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Guide to Jobs in Landscape Architecture and Related Fields

Many landscape projects are easy enough for the weekend gardener to tackle; other projects can be done with just the help of a few hired laborers or a small landscape contractor.

So who should you turn to and when? There are a lot of "experts" out there who will assure you they are more than capable of handling your projects. With all the different job titles and terms people use to refer to their work, consumers should be clear about who does what and how qualified a service provider really is.

Landscape Architects design residential gardens, as well as provide professional services in land and urban planning, site design, natural resource management, park and recreation planning, environmental conservation, and historic preservation. Landscape architects have an undergraduate or graduate degree and are licensed in 46 states. Because of their unique combination of design skills, technical experience, and plant knowledge, landscape architects are the best choice for a major outdoor design project, or a project with technical landscaping issues, like stormwater management or native plants, that could have significant environmental impact.

Landscape Designers can be likely choices for designs that do not require construction, grading, or specific technical knowledge. They may have completed a degree program. Some landscape designers attend training or certificate programs, but many are self-taught. Designers are usually a lower-cost option and can be quite satisfactory for planting plans and small projects like perennial bed designs. The best way to evaluate designers is to check references and past projects.

Horticulturists are trained in the science of growing and producing plants. They typically complete an undergraduate or graduate degree in that field. Many horticulturists become nurserymen or work in garden centers. Horticulturists are ideal advisors about specific plant choices and care needs, but typically lack design skills and technical knowledge about drainage, earth-moving, and other aspects of major projects.

Landscape Contractors install planting elements of a design conceived by landscape architects or designers. Landscape contractors may have a practical background in gardening and/or construction work. Prices and quality vary widely. Always check references and past projects, as well as their employment status.

Of course, life is never this simple. Consumers will run across the vague title "landscaper," as well as combinations of categories listed above. Landscapers are generally landscape contractors, but they could also be horticulturists affiliated with a nursery. Adding to the confusion, nurseries often offer free design services with large, full-price purchases.

Design/build firms often advertise combinations of the job categories listed above. These companies offer the design, installation, and at times, the actual plant materials. With design/build firms, a consumer should evaluate the training and expertise of the individuals doing each task; ask if the designer is a licensed landscape architect. Also determine how experienced the installers are, where the plant material is coming from, and who will supervise the on-site installation on-site.


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