Landscape Designers, Landscape Architects and Landscape Contractors - What's the Difference?

Landscape Designers, Landscape Architects and Landscape Contractors - What's The Difference?

If you choose to do your landscaping yourself, that's fine. After all, that is pretty much what my entire website Landscape Design Advice is about!

I used to have a professor at Rutgers where I studied Landscape Architecture, and when he was explaining something he would start out like this:

Let's just say......

So, back to hiring someone for your landscape project, let's just say....that you might consider hiring a professional but you don't have the foggiest idea where to start, what they charge, or what the differences are between the different types.

Here are some types of people you can use to design your project:

  1. Landscape Contractors
  2. Landscape Designers
  3. Landscape Architects
Landscape Contractors

Landscape contractors are often known as Design Build companies. They design it and their hope is to build it for you. The design is less important to their financial well being than the installation of the project, because this is where they make their money. Landscape contractors may provide you with a sketch or a more detailed design. They also may just wing it. They may have people working for them providing the designs or they may subcontract a landscape designer. The design might be free, or it may have a low, medium or high price tag. If they are charging you a hefty amount for the design, most likely....well, you usually get what you pay for. A more experienced landscape designer is probably doing your design and has a wide range of expertise.

Landscape contractors also may own a nursery or garden center or they may not.

There are two main things to know regarding landscape contractors. If they own a garden center, they usually want to use plants that are in stock. This may get plants elsewhere, but using their stock is usually their preference. If you have seen their work, or they offer to show you some of their installed projects, ask if the person who did that particular project is still working there.

Landscape Designers

Landscape designers can have a wide variety of expertise from various backgrounds. They may have a degree in Landscape Architecture or perhaps in horticulture. They may have gone to school for landscape design. They may have just taken some courses. Be sure to ask what their background and education is along with their level of experience. The most experienced will have a degree in Landscape Architecture, where all facets of landscape design are the focus. This includes design, grading and drainage, geology, lighting, construction, horticulture, ethics and so on.

Landscape Architects

Those who refer to themselves as landscape architects, in addition to what I mentioned about landscape designers, have passed an exam which allows them to title themselves as such. They may be top notch...or they may be average in their aptitude and design abilities. Landscape designers and landscape architects can have the exact same credentials regarding experience, expertise and education. However, the landscape designer has not taken or passed the exam....for whatever reasons there might be.

Landscape designers and architects work strictly for their clients with their best interests in mind.

Landscape Design Fees

You may be charged for the design by the hour or a flat rate. There is a wide range of fees, depending on the experience and abilities of who you hire. Landscape contractors will typically be the least expensive, since their goal is to install the project for you. Landscape designers and architects will usually charge more, since the design is their main focus. I would love to give you information on what actual fees might be, but this depends on the designer and the extent of the project. Most will be more than happy to give you some idea of their fees when you contact them, if they can.

When using the services of a landscape designer or architect and the design is completed, you may choose to work with installers on your own, or you may choose to have your designer provide project administration. They may oversee just parts of your project or provide total project management.

So....who should you use? I would say it depends on the intricacy of your project and your budget. However, regardless of who you choose, you now have the information to ask the right questions to make sure that you will be getting expertise in both the design phase and the workmanship of your project.

And Lastly

After contemplating all of this, you might just decide to do it yourself. And that's fine! If so, you might be interested in taking a look at my Ebook, Designing With Evergreen Shrubs where you can learn about design, specific plants and how to put it all together for a great design.

Thanks...see you next month! Susan

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