When you are ready to take on a landscape project, who do you call? With the myriad of choices in the landscaping industry it can be difficult to know which path to take. Take a look these garden and landscape trades to help you decide which direction is the best fit for your project.

Landscape Designer

A landscape designer or garden designer has a background in horticulture and although not required, many times horticultural based degree. Depending on their studies or on the job training, they are versed in hardscape materials, plants, irrigation, soils, pest management, lighting, sustainable practices and design. Landscape designers are typically the first point of contact when you have a residential project that requires some creative and functional design planning. The plan is the starting point because it will give you a chance to work out project challenges on paper and allow landscape contractors to bid and provide you with estimates. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

*Tip: Learning to budget a project comes from years of on site experience or by working as a landscape estimator under the direction of a landscape contractor. Ask your designer if they provide this service and how they are qualified.

*Tip: For commercial projects contact either a landscape contractor or a landscape architect

Landscape Contractor

A landscape contractor or landscaper has successfully completed a combined four years of education or journeyman experience and passed the state test to obtain their C-27 landscaping license. Landscape contractors bid, build and many times provide warranties for their services. Depending on the scope of your project, they are typically introduced to the project after the design portion has started and can play an integral part of your decision making process. If you find that you are simply replacing one item for another (like a driveway replacement) and you are not changing the design or shape, you can forgo calling your landscape designer (or just hire them for a consultation not a full design) and work with your contractor directly.

*Tip: To learn the pitfalls to avoid when hiring a landscape contractor, click here.

Design Build Company

A design/build company is a firm that has combined both the landscape design and the construction (landscape contractor) into one company. Many times a design/build company has a designer or landscape architect on staff but sometimes they subcontract their work to an independent landscape designer. The benefit of working with design/build team is that you are hiring a one stop shop experience. If you have a large estate or complicated project and like one point of contact, this might be a good option for you. However, it can also be argued that by hiring the landscape designer and landscape contractor separately, that you have a more unbiased approach with a better checks and balance system.   Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, so as with project be sure to ask the right questions for your unique situation.

Tip: Make sure that there is a horticulturist working on your project if you are doing any new planting design

Landscape Maintenance

Landscape maintenance or gardeners are a vital part of the team that will protect the integrity of the design and installation once everything in your landscape is finished. A good landscape maintenance company will train their employees in plant identification because if they don’t know what the plant is, they won’t know how to care for it. This includes when and how to prune your plants, when and what to feed it and when to replace it. Sometimes you landscape contractor will offer you a maintenance package to help you take care of your garden during its formative years. This is a great solution for most homeowners since they are already familiar with you and your project. A reputable landscape maintenance company should not be confused with a “blow, mow and go” company. As with any part of your landscape, you get what you pay for. In addition to a landscape maintenance person, you may also wish to seasonally hire an aesthetic pruner for very fine work like the shaping of maples or an arborist for tree care.

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects have successfully completed six years of combined training and educational credit and passed their licensing exam.  They can practice either residential or commercial design and can provide similar drawings to those of landscape designer, but unlike a landscape design, they can draw construction documents. Many times construction documents are needed for residential projects that have complicated site challenges or elaborate built structures.  Landscape contractors can also provide construction drawings since they are licensed too.  Landscape architects will sometimes work with landscape designers to complete the planting plans as many landscape architects are not horticulturists.

Tip: If you are going through the permitting process and your city requires a stamped landscape drawing, you will need a landscape architect. Call you city and ask them directly what their requirements are before you hire any professional.