What Are Types Of Landscape Design – What Do Landscape Designers Do

Landscape Designer Holding Blueprints In A Neighborhood
landscaper types
(Image credit: davydov)

The language of landscape design can be confusing. What do landscapers mean when they say hardscape or softscape? There are different types of garden designers too – landscape architect, landscape contractor, landscape designer, and landscaper. What is the difference? Who should I hire? What do landscape designers do? Read on to learn more.

Different Types of Garden Designers

Landscape architects, landscape contractors, and landscape designers are the most common types of garden designers.

Landscape architect

A landscape architect is someone who has a college degree in landscape architecture and is registered or licensed by your state. Landscape architects have training in engineering, architecture, land grading, drainage, design, etc. They may or may not have extensive knowledge about plants. They create architectural landscape drawings for both commercial and residential landscapes. They don’t typically handle the installation, but they will assist you throughout that process. Landscape architects are typically more expensive than other garden designers. You hire them for a high-level vision and accurate construction drawings.

Landscape contractors

Landscape contractors are licensed or registered in your state. They typically have extensive experience installing new landscapes, modifying existing landscapes, and maintaining landscapes. They may or may not have a college degree in landscaping. They can create design drawings, but they may not have training or education in landscape design. Sometimes they work with pre-existing landscape drawings created by other landscape professionals. You hire them to get the job done.

Landscape designer

In California, landscape designers are not licensed or registered by the state. You hire them to create design drawings for your home garden. Landscape designers may have a landscape or horticultural college degree or certificate or they may not. They often have the reputation of being creative and knowing a lot about plants. In many states, they are limited by state law in the detail that they can display on a landscape drawing. They don’t typically handle the installation. In some states, they are not allowed to perform the installation. The difference between a landscape architect and a landscape designer varies from state to state. In California, landscape architects must have a college education and meet the licensing requirements of the state. Landscape designers are not required to have landscape design training or even horticultural experience, although they typically do. Also, in California, landscape designers are not allowed to create the construction drawings that a landscape architect can produce. California landscape designers are limited to residential conceptual drawings. They are not allowed to handle the landscape installation, although they may consult with their clients about the design focus during installation. Landscape architects can work for both commercial and residential clients.


A landscaper is someone who designs, installs, and/or maintains a landscape but is not necessarily degreed, licensed, or registered.

What are Landscape Specialties?

There are several types of landscape design:

  • Design Only – A landscape firm that only creates designs is a Design Only business.
  • Design/Build – Design/Build indicates a firm that creates the landscape drawings and builds or installs the project.
  • Installation – Some designers might focus exclusively on installation.
  • Maintenance – Some landscape contractors and landscapers focus solely on maintenance.

Some landscape designers differentiate themselves by concentrating on landscape specialties.

  • Hardscape, the man-made portion of the landscape is the backbone of any landscape. Hardscape includes patios, pergolas, paths, pools, and retaining walls.
  • Another landscape specialty is softscape. Softscape covers all the plant material.
  • Other landscape specialties include interior landscaping vs. exterior landscaping or residential vs. commercial.
Karen Boness

Karen Boness is the founder of Wild Willow Design, an Australia-based company that specializes in ecological landscape design.