS?
If water waste is a key element in the performance of your landscaping, you’ll see a reduction in your water bill as soon as you implement our recommended watering schedule. This can amount to a few dollars a month, or as much as several hundred or even thousands per month for a very large property. If we recommend methods of reducing the labor required to care for your landscape, you will be able to renegotiate the monthly bill with your gardener and results will show up with the next billing. If infrastructure changes are recommended, your SLAP™ will include calculations of the time it will take to recover your investment and begin to enjoy the savings; that can be a few months to several years depending on the type of changes recommended.
HOW MUCH WORK WILL I HAVE TO DO MYSELF?
That’s up to you. In the long run, implementing a SLAP™ will REDUCE your workload, not increase it. That’s the whole idea. But of course if we recommend physical changes, somebody has to do the work to make them happen. If you’re a do-it-yourself type of person, you may have a new project to tackle. If not, we can recommend licensed contractors who can help you.
HOW MUCH MONEY CAN WE SAVE?
Of course this is the key question for most people. And we hate to be evasive, but our answer is that it depends. Consider this: case studies have shown that maintaining a sustainable landscape can cost as little as one-fifth that of maintaining a traditional lawn-and-flowerbeds landscape. (If you want to know more about the cost of a sustainable landscape, check out Santa Monica’s “Garden/Garden” project.) So suppose you are currently spending $300 per month on gardening labor, water, supplies, etc. Could you really expect to cut that to only $60? Maybe. It all depends on your situation. And for a bigger property, such as a homeowner’s association or a commercial site where monthly costs can run $5-10,000 or more, the savings can really be staggering. Even if you only save a few dollars each month, that’s money in your pocket, money that you’re throwing away now.
HOW DOES THE BOOTSTRAP PROGRAM WORK?
One of the great things about getting a SLAP™ is that the savings can start right away, through behavioral changes. We have found that much of the money spent on caring for a typical landscape is wasted through poor management. Discovering that fact led to the development of our Bootstrap model for making the changes recommended in the SLAP™. It’s a simple three-stage process that allows you to make the changes you need with little or no money out-of-pocket. First, you make the behavioral changes we recommend: adjustments to your irrigation program, modifications to pruning and other physical maintenance, and other tweaks to your current management strategy. This results in monthly savings that begin right away. Next, you bank those savings for a year or so, and then invest that money in minor physical changes to the landscaping such as replacement of inefficient sprinkler heads, installation of a water-thrifty smart irrigation controller, and others. That increases your monthly savings even more. Finally, bank that money again to save up for stage three, which involves more ambitious physical changes such as replacement of a water-hogging lawn with more efficient plantings, replacement of labor-intensive plants with well-mannered ones, and so forth. You control how fast you move by choosing whether to invest additional funds beyond the savings in the bootstrap process. But yes, you may be able to get a free landscape conversion, paid for by savings from your initial, one-time investment in a SLAP™.
I CARE A LOT ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT. WHAT KIND OF IMPROVEMENTS WILL I BE ABLE TO LOOK FORWARD TO?
A SLAP™ isn’t just for cheapskates. If you love to do right by the environment, implementing a SLAP™ can pay off big time in water use reduction, the reduction or elimination of pesticides, a smaller carbon footprint, increased carbon sequestration, lower energy bills in houses and buildings, enhanced habitat for wild animals and other creatures, lower fossil fuel use, a quieter neighborhood, and a lot more.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOOK FOR?
We’ll inspect your landscaping for safety hazards, plant health, hardscape problems, fire preparedness issues, and more. A SLAP™ is like a complete physical for your property. If we see something that could use the help of a professional, such as a certified arborist or a geotechnical consultant, we’ll let you know that; and we can recommend qualified professionals.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE CERTIFICATE.
If you implement our recommendations, we can re-inspect your property and issue you a Sustainable Landscape Certificate that shows you’ve done all the right things to bring your landscaping up to optimum environmental performance. What can you do with the certificate? Well, in addition to looking great on your wall, a Sustainable Landscaping Certificate can show prospective buyers that your property is performing optimally and costs much less to operate. If yours is a commercial property, the certificate shows employees, clients, and visitors that you truly care about the environment. And it can be a conversation starter, leading to some great opportunities to educate others about the value of sustainable landscaping.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO LOCAL NON-PROFITS?
We donate 2 percent of our sales (our sales, not our profits) on all SLAPs™ to local environmental and other groups doing good works in your community. For a look at some of the organizations we’ve supported in the past, click HERE.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER SERVICES YOU OFFER?
Owen Dell and Associates, LLC is a full-service landscape architecture firm. We’re experts in landscape design for residential, commercial, and public properties, specializing in sustainable design. We can design anything from a perennial border to a college campus. We design foodscapes, native landscapes, public gardens, estate gardens, habitat restoration, hardscape, rainwater harvesting systems, lighting, irrigation and more. We also offer garden coaching, gardener training programs, cost/benefit analysis and tracking, ongoing management services, landscape troubleshooting, classes and lectures.
WHAT GEOGRAPHIC AREAS DO YOU SERVE?
We serve Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley. Jobs beyond the Corvallis/Albany area are subject to travel and mileage charges.
OK, I WANT TO GO AHEAD. WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Simple. Click HERE to fill out our Intake Questionnaire, which will provide us with some initial information about your property. Hit SUBMIT and a representative will contact you within 24 hours (a little longer on weekends, of course) to set up an appointment or to answer questions. That’s all there is to it. Remember, you can’t lose a penny on this service, so why go on wasting money and resources? Oh, and if you have questions that haven’t been answered here and want to talk to a real live person, give us a call at 541-602-3575. Thanks so much for your interest. We hope we can be of service to you very soon!