Landscape professionals provide many different services. There are landscape architects, landscape designers, landscape contractors, horticulturalists, and arborists. While there is some overlap among these professions, there are also important distinctions:
Landscape architects - have advanced education, professional training, specialized skills, and licensure in 46 states, including California. Licensure is obtained through education, experience, and successfully passing a licensing exam. An LA manages any job concerning the design and use of outdoor space and the land. The scope of the profession includes site planning, town and urban planning, park and recreation planning, garden design, and historic preservation. They provide analysis, planning, design, management, and stewardship of outdoor space and land. For more information, contact the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Landscape designers - focus primarily on landscape garden design, environmental management, and the preservation of historical landscapes. For information, contact the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.
Landscape contractors - install planting, irrigation, and structural elements of design. For information, contact the California Landscape Contractors Association.
Horticulturalists - are trained in the science of growing and producing plants. For information, contact the California Association of Nurserymen and Nursery Growers at (800) 748-6214
Arborists - are trained in the science of protecting and preserving trees and plant life. For information, contact the American Society of Consulting Arborists.
Request the architect's portfolio. Speak with past clients, if possible. If water-efficient landscape is of interest, ask about water conservation gardens they may have designed.
Prepare a realistic budget. One rule of thumb is to invest no more than ten percent of your property’s worth into landscaping. This figure should include all design and installation costs, as well as plant materials.
Request the architect’s state license number and call the State License Board at (800) 321-2752; or look on line to verify that the license is current, and in good standing.
Request a complete description of the work to be done; quantities and sizes of all materials to be used, including plants materials; brand name of irrigation equipment; and a landscape water management plan.
Request a copy of the contract and expected method of payment.
California state law requires anyone who contracts to do landscape work to be licensed by the Contractors State License Board if the total price of the job (including labor and materials) is $500 or more. Licensed contractors are bonded and must complete four years experience at journeyman, or higher, in the same trade to apply for a license.
Typically, unlicensed persons are not bonded and may not have liability or worker’s compensation insurance. Be aware that if you hire an unlicensed person, you may be financially responsible if injuries, fire, or property damage occurs.
Request the contractor’s portfolio and/or permission to visit gardens the contractor has installed.
Request the contractor’s state license number and call the Contractors State License Board at (800) 321-2752 to verify that it is current and in good standing.
Request a list of similar jobs the contractor has recently completed in your area. Look at the work and talk to the owners, if possible.
Ask if the contractor has liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Request certificates in writing.