Hiring A Garden Designer  

What can a good garden designer do for you? A good garden designer will not only help you produce a better looking garden but can actually help you save money!

They will advise you on the appropriate plants, hard landscaping materials, and design for your site. This means that the garden will be easier to maintain, serve your needs better, and the plants and materials will not need to be replaced or repaired so often.

What to look for in a good garden designer
The following are "indications" only – alone they don’t make a great designer, but anyone who fits the lot is likely to be good.  
  • A good track record …they have references/jobs you can see (or photos or plans of past jobs).
  • They listen to you and try to accommodate your needs and desires rather than pushing their own likes and dislikes.
  • They know their plants (if you ask them to suggest plants for particular situations, there is no hesitation in making several suggestions).
  • They a good knowledge of hard landscaping …if you ask about problems or needs like paving, steps, drainage etc, they can provide answers without hesitation.
  • They will give you a written quote or a brochure with their terms and conditions in writing.
  • They have a certificate or diploma in Garden Design from a internationally reputable institution 
HINT … Don’t judge the value of a landscape designer on the basis of how “artistic” the plan looks. Some of the best designers don’t draw all that well, and some who draw “pretty” designs may look good on paper but have a poor knowledge of plants and materials.


Garden designers provide different levels of service, depending on the client’s needs and budget. The most basic (and cheapest) level of service is a consultation visit; the uppermost level is the preparation of a full landscape design.
  • A consultation visit – the designer makes a one-off visit to the garden (usually for one or two hours). During the visit they will suggest possible designs and recommend suitable plants and materials. They will charge a set fee for the visit.
  • A concept or sketch plan – the designer visits the garden, assesses the site and your needs, then draws up a simple plan. The plan will not be detailed but it will show all the major changes in the new design.
  • A full landscape design – the designer makes a detailed survey of the site then prepares a detailed set of plans, including a concept plan and a final design which shows planting lists and construction details. The plans may include specifications of materials and prices.
What’s the difference between a garden designer and a landscape architect?
A garden designer, a landscape contractor and a landscape architect all quite different – they have different qualifications, areas of expertise and offer different services. For most home owners, a garden designer and possibly a landscape contractor are sufficient.

Garden designers usually have formal training, ranging from a one-year certificate to a four-year degree. A good designer will have expert plant and landscaping knowledge, and several years relevant experience. They will be able to assess the site, draw a plan (ranging from a simple sketch to a detailed set of plans), prepare a quote, and be able to recommend sub-contractors to do the hard landscaping.

A landscape contractor is hired by the garden designer, and generally has experience working off plans the designer has drawn up. Plans give detailed descriptions of all supplies required to build the garden including soil, turf, plants, rocks, etc. It is the responsibility of the contractor to hire any landscaping equipment such as backhoes and cement mixers. A garden contractor should carry the necessary licence or industry card that is recommended in each state. For example, a pond that is run by a pump connected to the house, must be installed by a licensed electrician.

A landscape architect has a minimum four-year degree from a university, or a post-graduate course, and is a member of the Institute of Landscape Architects. They prepare detailed designs then subcontract and oversee the construction work. They generally work on large-scale commercial projects, although they can be hired to work on home garden designs.

Where to find garden designers
1. Contact a reputable training college (eg. ACS partner /affiliated colleges or IARC recognised institutions – see www.iarcedu.com)

2. Contact Professional associations (their national offices). For example, the Australian Institute of Horticulture.