When working on residential landscape architecture, we design and plan gardens, plantings, pools, paving, stormwater management and more.
Landscape architects are licensed and trained to design landscapes, not to build them. This means that we work primarily through design drawings to collaborate with clients, architects and contractors.
People are often surprised at the level of rigor required for a landscape architecture license. Licensing and regulation are important for health and safety reasons and to ensure the highest level of professional standards.
Landscape architects design for how people experience and use the space (called the program in architecture parlance). Creating a great experience is one of our primary considerations. As such, we are concerned not just with how a landscape looks and what is planted. We are concerned with how a space feels to the user. Intimate or vast? Cool and lush or hot and minimalist? Questions like these form the user experience and program of the landscape and are fundamental to the design process.
Yes, we do get to visit sites, and most landscape architects are habitual nursery and garden visitors, but we do not do the pruning, transplanting and mulching for the projects we design. Landscape contractors — licensed through a separate process — are the ones who actually install landscapes, and gardeners and landscape workers perform maintenance. Landscape architects often collaborate directly with landscape contractors to ensure that projects are built to the intent of the design.
Our technical expertise goes beyond merely knowing about current trends. Improved plant knowledge is a great example of the value of continuing education for landscape architects and greatly benefits clients. Through classes we receive expert advice from research horticulturalists on the ever-changing status of various plants. The horticultural world is vast, with new cultivars being developed in response to diseases every year. Landscape architects stay up-to-date on horticultural issues and use that knowledge to design landscapes.
ASLA uses the phrase “green since 1899” as a tongue-in-cheek catchphrase to say that landscape architects have been creating environmentally minded work in the form of landscapes for a long time. Not all landscape architects have sustainability as a primary focus of their work per se; however, many of the best practices used by landscape architects are driven by ecologically sound principles for vegetation, stormwater, material use and microclimate effects. Look for the ASLA affiliation badge here on Houzz to find licensed landscape architects.
Ask your landscape architect candidates what landscapes and concepts are sources of inspiration, as this will have a great impact on what the landscape architect will create for you. Is it the vista of a wide-open prairie or the calm of the deep woods? For some the design inspiration is cultural and references things like fine-art painting or textiles. For others the inspiration might stem from historic Italian villa gardens or formal modern lines. At the end of the day, we are creating something new in the landscape, and we draw from various influences to create our work.