Garden Designers

Learn about garden designers—how to find one, what you can expect and what those letters ASLA and ASPD actually mean.

Woodland Garden by Top Designer Chris Parsons

Woodland Garden by Top Designer Chris Parsons

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Increase the value of your home and improve your yard’s functionality with a professionally designed garden. When you hire a garden designer, you’ll wind up with creative, cohesive spaces in your yard. The landscape will cater to your family’s needs and wants, as well as relate artfully to your home’s architecture. Good garden designers can accomplish all those things and also give you a garden stocked with the right plants in the right place. 

Before meeting with a garden designer, ponder your yard and your goals. Do you want an outdoor dining area? A fire pit or a grassy play area for the kids? Do you prefer a low-maintenance landscape, an eco-friendly xeriscape design, or are you eager to dig into gardening and cultivate a formal garden design?

Once you have your goals and ideas in order, it’s time to find a garden designer. Gather recommendations from family and friends. If you have a favorite garden center, ask if they provide or recommend any garden design services. Many nurseries have garden designers on staff who develop a landscape design using plants the nursery sells. Frequently these nurseries offer a discount on plant material you purchase to implement the landscape plan.

If you hire professional landscape designers, expect them to develop a garden design and budget, as well as a plan to implement the full design over time. Landscape designers sometimes have the letters APLD after their names, which indicates membership in the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. 

A landscape contractor is usually a hardscape specialist who installs structures like patios and walls. Landscape designers often hire landscape contractors to handle the hardscape aspects of a garden installation. Some landscape contractors also know and install plants. 

You may also encounter the term “landscape architect.” These individuals typically have a degree in landscape architecture, including some training in civil engineering. They’re usually more expensive, frequently working for corporate or high-end clients. The letters ASLA indicate an individual is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. 

Different garden designers offer different levels of service. The cheapest option is hiring a garden designer to draw a plan you implement yourself. Designers may charge a flat or hourly fee for this service. This detailed landscape plan should include specifics about materials used in the garden design. Confirm that the plan will include types of hardscape and plants listed, along with projected amounts needed of each material. 

At the next fee level, a garden designer usually includes the detailed design plan and works with the various professionals and tradespeople who are needed to implement the plan. The garden designer oversees any necessary permits and ensures the work is completed correctly and in a timely manner.

The most expensive option is to hire a garden designer who has a firm that can design and implement the landscape plan from start to finish. This option yields the fastest results, so this is the one you want if you have a special event and need a landscape in place quickly.

Most garden designers start a project by meeting with you to see the site and hear your goals. Be sure to ask if there’s a fee for this initial consultation. Many garden designers charge for mileage, especially in larger metropolitan areas. If fees aren’t clearly detailed on their website or facebook page, ask.

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