View Full Version : Working With Landscape Designer

06-05-2006, 04:43 PM
I am interested in how to work with a Landscape Designer who can create the designs and I will perform the installs. Does anyone here have that kind of relationship or do you mostly handle your own designwork?:usflag:

06-05-2006, 05:30 PM
I am interested in this as well, however I would like to be the designer and have someone else do the install. Let us know how this could work

Dreams To Designs
06-06-2006, 07:20 AM
In my situation, I am the designer and work with many professional installers all over NJ, Southeastern Pe and Delaware.

There are many different ways of approaching the situation. Often times the installers get the call and bring me in because the project has the potential to be much more than a sketch on a napkin. I prefer that the original installer handles all billing with the client and pays me my fees for design work and consultation. That way they are the leaders of the project and I am a liaison between the client and the install.

Good installers are just that, good at installing, design is a complete segment of it's own. Sure anyone can put things in someone;s yard and call it a landscape design, but does it meet common design principles. Will the plants be appropriate, today or 5 years down the road. Does the plan have the property broken down to manageable project for this season and those beyond? A good landscape design is a blueprint for that property for the project at hand and future projects.

If I get the call directly from the client, I will create a design for them and then assist them in selecting installers for all or parts of the project. I prefer to work with craftsmen in their trade, so the installers I recommend are never cheap, but the work is worthy of their price. Often times client will start out with the intention of completing the project themselves, but soon realize the complexities of the undertaking and usually opt for professional help for parts if not all of the project.

If you have specific questions, please ask. I will be happy to offer my experiences and knowledge.


06-06-2006, 07:29 PM
Whats your typical charge for designing the landscape? Do you charge by the hour? If you bring in a craftsman, do you make it where you profit somewhat off of them by billing the customer a "finding fee" if you will? Are you a Landscape Architect by educational background? Thanks

all ferris
06-06-2006, 08:55 PM
I have seen a lot of designs from a "designer" and the designs were terible. Everything from spacing being way too close to placing plants that require full sun in full shade. It's almost like they only care that their design looks good on paper.

06-07-2006, 01:30 AM
I have seen a lot of designs from a "designer" and the designs were terible. Everything from spacing being way too close to placing plants that require full sun in full shade. It's almost like they only care that their design looks good on paper.

the measurements are way off, too. its no wonder no one around here wants to pay for design work

Dreams To Designs
06-07-2006, 06:28 AM
Emil, I am not an LA, because in NJ and most of the other states, you must be licensed. To be licensed, you must pass an approved degree program, complete a lengthy internship with a licensed Landscape Architect, and pass an exam that, I have been told, is equivalent to the bar exam taken by lawyers. Most LA's work on larger projects, like subdivisions, public parks, commercial and industrial sites around here. Often LA's are part of a group that does engineering and site management. I do know quite a few LA's involved in residential landscapes, but they will usually tell you, the degree and training was overkill for their intended field.

My field of study is horticulture and landscape design. I do have a background in landscape construction as well as attending professional education classes for green industry professionals at Rutgers University every winter. I have spent many an hour working at a wholesale nursery also, to get a complete understanding of plants and their growing habits as well as their different appearances throughout the season.

I do charge an hourly rate for my design a consultation services. I offer two rates, one for professional installers and a second, slightly higher rate for dealing with clients directly. As every project is different, there is no set price, but there are typical time frames. An average suburban home takes 10-15 hours for a front yard design, a rear yard 15-25 hours and the side yards are thrown in depending on their size. Complexity of the project, size, structures, hardscapes or pools will affect this pricing as well. I am able to give an accurate estimate at the initial design meeting for the costs of the design and then offer onsite consultation services to both the client and the installers to assist in completion of the project. Consultation serves are also billed by the hour or by the day plus any travel expenses. For planting jobs, I usually get at least one day onsite to layout the plants and insure they are planted properly and for hardscape or more complex projects, the installers will have me assist in construction or technical advisement. I can also assist a homeowner or installer that does not need a full landscape design with the hourly consultation rate for site evaluation, plant identification or placement, or garden design requiring only a sketch or plant list.

If as a designer, you were to run the job as a general contractor and be responsible for all the permits and liabilities as well as the billing, typically a fee of 10% is assessed on each installers invoice before the client is billed. If the installer is handling all the logistics and billing the client directly, I ask for a 5% fee to cover my recommendation and visits to the site to inspect the installers work. As a designer, you become the person the client looks to for guidance and decision making.

My design package includes at least 3 visits, the initial consultation, a presentation of the concept and a final presentation. There are many emails and/or phone calls before, during and after the visits as well as some additional trips to the sight or nursery. The plans are hand drawn and colored for the final with additional copies for the client, if it is a self install or they wish to bid out or use their own installers, or copies for the installers, construction notes, at least 1 3D imaging view for client presentation and an extensive plant list with choices for many of the positions on the plan. I prefer to give my clients the ultimate decisions on what plants are place in their landscapes, by offering multiple suggestions for plants and enough information for them to decide.


06-07-2006, 06:38 AM
Anyone is allowed to do design work in most states. It stands to reason that there are good designers and bad designers, some with experience and some without, some who have built landscapes and some who have not. The same can be said for landscape contractors.

In both cases, there are probably more that do a mediocre job than a great job. So, do we want to say "I have seen a lot of landscapes from a "contractor" and the landscapes were terible. Everything from spacing being way too close to placing plants that require full sun in full shade." or
"its no wonder no one around here wants to pay for landscape work". I don't think so.

You guys do not want to be lumped in with the lowballers and it is no different for people in the design end of it either. It might shock you to realize that some people making their living in design have actually been landscape contractors and landscape maintenance people and actually know how to build it as well as draw it.

I'd agree that there are lots who have no clue, but it does not mean we all don't.

06-07-2006, 07:01 PM
I am a small operation and when a customer is lloking for a design so they can look at it on paper, I use freelance designers. call your local nursery and ask if they can recomend anyone locally who does design work. the freelance folks usually lurk around nurseries and supply yards looking to drum up business or just to check on plant stock etc. you need to have aclue and check there plant selections for appropriate placement until you are confident in there ability, but the great thing is that you can pass the cost to the customer and execute the plan with ease.

06-08-2006, 06:58 AM
Good design = upselling and moving toward higher end markets

When someone pays for a landscape design they are very committed to having a landscape built. That is a very strong prequalifier when you chose whether or not to take the time to write up an estimate.

When a designer, who actually gets good work, is directly linked to a contractor the consumer will go with that contractor almost every time. When the consumer feels that the designer is going to be their contact person and is going to be in control of the job throughout its completion, they are more likely to go with what they see as one stop shopping.

It is much easier fo a designer to get work when they have the ability to get the job built whether they are design/build or if the manage subcontractors. It is the critical thing that separates being a designer as a hobby or on the side, and making a good living at it. Because this is so crucial, the designer is going to look for contractors who have a proven track record, are very good at construction, and have the man power and equipment to be responsive. Selecting contractors is not taken lightly, so it is hard to get fed work from designers as you are starting out.

When design is already done, construction details are clear, and there are spec's that are clear, a good contractor knows what he is bidding on and where there may be extras. The timeinvested in the proposal process is minimal, so it is a desirable situation. Having someone between themselves and the customer has its good points as well - less yaking.

06-08-2006, 06:42 PM
As a LCO, general contractor( in certain states) or a landscaper, knowing a good landscape designer is as beneficial as having a good mechanic. If you have a good repoire with a designer, then it becomes a symbiotic relationship. You do the install as they perform the design, a win-win situation. You can't loose because a good designer KNOWS his material and the designer can't go wrong because you KNOW how to put it all together.

As a designer, I have worked with many installers/landscapers yet only a few will be recommended in the future. Consider this when you think of your marketing budget.

06-08-2006, 09:21 PM
Once again I am very thankful for all the insight given. I will contact my local landscape supply centers that I do quite a bit of business with. I would like to develop a working relationship with a designer. I believe I can learn a lot from a professional LA. I also work with landscape contractors who specialize in there particular fields ie.. Hardscapes, Trees, Irrigation ect... That way I can focus on meeting the needs of my clientele with utmost proffessionalism rather than scurrying around from job to job like a" Jack of all Trades.":usflag:

06-09-2006, 03:16 AM
How much do designers make usually? I'd like to do more designing and sub work out to contractors that I know can do the work. I've always been good at designing and really get into every design I do by researching all the plants, the actual job site, maintenance considerations, etc. I've been doing alot of small renovations/installs where the owner tells me exactly where they want stuff, but I enjoy designing much more. I since I'm going to college to study more about it, it would be a way for me to make some good money and not have to worry about all the other issues of a landscape contractor while in school (employees,etc.) Also, what type of markup do you guys do with the subs you refer? Thanks!