A guide to hiring a landscape architect and designer

Why call a Landscape Architect and Designer?

If you have grander designs for your gardening project than a few flower beds and a water feature, a Landscape Architect and Designer will be able to advise you in your plans. While a Garden Designer will be able to deal with most residential garden projects, a larger gardening endeavour will need different knowledge and greater attention - from public parkland to golf courses to private office complexes, any large-scale work on the outdoor environment will require the specialist skills of a Landscape Architect. Since their task is to help a development sit comfortably in its surrounding environment, their work often goes unnoticed – how many people would look at a beautiful building and marvel at which way it’s facing?!

Although a Landscape Architect may be expensive to hire, their expertise will make all the difference to any large outdoor work - with this in mind, it is important to fully understand the kind of work you should expect of them.

Where do they fit in?

Landscape Architects will often come to a project early in the design stage, when their understanding of space and the natural environment can be brought to the fore. They will work alongside Architects, Surveyors and Developers to produce plans that make best use of the available space. Once the project is underway, their role will be to ensure the contractors follow these designs through. This will involve both office work (they will deal with issues like planning permission) and frequent trips to the site itself.

What kind of services do they provide?

Landscape Architects and Designers usually offer a variety of services, ranging from garden work like turf-laying and tree-planting to large-scale land drainage work, and from creating car parks and footpaths to producing environmental assessments of land areas - their work is very much tailored to the requirements of each individual project. In most cases, Landscape Architects will approach their work from an ecological, environmental perspective. For this reason, it is essential that the Landscape Architect and Designer be involved early in your project, when they can contribute fully to the design stages.

Though the professions are largely interchangeable, someone who advertises solely as a Landscape Designer will usually specialise in green space projects (large gardens, parks etc.).

Where to look

Many Landscape Architects advertise in the local directory, but it is a good idea to search online, where you will usually be able to view photographs of their previous work. It is also good to get a recommendation from someone who has used the landscape architect's services in the past if at all possible.

Once you have found a Landscape Architect you may want to hire, arrange a meeting to discuss your plans. The designer will be able to show you portfolios of any similar work they have done in the past. You may wish to bring photographs of the plot you want to renovate to get the Landscape Architect’s first impressions and ideas.

What kind of qualifications should I look for?

Many larger firms will not hire a newly graduated Landscape Architect until they have completed some additional work placements and in-house training, but even for a freelancer, a BA in Landscape Architecture is a minimum to work in the profession. A portfolio that suits your tastes is the main qualification you should really be looking for.