According to the National Gardening Association, homeowners
spent $36.8 billion on lawns and gardens
in 2003, of which $11.4 billion was spent
on landscaping. And no wonder-it offers
the best return on investment of any home
improvement you can make. Many savvy homeowners
are hiring landscape architects to help
them realize their dreams. Here are some
tips to help you make an educated choice:
Think about what you want and how you will
use your landscape. Formal entertaining,
herb gardens, and children's playgrounds
are all possibilities. Don't limit yourself
to plants and trees; maybe you would like
a fence, a fountain, a deck, a patio, or
other outdoor element.
a realistic budget. One rule of thumb is to invest
5 to 10 percent of your house's worth. If this
seems steep, consider that appropriate landscape
improvements are estimated to return 100 to 200
percent of their cost when a house is sold.
at books and magazines for ideas and start a file
of plants, trees, gardens, yards, pools, patios,
decks, fences, etc., that you like—or dislike—to
show your landscape architect. This will help
you communicate what you want to achieve—or avoid.
find residential landscape architects in your
area, go to Firm
Finder. Credentials are important. Landscape
architects are licensed to practice in 47 states
and must pass a rigorous exam. Members of the
American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)
have met their membership requirements and keep
up with the latest technology and trends through
ASLA publications and continuing education programs.
a few landscape architects and ask for references.
A good designer will walk around the home and
ask a lot of questions about your lifestyle, what
you want to accomplish, and your budget. They
will not hesitate to provide references for you
to call or to answer questions you may have about
their services and fees.
about maintenance. Some homeowners enjoy working
in their yards and gardens, some hire a service
to do it, and others don't want to bother with
it at all. Be sure to let your landscape architect
know how you feel about the upkeep of your investment.