Choosing A Landscape Designer – What Does A Landscape Designer Do

Landscape Architect sketching Detail on Garden Plan. Design, Idea and Sketch is my own Work.
Image by andreaskrappweis

By Karen Boness, Owner of Wild Willow Landscape Design, ISA Certified Arborist, Certified Permaculture Designer

Choosing a landscape designer can seem daunting. As with hiring any professional, you want to be careful to choose the person that is best for you. This article provides information on things you need to know to make finding a landscape designer an easier process.

How to Find a Landscape Designer

The first step in choosing a landscape designer is determining your budget. How much money do you have available for this project? Remember that a well-designed and implemented landscape design can increase your property value.

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The second step involves making three lists.

  • Look at your landscape. Create one list that contains everything you want to remove from your garden. Tired of that old 1980s hot tub you never use? Put it on the “GET-Rid-OF List.
  • Write up a second list that contains everything you like in your existing landscape. You love that funky DIY slate patio you installed 5 years ago. It’s perfect. Put it on the TO-KEEP List.
  • For the third list, write down all the features you would love to add to your new landscape. You dream of a grapevine and wisteria draped redwood-Douglas fir pergola that provides shade for a table that seats 16. But you don’t know if that makes sense or even it if you can afford it. Put It on the WISH-List.

Write everything down even if you can’t imagine how it will all fit in. These lists don’t have to be perfect or definite. The idea is to develop some clarification for you. With your three lists and your budget in mind, choosing a landscape designer will be much easier.

Contact your friends, family and local nurseries to get local recommendations. Interview two or three local landscape designers. Ask them about their design process and discuss any concerns you have about the project. See if they are a good fit for you personally.

  • Does this person want to impose a design upon you?
  • Is he/she willing to work with you to create a space that fits your microclimate and your design aesthetic?
  • Discuss costs in as much detail as is necessary for you to feel comfortable moving forward. Let him or her know your budget.
  • Listen to his or her feedback. Is your budget reasonable? Is this designer willing to work with you on a project that fits your budget?

Before you move forward, make sure you have a written contract that specifies costs, the process for change orders and a timeline.

Landscape Designer Facts and Information

So what does a landscape designer do anyway? Before you begin your quest for a designer, it helps to understand more about what he/she does or doesn’t do. Landscape designer facts that may impact your decision are as follows:

  1. You can find a list of professional landscape designers at the national Association for Professional Landscape Designer (APLD) website: https://www.apld.org/
  2. Landscape designers are unlicensed – so they are limited by your state in what they can depict in a drawing. Typically, they create detailed planting plans with conceptual drawings for hardscape, irrigation, and lighting.
  3. Landscape designers can cannot create and sell construction drawings – unless they are working under a licensed landscape contractor or landscape architect.
  4. Landscape designers typically work with or for landscape contractors to make the installation process seamless for their clients.
  5. Sometimes landscape designers obtain their landscape contractor’s license so they can offer you both the “Design” portion of the project as well as the “Build” portion of your project.
  6. If you have a very complicated project, you may choose to hire a licensed landscape architect.

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