From pristine lawns and manicured topiary to lush cottage-style gardens and drought-resistant xeriscape gardens, any property can benefit from landscaping. Whether you’re planning the design and layout of a new garden or looking to renovate or improve existing features, hiring a professional will be of immense help. This is where landscape architects and landscape designers come into play.
But how do these two professions differ, and how do you know which landscape professional to hire?
This article will explain the differences between a landscape designer vs. landscape architect (and professional gardener) and their types of work. It will also discuss average costs and provide a list of pointers that will help you decide which one is the best fit for your landscaping project.
What Is a Landscape Designer?
A landscape designer, sometimes called a garden designer, is a professional who offers advice on garden design and layout. Designers usually handle softscaping, which is part of landscaping that focuses on horticulture and includes flowers, shrubs, trees, lawns, planting, weed management, and so on.
Landscape designers work on residential properties and will offer advice on your landscaping project from the conceptual stage to completion.
Many landscape designers have a degree in horticultural sciences or have taken a course in this field. They deeply understand soil, climate, hardiness zones, what plants need to thrive, and how to pick the best plants to achieve a result that’s both aesthetically pleasing and functional.
However, a degree or prior qualifications aren’t necessary to become a landscape designer, and sometimes the people who choose this profession do it as a career change.
Landscape Designer vs. Professional Gardener
Despite some similarities, a landscape designer and a professional gardener are not the same things.
The main difference between them is manual labor. A designer will help you plan your garden layout and design and draw up a list of plants that fit.
But once that’s done, it’s up to a professional gardener or a landscape contractor to prepare the site, plant flowers, and shrubs, or handle the topiary.
A landscape designer may have a laboring crew or recommend a professional gardener to handle the manual labor. Alternatively, you can suggest working with a licensed contractor of your choice.
How Much Does a Landscape Designer Cost?
Landscape designer costs vary depending on the location, the size of your garden, and the complexity of your project. For example, designing a vegetable garden will cost less than designing a Japanese garden complete with a koi pond.
On average, hiring a landscape designer for a small-scale project will cost around 20% of your total landscaping budget. However, many designers will charge lower fees for more significant projects, which can be as low as 10% of your total budget.
Providing an exact figure is tricky, but to give you an idea, the average cost of hiring a landscape designer is around $4,500 in the US and Canada and about £4,000 in the UK.
What Questions Should You Ask a Landscape Designer?
Start by looking up landscape designer companies in your area. Once you find a designer that suits your needs and budget, reach out and set up a face-to-face consultation that will help you better understand the project requirements.
Here are some questions you will need to ask your landscape designer before you start working together:
- Do you have a portfolio or other examples of similar finished projects?
- What types of plants are best suited for the climate, sunlight exposure, and the soil I have in my garden?
- I want to keep some aspects of my yard in place. Can we incorporate them into the project, or is it best to remove them?
- My budget is $$$; what can be done within that range, and what happens if the project costs exceed the budget?
- How big is your crew, and how many independent contractors will you need?
- Do you have liability insurance?
- Can you offer a written warranty?
- What happens if the flowers, trees, or shrubs don’t become established and fail to grow?
- How long do you anticipate the project will take to complete?
- Do you have any concerns about unexpected problems or delays with this project?
When you and your landscape designer have reached an agreement, the designer will visit your garden to assess the layout, available space, soil, exposure, and factor in how any existing structures will work with the project you envisioned.
Next, they will draw up a plan, run it by you, and if it ticks all the right boxes, they will bring in the landscape contractors and start work on bringing your project to life.
Landscape Architect: Licensed Professional
A landscape architect is a licensed professional who handles garden design, site analysis, planning, water management, incorporating structures into the landscaping, and ensuring that the work is done with the correct permits and according to local building codes.
In addition, architects handle hardscaping, the part of landscape design focusing on building driveways, paths, and structures such as walls, stairs, decks, patios, etc.
All landscape architects are required by law to have a degree from an accredited academic institution.
To qualify, they will usually take a course in landscape architecture, planning and management, landscape design, and ecology. Becoming a landscape architect can take several years and requires at least a bachelor’s degree in the relevant field.
Landscape architects usually work on public spaces, such as parks and gardens, cemeteries, and recreational areas, or designing landscaping features for office buildings, malls, industrial sites, or other commercial properties.
They also handle the restoration of natural sites and historic landscapes. In addition, some landscape architects work on residential properties, especially if the project requires structural modifications and hardscaping elements.
It’s worth knowing that landscape architects sometimes call themselves landscape designers. However, due to the lack of formal training, landscape designers can never call themselves landscape architects.
How Much Does It Cost To Hire a Landscape Architect?
The cost of hiring a landscape architect does not follow a one-size-fits-all model. For example, a landscape architect working on new construction can charge between 15% and 20% of the project’s total cost. In the case of residential properties, prices can vary significantly, ranging from $2,000 to $6,000.
In the US, the average national cost for hiring a landscape architect for a residential project is around $2,500, or between $65 and $195 per hour. In the UK, you can expect to pay between £75 and £90 per hour.
Choosing a Landscape Architect
Before hiring a landscape architect, the first thing to look for is proof of qualifications and license. Given that an architect can make significant changes to your yard, you need to ensure that they are certified for the job.
You will also need to ask for proof of insurance, especially if you’re planning to build structures such as walls, decks, or pools.
As with hiring any contractor, look up several options in your area, and shop for the best rates. Take the time to browse the landscape architect’s portfolio, and don’t forget to look up reviews from previous clients.
Landscape Designer or Architect: Which One Should You Hire?
Here’s a quick list that will help you decide which landscaping professional would be the best choice for your project.
You should hire a landscape designer if you need:
- Landscaping advice on design and aesthetics
- A garden design that focuses on softscaping elements, like flowers, shrubs, and trees
- Advice on picking the best plants to grow in your area, such as drought-resistant species
- Landscaping that does not change the structure or elevation of your garden
- Landscaping for a residential property.
You should hire a landscape architect if you need:
- Designing and installing hardscape features, such as walls, patios, decks, pools, driveways, etc.
- Someone who can handle permit approval for your garden design or renovation
- Landscape restoration or conservation for a historic or listed site
- Installing a drainage system or waterproofing your home
- Fixing or modifying slopes or the elevation of your yard
- Landscaping for public spaces, buildings, or commercial properties.
Does Landscaping Increase Your Home Value?
Absolutely. The way your garden looks acts as a business card for your property, and the higher the curb appeal, the higher the market value.
A well-maintained landscape can increase your home value by up to 13%, earning you a bonus of tens of thousands of dollars when you decide to sell your house.
Is Hiring a Landscaper Worth It?
You’ve probably asked yourself: “Should I hire a landscaper or do it myself?”. Designing a garden can be costly, and if you have the time and the DIY know-how, you can probably take care of it yourself.
But hiring a professional, such as a landscape designer or an architect, will save you a lot of time and ensure the job is done correctly.
After all, fixing mistakes can easily become the most expensive part of landscaping.
How Much Should be Spent on Landscape Design?
Try to keep your total landscaping budget below 10% of your home value. The final cost of your project may range between $2,500 and $10,000, out of which around 20% will be spent on the services of a designer or architect.
When in doubt, it’s always best to set up a higher budget, accommodating hidden costs and delays but avoiding putting an unnecessary strain on your budget.
How Much Does the Landscape Design Process Take?
Depending on the size and the elements you want to incorporate, drawing up a landscaping design takes 1 – 2 weeks or up to 3 weeks if you need hardscaping. From there, completing the project can take between 4 weeks and four months, especially if you experience delays with contractors.
Once the project is completed, keep in mind that perennial plants, especially trees and shrubs, can take at least a year before they become established and start growing to their full potential.
The main difference between a landscape designer and a landscape architect is the type of training they undergo and the nature of the projects they take on.
However, if you’re a homeowner, there’s a good chance that a landscape designer is enough to handle the design and improvement of your garden.
Landscape architects usually work on commercial properties or public spaces, such as parks or corporate office buildings. An architect is your best choice if you need landscaping work that requires making drastic layout changes to your yard or building permanent structures.
Resources + References
American Society of Landscape Architects – License info – Link
ALPD Landscape design schools – Link