Choosing a landscape designer

Landscaping Victoria

By Georgia Harper, Georgia Harper Landscape Design, on behalf of Landscaping Victoria
Friday, 18 September, 2015

Choosing a landscape designer

Just as a pool or spa is an asset to any home, finishing it off with a well-designed garden is what makes the job complete. While many pool builders have their own ideas about what makes the ideal outdoor space, some lack the design and horticultural expertise to take those ideas and adapt them to meet specific site, lifestyle and budget requirements.

Landscape designers are trained to work in a variety of styles and have the experience to offer design solutions that you might not otherwise have considered. Even with your own ideas, a good designer will help refine them.

Finding the right designer

First, and most importantly, make sure that any designer you speak to is suitably qualified, insured and a member of the appropriate professional association. Your first search should be on the Landscaping Australia website ( where you can find a link to your state body.

You then need to ensure that the person you engage is approachable, a good listener, open to your ideas and someone with whom you feel completely at ease. Working closely with them means you'll need good chemistry — and communication — between you.

Putting in the groundwork

For larger jobs, it's not unusual to have initial consultations with a few designers to gauge how each would approach the process. If possible, see if you can visit projects the designer has completed in the past. At the very least, ask the designer to show you photos and plans of past projects.

When looking at previous work, keep in mind that every job brings with it different opportunities and limitations so what may work for one garden (or budget) may not work for another. The goal is to get a sense of the designer's style — or variety of styles — and perhaps source some ideas that could be adapted for your project.

The consultation process

Generally, a consultation runs for an hour (possibly more) and is charged at a set rate. It gives you an opportunity to talk about your requirements and your ideas and to listen to the designer's initial suggestions and recommendations so you can get a feel for their approach and a sense of whether you gel with them as a person.

Ask about their fees up front. Consultations are charged differently by different designers, based on the length of time and what they cover, the designer's level of expertise and experience, and what distance they have to travel if the meeting is to take place on-site. Most designers will take the cost of the consultation off the final planning fees should you decide to engage them.

Preparing for a consultation

When you first meet a designer to discuss your project, it's important to have a good basic idea of both goals and budget restrictions. Prepare a client 'wish list' including expectation of gardens, materials, plants and decorative features; work out the basic budget and timeframe; and have a scaled plan of the house as it sits on the block. Armed with all of this information you can hit the ground running and maximise the designer's input.

Commissioning a designer

Commissioning a design will incur design fees, which will vary greatly depending on the level of input needed, how much structure is involved and other variables. A landscape designer will provide a fee proposal outlining what is entailed and a breakdown of the design process, which will include concept and final plans.

Much like building a house, landscape design projects involve a number of client meetings, researching and the sourcing of materials and plants.

Using a landscape designer — and choosing the right one — can impact greatly on delivering on client expectations. A professional landscape designer can bring your client's ideas to life and can help put the finishing touches on a project. Ensure you do your research and only engage the services of a landscape designer who has all the correct qualifications, and who is a suitable fit to you, your style and your clients.

Image credit: Design by Ian Barker, construction by Seasons Landscape.

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