What Are Landscape Designers? Is Hiring One Worth It? (For Beginners)

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You want to spend time outdoors. When you walk outside, you find that the terrain is rough, the plants look bedraggled, or you just feel like your outdoor space isn’t pleasing for you.

You make lists and you save websites and cut out pictures of things you really would like to have in your outdoor space. But you just can’t fit it all together in your mind. How are you going to incorporate everything you want into your space? 

Perhaps you need some help? 

Landscape Designers plan and present the design of outdoor spaces for residential and commercial clients based on their needs and demands. Sometimes, they work with landscapers and other professionals and take responsibility for overseeing the development of these plans within the outdoor space. 

You need to be educated on what you should expect from your landscape designer before you ever actually hire one. I’ll be happy to explain some things, just keep reading. 

What is the difference between a landscape designer and a landscape architect?

When I say you may need a landscape designer, I don’t mean a landscape architect. I bet you can already imagine the difference between the two.

The first difference is cost.

A landscape architect is going to cost a lot more money. Why? They usually have college degrees under their belt and plenty of experience and certifications.

In California, for instance, they must produce proof of experience and a degree in the field. They must pass rigorous testing associated with complex architectural portions of large landscape projects.

A landscape architect is the professional responsible for the landscaping design and restructuring of commercial buildings and public projects. 

Landscape designers need specific certifications and experience in the field. They can and often decide to get as much schooling and certification as they desire).

They work on smaller projects, some specializing in small commercial projects and others specializing in residential projects. A landscape designer provides all the design ideas and drawn-out plans for a landscaping project.

They may even provide a listing of all items needed to accomplish the project. Sometimes, they work with landscaping contractors to further fulfill the needs of their clients.  

When Should I Hire a Landscape Designer?

Usually, you hire a landscape designer when you want to renovate an outdoor space on your property. If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, but can’t figure out exactly how to improve it? Maybe it’s time to hire a landscape designer. 

Landscape designers are qualified to show you where the optimal placement should be for each feature and for each plant. They’ll know what to suggest for watering and what plants to avoid for your climate and terrain.

They can tell you how to treat the soil for encouraging growth and keep you from making costly mistakes, like planting the incorrect plants in the wrong places. 

What should I know and ask before hiring a landscape designer? 

Some of the landscape designers I’ve seen online cover the basics of what you should probably know before reaching out to them:

  • Does my outdoor space flow with the design of my home? Do I want it to? 
  • Does my outdoor space provide for the activities my family enjoys?
  • Do I like the plants and their arrangement in my landscape? Would I prefer something different?
  • Do I have enough privacy?

Make a list of things you’d like to have in your outdoor space or the garden areas of it. You also need to set yourself a budget and decide which portions you can take on yourself and what you’d rather hire a professional to do. Then, you can discuss this with the designer. 

When you call around for a landscape designer, ask if they charge for the initial consultation. Not everyone gives free estimates. You should ask them about their process and what tools they plan to use for it.

Some landscape designers use a lot of technology as well as know-how. These questions let you know what to expect for your money. 

Ask for examples of previous work, not just photos, but reviews from customers. Photos don’t prove that the person you’re talking to did the work. But if you reach out to another customer or can see reviews, that’s better. 

Make sure the designer you are interested in is licensed and insured. If you hire them to go beyond the design, make sure they plan to use licensed and insured contractors. Find out when to expect to pay hourly versus per-project costs.

Be very clear about the budget and these details. After all, landscape designers make, on average, $50–$100 per hour around this area in 2022.

What should I expect when I hire a landscape designer?

Usually, when they come to your home, the designer will ask you questions about your plans. Hence, they can be ready by already knowing a lot of these things. They may walk the yard, take pictures, and take measurements.

They may ask about what activities you want to enjoy in the yard, what issues you have with the yard, what you’d like to see, and what plants you prefer. Then they’ll need to know your budget, what you expect as far as maintenance, and if you plan on hiring people for the project or if you want them to do so.

Some people just want the designs and suggestions that a landscape designer can provide, and then they go into DIY mode. Or they pay the designer for their designs and then hire their own contractors.

As you’ll see below, your landscape designer may provide a full-service situation. You just have to decide what you want, what you can afford, and then ask. 

Do landscape designers handle the landscaping?

Landscape Designers may be by themselves, or they may be associated with an entire landscaping company. They may use licensed landscaping contractors they trust. Landscape designers fall into three categories: 

Landscape Design

Some designers specialize only in the design process. This typically will include the following:

  • Discussion of what you want
  • An analysis of the outdoor space
  • The primary design
  • A second meeting to get feedback on the designs and plans
  • A revision
  • A final detailed plan for your garden

Once paid for by the client, they get this final approved plan and usually a listing of all materials needed (mulch, soil, type of plants, location of those plants, etc.). You can then hire who you want for the landscape contractor or do it yourself. Just don’t forget the proper permits! 

Landscape Design & Build

The second landscape designer offers everything mentioned above but also will oversee the project. Some will actually choose the plants and install them and handle all the other softscaping.

Sometimes the landscape designer is also a registered contractor. Other times they have landscape contractors on their team or ones to recommend and oversee. The landscapers handle the hardscaping and permitted portions of the project.

Landscape Design–Build–Maintenance

Sometimes the client doesn’t have the know-how or the time for the maintenance involved in their new outdoor space. If you’ve chosen the third type of landscape designer, they may offer a maintenance plan for their clients or a maintenance program.

With a maintenance program, the landscape designer has crossed over into a full-service model. They or someone in their company comes out to keep the landscaping appropriate and treat the plants properly on a regular schedule. 

What happens after I hire a landscape designer?

Once you’ve got your designer of choice, you can work on answering more questions and asking more questions. It’s always best to make sure you understand one another completely, so there are no disappointments. 

When the designer makes suggestions, let them know if you need something changed. You usually have at least one revision available. Also, try to get them to help you prioritize what should be done. Landscaping projects can take a lot of money and time to see through.

Be sure to let your landscape designer walk you through the plans and the timeline so you are on the same page.

The beauty of having this kind of expert is that it takes all the research and planning off of the plate of the client. They can simply enjoy their own outdoor space as they always wanted to. If you opt to hire a landscape designer, I hope you got good information from my article and find the right fit for your needs.

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"Growing up a country-girl means you enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, and no matter where you go in life, the outdoors is always part of you. I began doing research on things I wanted to do to make my outdoor space my own, no matter where we moved. And that research led me to write this blog to share with you!"