Exterior Design

How to Select the Best Landscape Designers and Landscapers

June 11, 2020

How-to select the best designers and landscapers
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Are you ready to start on your dream yard?  Once you have your budget ready to go and your ideas for what you want to include in your yard design.  You are ready to go but now you need help selecting the best landscape professionals to help you make your dream a reality.  Do you need a landscape designer? Do you need a landscaper, or do you need both?  Jet has been working with both on jobs for over 20 years.  He is going to help you understand the different roles a landscape designer and landscaper play in yard design.  Then he will help you find resources for landscape professionals.  Finally, he will share his best tips on vetting them to make sure you get what you are looking for when you start your dream yard.

What is the difference between landscape designer and landscaper

Selecting a landscape designer, landscaper, or both?

Landscape Designers and Landscapers:

The selection of a landscape designer and landscaper are two of the most critical decision you will make for your project.  Ready to select the best landscape professionals are you sure you know what you need? Do you need a landscape designer or just a landscaper? Let’s be clear on what the difference between a Landscape Designer and a Landscaper?

Landscape Designer: Will work with you as a client to take all of your ideas and to put them into a design will full dimensions, materials and sprinkler specs so that the landscapers can follow to execute on the plan. The more complex the yard design is, the more we recommend working with a landscape designer. Some Landscapers will only work with designs completed by a Landscape Designer. According to Home Advisor, “Most homeowners spent between $1,000 and $6,500 on Landscape Designers in UT with an average of $3,013”.  For the most up to date averaged, visit Home Advisor. These are great to have if you want to have several landscapers bid on designs.

Landscaper: Will review your designs to provide a bid, including the costs for materials and labor to complete the project. They are responsible for sourcing and executing on the landscape design.  Many landscaping companies have landscape designers as part of their team or relationships to give you referrals. The cost of landscaping is entirely dependent on the size of the project and the complexity and will vary widely based on the design. Remember, big-ticket items include: pools, arbors, patios and decks, fencing, and water features. If you have a good relationship with your neighbors, it never hurts to ask what it cost to finish their yard. Several neighbors shared the information with us.

Finding local landscape professionals

Finding the Best Landscape Designers and Landscapers

     Finding the right Landscape Designers and Landscapers to work with will ensure you have smooth experience and quality work that will last for years. Sourcing Landscape professionals is only the start no matter where you find the landscape reference you will want to research their work.

Tips for locating landscapers:

1. Talk to your neighbors about landscapers who did the design and landscaping
2. Ask friends and family for references
3. Ask on your community Facebook pages for references

Getting a reference from friends, family, or neighbors who have recently done work is our favorite place to start. They can also put in a good word for you with the landscaper.

4. Attend home shows in your area and landscapers to see their work
5. If you are working with a landscape designer, ask them for landscape references6. Houzz is a great place to see landscape examples and who did the work.
7. HomeAdvisor will give you an idea of costs in your area and companies to work with including reviews.
8. Google search for landscape professionals


How to research landscape designers and landscapers:

Accurately screening and validating their experience will directly impact how your vision gets translated into reality in your yard. They will be your partners in making your design a reality. You need to have a good relationship so you can have your dream yard, on-time, on budget, and to help guide you into the best decisions possible.  The best landscape professionals could be different for each project, budget, and homeowner.  Completing your own research to select the best landscape professionals is just the start of the process of determining the right fit.

Initial online screening:

The first step should include an internet search of the landscape designer or landscaper. Search for them on google and read the google reviews. Remember, people are fast to write poor reviews, and when they are satisfied, it is often under-reported. A good rule of thumb with statistics is to eliminate the best few reviews from your analysis and the worst. If the majority of the customer reviews are positive, I will keep them in consideration. Next, take a look at Home Advisor; it is another resource to look for reviews on their work.
1. Check to see how long the landscape designer and landscaper have been in business
2. Check to see if they are licensed and insured.
3. Look at their gallery of pictures to see highlights of their best work. Are there projects that look similar to what you are looking to accomplish.
We like to have a minimum of three bids, so try to find five landscape professionals to move to phone screening.

Phone Screening:

Interviewing landscape designers and landscapers: I would suggest you talk to both when starting the project. You may find out that your landscaper does have and include in house design options. They may also have discounts for bundling services.  When you call be prepared for the conversation, if you are lucky enough to reach the actual landscape designer and landscaper, they can give you many of the answers that you need.  Start by introducing yourself and provide them with some background on your project.  

  • Introduce yourself and give them some background on your project.
  • Ask them about how far out they are scheduled, and when they could start to work on our project?
  • Introduce yourself and give them some background on your project.
  • Ask them about how far out they are scheduled, and when they could start to work on our project?
  • Introduce yourself and give them some background on your project.
  • Ask them about how far out they are scheduled, and when they could start to work on our project?
Drive by prior work

Drive-by completed landscape projects

Driving by properties where the landscaper completed work gives you the perfect opportunity to see the work they have done. However, this is the perfect opportunity to get some direct feedback on the landscaper with the homeowner.

Ask the landscaper if they could contact the owner or give you their phone number to contact as a reference. Reach out to them via phone or in-person if they agree to discuss their experience with the landscaper.  This feedback should weigh heavily in your final selection of the best landscape professionals for your project.

If they agree to ask them some questions including:
1. Tell me about your overall experience with (name of landscaper)
2. Did they start and finish on time? If not why?
3. How do you feel about the quality of the work?
4. Did they come in on budget? If not why? And how did they handle it with you?
5. Have you had any issues with the work? If so how did they handle it?
Would you recommend them or hire them again?

Getting a Bid

Time to get a bid:

You have completed your interviews with landscaper designers and landscapers and visited with some the homeowners who have done work with them. Now it is time to decide if you want a bid from them on the work. If you are comfortable and confident in their answers you should call the landscaper back and ask them for a bid on the project.  This is another tool to determining the best landscape professional for your project.

Level the playing field by spelling out materials, dimensions, and features so each landscaper is bidding fairly. This is one place that the landscape architectural plans will come in handy.  

Hiring Landscapers

How to select the landscape designer and landscaper to hire:

Taking the time to think through what you want before meeting with landscapers will ensure that you are sharing the ideas that will help your landscaper to see your vision. Connecting with an honest, reliable, and capable landscaper is vital in reducing stress and getting to a dream finish for your yard.

Making your final selection:

Think through your final selection. It needs to be a calculated decision you want to think through the references and feedback you collected in the interviews. Do not just go with the lowest bid. Consider your visits to completed project yards, and discussions with clients who have done work with them should weigh the most on your decision. Past performance is the most significant predictor of future performance.  Remember, selecting the best landscape professional for your project should include a  combination of the research, recommendations, and price of the projects.

Hiring landscape professionals:

Once you have decided on the landscape designer and landscaper, have the final conversation about hiring them to complete the work. While Jet has worked with many landscape designers over the years on commercial projects, he regularly does his designs, and for our yard, he completed the detailed plans for the landscapers.

Things to discuss:

• Payment arrangements: We always suggest paying for the work in increments as work progresses.
• Proposed start and completion dates.
• Expectations: Discuss how involved you want to be in the project, so they know. If you’re going to pick all of the plants to address it upfront. Don’t forget they are the local experts you should be working with and using their advice.
• Be honest and upfront about your budget and wants to help you think through the reality of accomplishing your goals.

Our Landscaper: JC Landscaping UT

When you submit the plan to them, we recommend asking them for any recommendations they have as well. We were working with JC Landscaping if you happen to be in the Utah County area, there is nothing this team can’t do. Jet has worked with them on many projects for years. They have an excellent reputation, and we’re the ideal company for us to collaborate on our yard. They made several great suggestions like using some dark gray remnant pavers to cut down on our costs that fit perfectly with our style. We did not include polymer sand in our specifications, and they showed Jet why he should use it for the patio and walkways. What a great trip it is so stable the pavers feel like they are in cement. Our plans also had specific plants selected for the bid. They came back with a few other recommendations based on their success with the plants in other yards. They made sure that they stayed on the stylistic trend. What a great experience they were on time, on budget, and the quality of their work was outstanding.

For more landscaping ideas: Check out How to Plan your Dream Yard.

Select the landscape designer and landscaping company that fits your budget understands your objectives and timelines and has a track record for great results. To help you through this process, sign up with your email below to get our Free Guide to How to Hire the Best Landscapers.

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I'm Tristy... 
I am that friend who will say "Dream big...Let's do it."

My dreams exceed my ability to do regularly. But with the right vision and the right partners, you can do anything!

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