Hiring a Landscape Designer or Architect

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by Roman27, Jan 3, 2005.

  1. Roman27

    Roman27 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 29


    I have a very plain 1 acre lot. Here's a picture of the backyard:


    I'm standing near the southwest corner of my lot facing the rear of the house. The tall bushes that block part of the view of my neighbors white house on the left are almost right on top of the west property line. The trees on the very right of the picture extend in about 8 feet from my south property line.

    My front yard is just as plain, as you can see from the picture attached to the bottom of this post. Here I am standing on the northeast corner of the property.

    I would really like to transform this yard into something with great curb appeal that will add resale value to the home. I would like it to be more private and serene. I also want it to be a functional place where there is room to play ball, host events, and in general just get a feeling of nature instead of the urban neighborhood feel.

    In order to do all that, I think it might be a good idea to hire someone who knows what they are doing during the planning stage. Once I have a plan, I would like to do as much of it myself as I can to save money.

    Has anyone worked with a landscape designer or architect? What is your experience or thoughts on designers/architects? Does it make a large difference whether you hire a landscape designer (uncertified) or a landscape architect (certified professional)?

    By the way, I'm in Dundee, IL if you know any good people in the area. ;-)

  2. TClawn

    TClawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,036

    if you go with a landscape architect you are asured of getting someone that actually KNOWS what they are doing. the main thing that many landscapers forget is that there not planting for the maturaty of the tree or shrub. sure it looks good now, but in 5 years I'll get a call to come and chop it down. a "good" landscape architect will plan for growth in 20-30 years down the road.
    my recomendation is to goe with a landscape architect and be assured of good results instead of taking a chance on someone who is uncertified.
  3. i_plant_art

    i_plant_art LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 558

    just b/c someone is not a landscape architect doesnt mean that they do not know what they are doing. nor being uncertified. i dotn agree with you at all. there are many of us out there in the business world and here on lawnsite who are capable of doing very functional designs that will look good 5,10, 20 yrs from now withouth having to make major changes to them. there are many of us here that are design/build contractors we design it and build it just not design it. I could take what TClawn said and put it this way. just b/c you hire an architect doesnt mean that it is going to be installed correctly make sure you have a licensed contractor. it goes either way i believe that by checking the references and even personally seeing some of the work someone has done will speak louder than just hiring an architect. It make take sometimne to find the right person you want to use but just b/c they are not a licensed architct doesnt mean they dont KNOW what they atre doing.
  4. TClawn

    TClawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,036

    I plant art, I agree that there are many people who are uncertified and do good work, I myself am among them. but I cannot speak for the landscapers in his area. when you have someone that is certified it adds a level of security to who you hire. there are some exellent landscapers out there who are uncertified and really do KNOW what they are doing and actually do better work than the landscape architects. but since I do not know the quality of landscapers in his area I can only safely recomend someone who is certified.
  5. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,969

    Roman, like most of the rest of our society, landscapes mean money to the people working in the field. Landscaper or landscape architect, the majority are just looking at $$$$, and for both that means packing plants into any design. The LA works on a commission of the total cost (More plants = more $$$), and the landscaper wants to sell more plants (More plants = more $$). Just like any other specialty in this economy (plumber, electrician, real estate agent, ad infinitum), you have a 10% to 15% chance of getting someone whose heart and mind lead him, rather than his pocketbook. Actually may be a somewhat smaller percentage in the green industry, because many in the industry never learned how to do it right - they just learned how to sell.

    Now that you know the reality, what are you really looking for? A real landscape takes years to fill in, and will be able to be modified over time, but the basic design will still be appreciated by your grandchildren's grandchildren. Cheaper filler plants can be used in the beginning, to be sacrificed later when the desireable plants start reaching design size. The worst problem with landscaping is the client need for instant gratification; this leads to plants packed together at construction, and a jungle in 5-10 years. Even good landscape designers must work with this all the time, because few people really appreciate a quality landscape (i.e., few wish to pay for real, intelligent design). Also few designers work with an open mind on plant selection; LAs will design with what is available in local market, landscapers design with what is in their yards that they need to sell, LOL.

    The large majority of people do not know or understand what makes a real landscape, but almost everyone will appreciate one - we are from nature, and plants are nature. But then perhaps you do not even want such a landscape. Your best recourse will be to find landscapes that you like personally, and inquire about the designer, then seek them out. Most designers will work on a design for a flat or hourly fee, and when they are done you own the design. You may want to get 2 or 3 such designs done, then meld them to what you feel is right for you.

    One qualification: if you are going to maintain this landscape with hedgetrimmers, just forget everything I said above, run to K-Mart or WalMart and buy a ton of plants and stick them in the ground. You'll save yourself lots of $$$ that way.
  6. Roman27

    Roman27 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 29

    Too bad you're not a 100 miles or so closer to me GroundKprs. Maybe you'd be able to recommend someone in that 10 to 15% range who would do the job with their heart and mind. :D

    Anyway, I definitely don't want my yard packed with foliage. I want an open, yet secluded feel. I think most of what I want involves planting trees, which would mean no hedgetrimmer required. I would definitely like to things low maintenance.

    What do you think about hiring an online designer, e.g. http://clearwaterlandscapes.com? Is this a good idea? Is it necessary for a designer to be able to physically walk through the property to get a feel for what needs to be done?
  7. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,969

    Roman, landscape design is an art. In some universities, the LAs (and all architecture students) are actually enrolled in the art department. A real artist needs to get a feel for his subject. Anyone can do an online cookie cutter landscape. As an example of real landscaping, when a landscape is done in Japan, all that is visible is part of the landscape, even mountains dozens of miles away. (This because of the small personal spaces in Japan.) A Japanese LA will actually move in with the family for 1-2 weeks to get a first hand feel, before he even starts a design.

    A good designer will generally not be advertising. He is so busy he doesn't need to. You are hiring the designer to do a task you do not understand, so it is a situation where you will need to trust his judgement. Since you want to do installation yourself, you will not feel the effect of the landscape until it has been in for a few years. Again, the best way is to find landscapes that appeal to you, and find out who designed them.

    It will not be simple. As an example, the average person knows how difficult it is to find a decent lawyer (maybe another profession below the 10-15%?). When I was in college, I heard the pre-laws razzing the pre-meds about all the money they would be making in a few years while the doctor wouldn't start making money for 10 years or more. When I needed a lawyer 30 years ago, I spent two weeks asking everyone I knew, and every passenger in the taxi I drove then, to recommend a lawyer. Wrote the name on a list, and then asked them to criticize others on the list. Crossed off anyone with negative feedback, even if it was just bad breath. After 2 weeks, 250-300 people, and 50-60 lawyers names, only one name was not crossed off, so I went to him. When he asked me who recommended him ,I told him this story, and he rocked back and said, "I just don't understand why people don't trust lawyers." Yes, this man could not comprehend dishonesty! That was way back then, today he thinks a little differently, but still cannot do the dishonesty himself.

    Good luck on your hunt.
  8. Pittsburgh Panther

    Pittsburgh Panther LawnSite Member
    from N.W. Pa
    Messages: 94

    Hopefully it will help you in your decisions about the lawn and lawnscaping.

    Pitt Panther

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