Hiring a Landscape Architect

By the National Gardening Association, www.garden.org

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Are you thinking of landscaping a new site or re-doing an existing one? If you’d like the benefit of some professional expertise for your project, a landscape architect may be just the person to plan, design, and oversee the implementation of your dream landscape. Landscape architects use their artistic and technical skills to help you make an analysis of current conditions; define your goals; and appropriately plan, design, and eventually arrange a detailed set of construction documents for your residential project.

Typical services include an initial site analysis, locating the home and adjacent structures on the site; design of plantings, walkways, driveways, patios, decks, and water features; and the selection and placement of plant materials. In addition, landscape architects services can include irrigation design, lighting, grading and drainage, rainwater harvesting, storm water management, erosion control measures, garden trellises and shade structures, ADA accessibility, and other improvements for your home landscape.

In the end, a landscape architect will help you improve the value, function, appearance, and environmental quality of your outdoor environment and gardens. Depending on the scale and scope of work, a landscape architect can design a plan homeowners can install themselves or provide a more involved, detailed plan-set that a site contractor will follow and install.

Landscape architects are now licensed in all 50 states across the country. You can typically check the current status of any licensed professional online (although this varies state to state). Hiring a licensed professional also ensures your project is developed according to applicable local, state, and federal regulations.

Because of the wide spectrum of landscape architectural services, I strongly recommend you obtain the names of several individuals and interview potential candidates who can demonstrate by their previous work the expertise you are looking for. A good place to start in your selection process is the National Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). From the national ASLA website, you can select your ‘state chapter’ for a list or contact information to help guide you in your selection process.

Here are some tips I recommend when selecting a professional consultant:

  • When you interview your potential candidates, be sure they communicate well and are receptive to your ideas, goals, and project schedule.
  • Discuss their previous project experience, how it relates to your project, and ask to see examples of previous work.
  • Review and/or define the specific services for your project from initial design through construction phase services. Will they be providing the services or will some of the services be sub-contracted?
  • Discuss and determine the fee structure for the professional services. Ask for a fee schedule and an estimated fee to complete the entire project.
  • Call and check their references. Be sure to ask if they previously met their schedules and if the project developed within budget. Did the project meet the clients concerns and goals? Would they hire them again?
  • Finally verify their licensure status. Anyone who advertises or uses the title “Landscape Architect” must be licensed by the state and able to perform their professional services, as defined under law.

Whether you're planning to develop a new site or rejuvenate an existing garden, a new home landscape renovation can provide beauty, environmental benefits, and increased property values. A well planned and executed garden design also provides an uplifting and rewarding space that further contributes toward positive feelings, well-being, and good health. We know, and research confirms, that nurturing plants is good for us all. When you garden, you grow! Have a great National Gardening Month!

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