Frequently Asked Questions
Q] What does a landscape architect do and how is that different from a gardener or landscape designer?
A] A licensed landscape architect can design everything outside your home. this includes all the hard surfaces such as paving, grading and drainage, steps, walls, overhead structures or trellises, gates, swimming pools, spas, fountains, barbecues, fireplaces or firepits, planters, furniture and pots. Of course a landscape architect designs planting, irrigation and lighting as well and can integrate art in the landscape too.
A landscape architect has attended a minimum of four years of school in their profession, has apprenticed under a landscape architect for a number of years and has taken a rigorous exam to achieve their license. A gardener or landscape contractor can install a plan for the backyard. Some gardeners and contractors have design abilities too. A landscape designer is legally able to design landscape but no hardscape. There is no requirement that they have any training.
Q] Do landscape architects also do the planting?
A] Some landscape architectural firms are known as “design/build” which means they design a project and then install the plan. My firm, harmony gardens, does strictly the design process. That allows me to do what I do best, design a project with my client, the site and the architecture in mind. I produce landscape drawings that can be competitively bid so that my clients will be able to work with a landscape contractor of their choosing or plant the project themselves.
Q] How does the landscape design process work?
The most common way that I work with people is through producing landscape construction documents. This is the deluxe model of landscape design. The process is aimed at finding the best solutions to your landscape needs. Plans are usually drawn when the landscape is more complex and/ or larger. The process begins with an initial meeting where I can assess the scope of the project. This meeting is like a mini consultation so I do charge a fee for the initial meeting.
At this meeting we will discuss what your needs are and I will give you great ideas on how I will approach the design. I also bring my portfolio to the meeting so that if you haven’t seen my pictures yet, you will see examples of my past work. After the meeting, I write a fixed fee proposal for my services. Generally, services are in two design and one construction phase. The first design phase is the preliminary phase.
Here I present you with a design for all the different features that you are looking for. In most of the categories, I present you with different options. I like my clients to take an active part in the design process so you will be selecting the plants, hardscape, etc. with my expert help. At this phase there will also be a preliminary cost estimate to give a budgetary figure for the installed cost. After all the decisions are made, the design moves to the final stage.
This is the time when I do the construction documents which are biddable for landscape contractors. When those are complete then the plans are ready to go out to bid. I can recommend great contractors to help you install the landscape or you can hire people recommended to you by friends or neighbors.
When you get bids back, I can help you sort out the bids to make sure they are all complete and then once you make the decision on the contractor, we move to the construction phase. During the construction phase, I can be available to review the construction at key times so that the plans will be implemented as planned.
Q] What if my landscape is simple and smaller?
The most cost efficient way to work with me is to design the landscape through a consultation. This works in cases where the job isn’t too big. Most of my consultative clients are redoing their front or back yard. They are not doing hardscape or they are doing some minor type of paving or small overhead structure. In this case I charge them an hourly fee for the amount of time that it takes to design.
The process is that I bring a sketch pad and some books and we design the yard together. The sketch is detailed and enough for people to have a precise vision of what the final landscape will need to be built. A small front or back yard may take two hours. A large space may take four to six hours.