In Oregon (and elsewhere) Landscape Architects and Landscape Contractors have strict licensing and educational requirements. What they can and can't do is defined by law and code.
Landscape Designers? Not so clear cut.
So What Does A Landscape Designer Do Anyways?
In Oregon anyone can call themselves a "Landscape Designer". Some are gardening enthusiasts who love putting together and laying out the perfect planting plan. Others (like me) start as contractors and add design as a way to connect with clients early in the process.
There are certain core responsibilities any Landscape or Garden Designer should be able to fulfill, regardless of their origin story.
How Does A Landscape Designer Help You?
- They save you from yourself. You probably have at least a vague plan for your landscape already in mind. Newsflash: Your ideas might stink! A good designer will be able to gently (or firmly) steer you away from bad ideas. For example. last week I had a landscape consultation with a very nice woman in the Garden Home area of Portland. She has a large backyard to work with. A patio and a koi pond were on her wish list. However, as we started talking it became obvious that her family would never actually use the patio. A koi pond required more attention than she had to give. As much as I love building water features, I had to suggest we look a different direction. Any good landscape designer would do the same.
- Maximize your landscaping budget. To get the most out of your designer, first tell them what you want. Then tell them how much you can spend. I understand that you may hesitate to give a number, Perhaps you worry that you will look silly. Or that your designer, if he or she is also your contractor, will take advantage of you. A good landscape designer wants to give you the best landscape possible for your budget. Your contractor wants to leave you thrilled with the transformation- so much so that you become a referral, leave positive reviews online, and beg him to come back next year to do more. If you give your designer/builder a budget all of this can happen. Or, they can design in the dark. You will get a fantastic design. Maybe it will fit your budget, but maybe it will fit someone else's.
- Design a garden that fits your lifestyle. I have only had one bad hair cut, years ago, from an old barber on the east coast. I realized later that he only did one hair cut, his. Your designer should not be like that. Yes, the designer's style will be seen in your design. But the foundation of any design should be the needs of the people who will use the landscape. If your designer makes no effort to understand how you live, that's a red flag. Look at their portfolio. Do all the designs look the same? That's a red flag too. A good designer will favor your legitimate preferences over theirs, even if it's difficult!