DynaSCAPE releases DS|Design v5.4

We’re excited to let you know that we’ve released DS|Design v5.4. This is a free update for all of our up-to-date DynaSCAPE clients. The main new feature that many have been waiting for is the new mouse-wheel zoom tool, which allows for quicker navigation within the software. Along with new features, we have also included a number of performance enhancements to improve the user experience within DS|Design. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the update yet, click here to read about all of the new changes and improvements, as well as instructions on how to download this update.

If you have problems downloading the update or your software is out-of-date, call us at 1.800.710.1900 ext.2 to resolve your issues and discuss upgrade pricing.


Rob Wieske

Georgia Summer Teachers Conference 2010

This past Monday and Tuesday (July 12,13) I attended the annual Georgia Summer Teachers Conference in Augusta, GA, for the first time. With well over 100 Colleges and Universities now teaching DynaSCAPE across North America, we are seeing more and more interest from instructors who are looking to implement DynaSCAPE at the High School level. The conference was attended by over 400 Agriculture Instructors from 320 Secondary Schools across Georgia.

The first day of  ‘Vendor Visitation’ was a chance to meet the Instructors. It provided an excellent opportunity to explain how DynaSCAPE can be incorporated into their curriculum at the High School level, and how this will better prepare their students for their future College/University design courses.

On the second day, I held two ‘Breakout Sessions’ which were 55 minute presentations on DynaSCAPE Software. These sessions were well attended, and allowed me to provide a much more detailed look at how DynaSCAPE benefits Landscape Designers and Design/Build Contractors, and why our software is being widely used throughout the Landscape Industry.

The event was well-organized, and I look forward to continuing to work with the GVATA (Georgia Vocational Agricultural Teachers Association) in preparing students for their future careers in the Green Industry.

Rob Wieske

A new year brings new challenges…

Hi Folks,

Its the start of a new year and at DynaSCAPE it is a very busy time. As usual, we can be found at a number of trade shows across the Canada and the US. Please stop by to see some of the exciting new changes we’ve made in the past year to all our products.

2009 was a challenging year, mainly because of the economy, but based on an excellent December sales report things appear to be improving. We hope this year brings improved success and more confidence to all of us in this industry.

This past year we put out new and better versions of DS|Design and DS|Color and the feedback has been very good. We have plans this year to improve all our products even more, and we hope to add a new product or two to the lineup. You should see a good number of small but helpful changes to DS|Design as well as an integration piece with Google SketchUp to give you the opportunity to create 3D models of your design. DS|Color will go through another phase of changes, one of them hopefully being an ‘auto-color’ feature to make coloring even faster. We are also looking at adding a brand new presentation tool that makes use of both newer technologies and our changing culture.

Developing software has it’s own challenges and things don’t always go as smoothly as you hope. Our goal is to make our products as efficient and easy to use as possible, and sometimes a seemingly small change can be more difficult than it appears on the outside. Like any business we continue to weigh out the cost vs benefits of everything we do. We want to continue providing tools for the industry that we passionately care about.

All the best for the new year!

Len Hordyk

Cool DS|Color changes coming…

Hi Folks,

I wanted to let you know that I’ve been testing a bunch of the new features and improvements we’re making to DynaSCAPE Color and one of them really stands out. We’re adding a Drawing Update feature, that allows you to make changes to your drawing in DS|Design and then automatically ‘update’ the drawing in DS|Color. I know you’ll be pleased about it, because it is one of our most  frequently requested enhancements.

This is how the Drawing Update in Color works: Say you’ve colored 90% of your drawing and notice a spelling mistake or you forgot to create a closed area on the drawing. All you have to do is make the changes on your drawing in DS|Design, save it, and then update the drawing in DS|Color. Everything you colored earlier will remain colored except any new things you add. And, there is no need to start over if the customer asks for a revision. It’s pretty smart too: if you move stuff around, like trees, they will remain colored. If you change the shape of an area it adjusts the color to the new shape. Cool stuff!

We are very excited about how well this feature is working and we think you will be too. We are making more changes to Color and I will keep you posted. These will all be part of an update to be released later this year.

Len Hordyk

Site Measuring Tips – Taking Site Measurements Properly

Site Measuring Tips – Taking Site Measurements Properly

This article was written by Len Hordyk, DynaSCAPE Product Manager – Design Solutions. Len has over 20 years of experience in the landscape industry.

As a landscape designer I’ve often come across site measurements taken by others that leave much to be desired. Taking proper site measurements is all about knowing which ones are the critical dimensions you need, and how to take them. Having the right equipment helps too!


Must-have tools for the trade include a small retractable tape measure, a large 100’ (30m) open reel tape and a flat screwdriver. The screwdriver is to hold the end of the large tape by shoving it through the end loop and into the ground (eliminating the need for a second person). You can also use a measuring wheel, but it’s not going to give you the most accurate measurements.


Measuring a house and other straight or square objects will generally only require single measurements (i.e. measure from house corner to window edge, window width and so on) as you make your way around the house. This is easy stuff. You can also take a running measurement from the corner of the house and pick up the edges of the windows and doors along the way until you reach the other corner. If the house is large, use the big tape and screwdriver.

For almost all other objects you will need to take two measurements to properly document their location. Things like angled property lines, trees and sheds fit this category and there are two methods you can use to measure them:

Rise and Run Method: This is my preferred method and it’s easy to do by yourself. For this method you need a house or building to work off of. Take measuring a tree in a front yard as an example. The first step is to measure down to the tree keeping yourself square with the wall of the house (A) and then measure across to the tree (B). To measure to the tree, line the end of your tape measure up with the side of the house, and hold your tape measure at 90° to that line to get the distance to the tree. These two dimensions are easy to translate when drafting the base plan later.


Figure 1

Triangulation Method: This method is very accurate and also easy to translate to your base plan drawing, especially when using CAD software. To triangulate you need two fixed points and the corners of a house typically work best. First measure from one corner (A) and then the other (B) – see Figure 2. If you are by yourself, you will need the long tape and screwdriver here (having another pair of hands and two long tapes will also make it go a little faster). To translate the measurements onto your base plan back at the office, use circles, with the dimensions to the tree as the radius of the circles. Where the two circles intersect is the exact location of the tree – see Figure 3. This method also works great for figuring out the location of the corners on an angled lot.


Figure 2



Figure 3

Take Critical Measurements

Having a lot of measurements isn’t helpful if the critical ones are missing. For example, if you have angled property lines, you should take two measurements from the corners of the house for each of them. This will give you the correct angles and you won’t have to measure to the corners – the corners will be wherever the lines intersect.

Other Helpful Tips

Learn to Sketch Proportionally: Take a few extra minutes to sketch the site in proportion as much as possible. This will help you translate the dimensions later at the office. Use a pencil and eraser as opposed to a pen.

Take Lots of Photos: If you miss a measurement, you can often figure it out from photos. Think about taking photos from a number of angles to help you out if this should  happen. With digital cameras pictures are free!

Ask for a Lot Plan: If you can get a lot plan (survey) before hand, print it out and take it with you to put your site measurements on. Some lot plans have a fair bit of information on them, often including fences and trees. But they don’t have doors and windows on them, so you will still have to do some measuring. Also, they generally only have measurements to the front property line, not the road and sidewalk – you’ll have to take those as well.

Measure Critical Grade Changes: If your landscape plan will include hardscape elements like a walkway, deck, or pool, make sure that you measure the grade changes that will affect the design. For a front walkway, the critical measurement is the change in grade from the front door to the driveway. For pools it is usually best to take surveying equipment like a transit or laser level on site to capture the grade information accurately. Contractors don’t like adding steps or retaining walls where they haven’t accounted for them on their estimate.

Planting Design Principles – How to choose plant material for your designs

Planting Design Principles – How to choose plant material for your designs

This article was written by DynaSCAPE Design products manager Len Hordyk. Len has over 20 years of experience in the landscape industry.

Abstract: This article is intended to address the struggles designers have with choosing plant materials for their designs. The principles outlined here can easily be applied to any scenario you may come across, regardless of the region of the country you are working in.

The problem: Most of us in this industry like taking the opportunity to review and critique landscape projects that were built by our competitors. We’re usually able to pick out something we might change, or we have a different vision for the property, but once in while you see a yard that simply works. We can’t always pinpoint why it works, but there’s something about the property that’s elegant, and creative. Over the years I’ve learned that one of the important elements that contribute to a great design is, planting design. Plants aren’t the only part of every design but they play a very important role and, if not done well, they can actually hinder a great hardscape design.

The problem that many of us face is the struggle we have with trying to choose plants that work well to create that perfect composition. Most know a lot about individual plants but it gets more complex and difficult when we put them altogether. We try to apply the design principles we know (scale, balance, repetition etc.) but there seems to be more to planting design, and there is. Once you’ve learned some of the basic principals that I’ll write about today, you’ll find it’s easier than you might have thought.

The solution: When it comes to planting design it comes down to a few simple rules that, once understood, will make creating that masterpiece a little easier. First choose your focal points and then add the rest of the plants to complement your focal points. Let’s take a closer look:

Choose Focal Points First: No matter what type of garden you are designing you must have pieces that make your eye pause and look. These pieces need to stand out from the rest of the items in the garden by its features – size, shape or color. When referring to plants, these are usually called ‘specimens’. Focal points can also be rocks, a sculpture, an arbor etc.

Typical Primary and Secondary Focal Points

The number of focal points needed depends on the size of the space you are working in. If you use too many in one area it will begin to look busy and random. For a typical average front yard planting you only really need one larger specimen plant as your primary focal point and maybe one smaller one as a secondary focal point, to go along with a few accents like boulders or ornamental grasses.

Add Complimentary Plants: Once your focal points have been established you can begin filling in the rest of the plantings. The actual plants you choose now are critical because they need to complement these focal points. Here are a few tips that will help you decide what to choose:

  • Don’t crowd your specimen plants with large shrubs or perennials – instead, plant low growing evergreens, shrubs or groundcovers around them.  This way, if your specimen has an interesting trunk form, you are not hiding that characteristic.
  • Complement focal points with appropriate sized boulders – unless the boulder is the focal point, don’t make it too big.  On the other hand, small rocks can look more like a homeowner do-it-yourself project.
  • Plant groupings of plants instead of singles– leave the singles to the specimen plants.  Too many varieties will also look busy and random.
  • Think of using contrast for plant combinations– use contrasting textures (bold vs. fine), contrasting form (upright vs. spreading) and contrasting color (dark green vs. yellow).  Too much of the same thing will look bland. Varying the height and the form gives the best combination.
  • Don’t put too much emphasis on flower color – if the plants you use only flower for a short time, don’t be too concerned about flower color – look at the form and texture of the plant first, since that is what you will see most of the time.
  • Think of foliage colors that work with the house exterior – think of contrast here too.  For example, don’t put a burgundy/red specimen in front of an orange/red brick house.


Bad Planting Design – Crowded & Lacking Contrast


Good Planting Design – Focal Point is Complimented

Conclusion:  Try using these simple principles the next time you need to create a planting design.  You will begin to understand why some projects you see really work well and be able to apply it to your own.  Choose your focal points wisely and complement them with contrasting, un-crowded plant groupings.


Focal Points should be obvious in Plan View