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Working with Landscape Professionals

It takes a wide range of skills to take a dream and turn it into a landscape. Here's a guide to the various professionals who can help make that transition go smoothly.

It pays to understand the skills and knowledge each type of landscape pro brings to a job.

As you plan, design, and build your landscape, you may need professional assistance. Familiarize yourself with the roles of landscaping pros. Ask for references and call to verify the quality of the work. Choose someone who listens and seems open to your ideas. Build a relationship with your contractor or landscaper.

Contract for one section or phase of the work at a time; try the contractor out before you commit to the next section.

Landscape Architects

These professionals are trained and licensed (in most states) to practice.They are generally the most qualified to guide you through planning and design. Costs for their services range from hourly consultation fees to flat fees for the entire project. Choose a landscape architect to review your design and plan before you begin construction.

Landscape designers

Landscape designers are not regulated or accredited. If you are interested in working with a landscape designer, check references carefully. There are some extremely gifted designers with extensive plant knowledge. Usually they are more adept at formulating planting plans than master planning or designing permanent garden structures.

Landscape contractors

They are not governed by any licensing agency or state regulations -- only standard business practices. Landscape contractors are often hired to install the projects of landscape designers and landscape architects who do not install their own. There are some highly skilled and professional contractors in the marketplace and others who aren't. Discuss who will furnish the materials. Ask for samples of materials that will be supplied by the contractor.

Garden center staff

A garden center is an ideal source for plants and expert local advice. Most staff members are not skilled in planning and design, but a landscape designer may be available. Many garden centers offer a discount on plants if you work with their design service in compiling a landscape plan.

Government officials

Call the main county or city planning office and ask about submitting your landscaping plan for building and land disturbance permits. Contact your subdivision office or neighborhood association to submit your plan for approval, if need be.

Before you sign a contract with a landscape professional, do your homework. The questions listed below will help you gauge the mettle of the person who wants to perform the work for you. Regardless of the answers to these questions, talk to several references and prior customers as well. Ask these folks similar questions about the contractor.

Questions to Ask

  • What is your professional title and training?
  • Are you licensed or certified?
  • What references can you provide?
  • Do you have a portfolio of your finished projects?
  • Do you have a specialty?
  • What style are you most comfortable working with?
  • Would you explain how you will do the job?
  • How much is the project going to cost?
  • When is payment expected?
  • Do you accept installment payments?
  • What can I do to help cut costs?
  • Do you have proof of insurance and bonding?
  • Are your materials and workmanship guaranteed?
  • What is your contingency plan in case of problems or additional costs?
  • When can you start and finish the project?
  • How soon can you provide the written contract?

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