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How to Work Effectively with Your Landscape Designer

By Sarah Finazzo June 1, 2023

A 3D rendering of a backyard with a playlet by a Tilly landscape designer

Whether you are looking to update your curb appeal or completely overhaul your backyard, landscape design can be an overwhelming process for most homeowners.

While many homeowners are skilled at interior design, transforming an ordinary yard into a an outdoor oasis requires a unique set of skills and knowledge. As we've often joked "you can't kill a couch," however, unfortunately can kill a plant or make decisions that can't be easily reversed when working in the outdoors.

Hiring a landscape designer can be a game-changer, as they possess the artistic vision, technical know-how, and extensive plant and material expertise to bring your dream yard to life. In this blog, we will explore how a landscape designer can help you, what their role in your project is and what you can expect when updating your outdoors.

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a landscape planting plan for a full yard project with many open spaces
A Tilly Planting Plan for a Full Yard

What is the difference between a landscape designer and a landscape architect?

While the terms "landscape designer" and "landscape architect" are sometimes used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the two professions in terms of education, qualifications, and scope of practice.

Landscape Designer

A landscape designer typically focuses on the aesthetic and functional aspects of outdoor spaces. They work on residential projects and emphasize the design and selection of plants, hardscape layout and the flow of a space. Landscape designers may possess formal education in landscape design or horticulture, but their educational requirements can vary. They typically create detailed planting plans, select materials, and will have invaluable knowledge on how to structure your space and different design styles. Landscape designers generally work on projects that involve improving the visual appeal and functionality of private gardens, residential yards, and smaller outdoor spaces.

Landscape Architect

A landscape architect undergoes extensive formal education and training in landscape architecture, typically earning a bachelor's degree or master's degree and are required to have a state license. While they will handle residential, their scope will often include larger complicated commercial and public spaces. They collaborate with architects, engineers, and other professionals to create comprehensive landscape plans that integrate with the surrounding environment and consider factors like drainage, site grading, accessibility and parking areas. Landscape architects may also be involved in urban planning, park design, community development, and large-scale environmental restoration projects.

garden maintenance in a natural environment with large privacy landscaping
A Tilly 3D Render of a Landscape Design Project

Does Tilly use landscape designers or landscape architects?

Tilly has both landscape designer and landscape architects. Our conceptual landscape design projects don't include construction documents and therefore a landscape architecture degree is not necessary. However, most of our design team has been working in the landscape design field for 10 years or more! All of them have extensive residential design experience in their given regions, ensuring they know the best plants and hardscape materials for their projects. Many have come from a design/build background which includes a hands-on education in landscape construction. This invaluable training helps to inform design decisions, based on experience and an understanding of what it takes to create and build an outdoor environment.

landscape design field, a garden planting plan
A Tilly Planting Plan for a Backyard

What is the role of my landscape designer in my project?

When creating landscape design plans for your yard, a designer plays a pivotal role in transforming your vision into a cohesive and functional design. Here are some key aspects of their role in the planning process:

Site Assessment

A landscape designer will conduct a thorough analysis of your yard, taking into account factors such as its size, existing conditions, your goals and any obstacles. This assessment helps them understand the site's opportunities and limitations, which informs the design decisions. For Tilly, your designer will review the photos you send in, questionnaire you fill out prior to your phone call and then use the video call as an opportunity to walk your space and clarify any questions they have.

Design Concept Development

Based on your preferences, lifestyle, and site analysis, the landscape designer will develop a design concept that aligns with your vision. They will consider elements such as outdoor living spaces, pathways, plantings, hardscapes, water features, and more to create an overall design scheme that enhances the aesthetics and functionality of your yard.

Plant Selection and Layout

With their extensive knowledge of plants, a landscape designer will carefully select appropriate plant species that thrive in your climate, suit the site conditions, and align with your desired aesthetic. They will create a planting plan that specifies the placement, spacing, and quantities of plants, taking into account factors like sun exposure, soil moisture, and color coordination.

Hardscape Design

Landscape designers are skilled in integrating various hardscape elements into the design, such as patios, decks, pathways, retaining walls, and structures like pergolas or gazebos. They will consider factors like materials, proportions, functionality, and how these elements harmonize with the overall design scheme.

Sustainability and Environmental Considerations

A designer can prioritize sustainable practices in their designs. They may focus on native plant selections to support local ecosystems and encourage sustainable materials such as organic compost, etc.

landscape architecture vs. designers
A Tilly 3D Render with an Aerial View of a Backyard

Common Mistakes to Avoid

As you embark on the journey of transforming your yard, it's essential to be aware of common pitfalls and mistakes that can hinder a smooth project. Here are a few key mistakes to steer clear of:

Neglecting to set clear goals and objectives

Before engaging a designer, take the time to define your goals and expectations for the project with your partner or anyone you share your space with. Consider factors such as your desired aesthetic, functionality requirements, budget constraints, and project timeline. Clearly communicate these goals to your designer to ensure they align with your vision. Doing this legwork upfront and before embarking on your project can save a lot of time and energy down the road!

Failing to establish a realistic budget

It's good to have a realistic budget in mind when working with on an outdoor project. Be transparent about your expectations. Yard projects can be costly, but there are many ways you can approach this to make your dreams a reality. There are financing options or at Tilly, we always recommend phasing a project. This means you create a master landscape design and then phase the installation as budget and time allows.

Not considering long-term maintenance requirements

A beautifully designed yard requires ongoing care and maintenance to retain its allure. One common mistake is overlooking the long-term maintenance needs of the proposed design. Be realistic with your desired level of maintenance so they can take this into consideration when recommending plants. It also comes into consideration when you select hardscape materials, deciding if you want a deck or patio, etc.

Overlooking the importance of communication and collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration are the foundations of a successful partnership - with anyone! Therefore give thought to your vision before you connect with them and if you decide to do a round of revisions be thorough in providing your feedback all at once. At Tilly we have one round of revisions and extra revisions (which are rarely needed) can be added for a fee.

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landscape architecture with professional experience planting plan
A Tilly Planting Plan for a Full Yard

Hiring a landscape designer can be a game-changer when it comes to updating your garden design and landscape. Their expertise in design, plant selection, and creating a holistic blueprint can elevate your yard to new heights. By avoiding common mistakes such as setting clear goals, establishing a realistic budget, considering long-term maintenance, prioritizing communication, you can ensure a successful collaboration and great final result. Need more information? You can book a call to learn more. Your dream yard awaits!

Read more about: Landscape Design Tips, Gardening Tips