Follow these tips to find the right expert for your needs:
Columbus, Ohio landscape designer Todd McKeegan thinks of
each of his installations as a work of art.
1. Have an idea of what your ideal landscape looks like. This will help the professional understand what you're looking for; however, be open to ideas. They know what will work best for your space.
2. Get recommendations from others. If you join Angie's List you can search for landscapers in your area and read the reviews and ratings submitted by other Angie's List members who have used those companies.
3. Make sure the landscaper you hire meets state and local certifications and licensing requirements, if any.
4. Obtain a signed copy of any contracts and work orders.
5. Be prepared to go on site visits. Some professionals will ask you to view examples of past work or similar landscapes to what you're requesting.
What kind of expert do you need?
Here's a primer on several related professions:
Landscaper: These professionals can plant new trees and shrubbery; remove, modify and replace existing plants and materials, such as mulch; establish new planting beds; install sod or seed a new lawn; and provide routine maintenance. Some landscapers offer design services, but usually they work from plans the homeowner commissioned from a landscape architect or landscape designer. Many landscapers offer irrigation and sprinkler services, but there are also individualized specialists who can install these systems.
Landscape architect: If you aren't sure what you want, or if your grand plan requires changing the lay of the land, you may need to start with a landscape architect.
These professionals often work on large custom home projects, providing overall site plans for drainage and landscaping. They can also work on smaller, yet complex, residential projects. Often landscape architects are involved in commercial and municipal projects as well. They have advanced education, professional training. Nearly every state in the U.S. requires landscape architects to be licensed.
Landscape designer: Many have horticulture backgrounds or nursery experience and can design a landscape for a new home or renovate an existing area. They're very good at providing a blueprint for your yard, indicating where each plant and feature should be placed. Typically, designers are trained under the apprentice system and aren't licensed.
Certified arborist/tree service: Specialize in pruning, disease and pest diagnosis and treatment. Depending on their experience, they can provide suggestions for tree replacement, install lightning protection, or cable and brace trees that have broken limbs or are leaning. Certification can be verified through the International Society of Arboriculture.
Gardener: A person with or without horticultural education, and often performs routine garden chores similar to a landscaper. They perform simple maintenance chores like dead-heading flowers, feeding and repotting plants. The more education or experience the gardener has, the better he/she will be able to help you pick the plants, flowers and vegetables that will thrive in your location.
Horticulturalist: Help with plant problems and diagnosis of diseases and problems. Are usually knowledgeable in plant cultural requirements and can advise watering and feeding schedules.
Contractors: Though perhaps not the first profession that comes to mind when you think of your landscape, hiring someone to install an outdoor kitchen or living area, for example, would take the work of contractors or specialists. When researching who to hire, ask your local landscaping company if they install outdoor kitchens.
Many landscaping companies offer outdoor living space services and other companies brand themselves as outdoor kitchen installation specialists. Make sure you are familiar with licensing laws in your state. With the amount of work involved, state law might require a licensed contractor perform this type of work. Because of the construction, masonry, plumbing and electrical work needed to make the kitchen function; you might need to call upon individualized specialists.