A well-designed outdoor space can totally transform a home, but whether that requires a total renovation or something smaller, like adding a new walkway, it can often be overwhelming. You may not know what plants to use. Or which materials will work best. Or even what you want the design to be. Which is where a landscape designer comes in.
But what exactly does a landscape designer do? And how do you go about hiring one? We spoke to Amy Wolfe, a landscape designer on Thumbtack with over 16 years of experience, to get the answers.
What is a landscape designer?
A landscape designer creates plans for attractive outdoor spaces that function in the way a homeowner or business wants. Wolfe says, “A lot of people get confused; I create the design; I don’t do the actual landscaping. I’m giving them a complete plan to guide them through the process.” That means she meets with the homeowners, walks through the space with them, takes photographs and measurements, then draws up plans (by hand and electronically) that can then be handed off to a contractor.
And though one may think of landscaping as mostly about plants and trees, landscapes are actually made from living and non-living materials. Wolfe says she works with people who are building new houses, remodeling old ones, or adding on. “I help people come up with a design that will give them what they want for their outdoor space, whether that’s a patio, a fire pit, a pool, water features, new walkways with plantings, garden beds, lighting along pathways, or irrigation design.”
When should someone hire a landscape designer?
If you are looking to have trees and bushes trimmed or sod installed, you don’t need a landscape designer; that’s something a landscaper can help with. But if you have a bigger project you need help with, that’s where a designer can be of use. “People should have some money set aside before calling a landscape designer,” Wolfe says. “It’s not just about putting plants here or there; it’s like remodeling your house. It can cost a lot.” She recommends you have at least $5,000 to $10,000 budgeted for projects like building a new patio or adding outdoor living space.
Will the landscape designer help with installation?
Whether or not your landscape designer will see the job through to completion depends upon whom you hire. Wolfe focuses solely on drawing up plans as she has a lot of clients who actually want to do the installation themselves. If not, she says there are lots of designers who will also handle the build. “I have a couple of contractors I work with who I recommend to my clients,” she says. Oftentimes, she’ll then come back during the job to help pick out plants and make sure shrubberies are being put in a place where they will thrive etc.
How can someone find a great landscape designer to hire?
Wolfe recommends that the first thing you do is take a look at the designer’s portfolio. This is your chance to see her work and find out if her aesthetic matches yours. She also suggests you ask for recommendations for friends. Sites like Thumbtack are also great, she says, because they allow you to see verified reviews. The consultation is also key. Wolfe offers free consultations, though she points out not all landscape designers do that. Once you meet in person and walk through the space, that’s really your chance to ask all of the questions and make sure the designer understands and is able to translate your vision—or give you a vision if that’s something with which you’re struggling.
Once you’ve settled upon a landscape designer, you can work with her to tweak the plans so that everything is exactly how you dreamed it. And then, with a little (okay, maybe a lot) of hard work, it won’t be long until you have the outdoor space you’ve always wanted.