Choosing The Right Landscape Designer

Brian Daly | June 2023 | Blog Post


Hiring a professional landscape designer can breathe life into your yard with stunning plants, lighting, and hardscapes that fit your lifestyle and budget. Yet the people who want to hire one of these horticulture wizards are often overwhelmed by how to find the right expert to bring their vision to fruition.

Each landscape designer has a style and unique personality. Identifying the right one for you depends on your individuality, requirements, budget, and vision. The key is finding a designer who gets you — and who can understand your outdoor aspirations.

The right professional can unlock the full potential of your outdoor spaces and create for you a beautiful and functional environment. Finding that person or design company will take a little work though.

To achieve the landscape of your dreams, it’s imperative to invest some time in careful research and select a landscape designer with the proper knowledge and experience.

Where to start your landscape designer search

Begin with your friends and neighbors. Talk to those who have had their landscapes professionally done. You can usually tell who they are — the proof is in their home’s drive-up appeal.

Ask about their experience with the designer they chose and what the upkeep time and cost commitment has been to maintain their yard.

Next, get recommendations from local nurseries. These plant experts work with local landscape designers every day. They know who understands what they’re doing.

However, if the referring nursery compensates them in any way — for selling certain products it carries, for instance — you may not want to go that route.

Also, if the designer works directly for the nursery, that’s where their loyalty will be. If you don’t have a lot of local options to choose from, at least ask good questions to ensure you are making a sound investment.

Assessing a landscape designer’s experience and knowledge

Questions are the key — not the ones you ask, but also the ones you answer. A great landscape designer will strive to bring your vision to life, and that means they need to ask a lot of questions to understand that vision.

Make sure you are heard and that your own questions are well addressed. Any designer can (and should) inform you that a particular plant you’ve dreamed of won’t do well in your region, but a good designer will find alternatives.

If a designer tries to force a specific plant or other product on you, stand your ground. Not wanting pink flowers or concrete borders is entirely valid. A true professional will respect your choices and suggest other solutions.

And be wary of anyone who shows up with a menu of garden selections. You don’t want a cookie-cutter landscape design that doesn’t focus on your personal desires, challenges, and needs.

You also need to ensure the designer has appropriate horticultural knowledge. Again, their questions are telling. They will ask intelligent questions and quickly identify and explain any challenges your yard may present in achieving your desired results.

They will explain regional soil type, temperatures, sunlight, weather conditions, and other factors, as well as how they impact the plants most likely to thrive in your yard.

Insist on viewing completed projects

Once you’ve whittled down your list of potential landscape designers, ask to see their work — up close and personal. You need to see leaves rustling in the wind, not photographed under ideal conditions. A reputable professional will be happy to give you a list of addresses to drive by.

When you go, look for consistency and functionality. How do the designs fit the homes they surround? A house’s unique lines and architecture should carry through to the landscape.

A very formal and symmetrical house needs that aesthetic mirrored in their gardens. There might be a more informal flower bed here and there, but there should be a sense of continuity as if the home and landscape were designed together.

Ensure the designer is not using the same design, and potentially the same group of plants, with every landscape.

Process matters to a thriving landscape

Now that you know which designer most aligns with your needs, it’s time to discuss the process. Before you sign a contract, ask what their process is. How long will things take, and when can they fit your project into their schedule?

The process should be clear and reasonable. Clear steps or stages ensure you both understand what to expect and when. Your landscape designer’s approach is vital to the end product they will deliver.

Be wary if they can’t explain their process or say they work better without structure. Even artists have structured processes that ensure success.

Ask for details about site preparation and installation work and how much time will elapse between the two.

This is also the time to clarify costs and when payments are expected. For most landscape work, the norm is to pay certain costs upfront with the balance due when the job is complete.

Get alignment on expectations

Without proper maintenance, even the most stunning landscapes will lose their luster and become overwhelming for owners after a year. You must have clarity on what it will take to keep your new landscape looking beautiful. Determine what the time and cost requirements will be going forward and whether it’s feasible for you.

When entering into a contract with your new landscape designer, it’s vital that both parties have a comprehensive understanding of all major aspects of the job:

· Costs and payments

· Project stages and timing

· What to expect in terms of design and design revisions

· Alignment with the style and approach of the designer

Establishing expectations and ensuring they are reflected in the contract you sign will pave the path to a successful partnership with your landscape designer.

If you’d like to get a better understanding of what a professional landscape designer can do for you, contact me. I love helping people realize the yards of their dreams.

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