Lots of different terms are used loosely to describe people who design landscapes. A landscape can be any outside environment, from a garden, to a park, a roadside area, a car park, a roof top or a reclaimed mine site. A landscape normally has plants in it, but not always. It may be a relatively uncomplicated design that contains uncomplicated structural features such as a picket fence or gravel path; but in some situations, a landscape can contain very complex components, like a bridge that is strong enough to carry the weight of a car driving over it, or a large automated watering system with hundreds of water outlets.

Landscape architects, like engineers, have the capacity to formulate and deal with very complex designs that may involve complex mathematical calculations, and apply their understanding of construction. However a landscape architect may not necessarily have as much understanding of plants as a garden designer does. The garden designer draws plans for a garden to create a layout that is both functional and aesthetic and almost always has planting design at its core. 

There are many other types of landscape designers, for example:
• A playground designer produces a design that creates a functional playground. They need to understand how to select and combine components to enhance possibilities for play.
• A permaculture designer needs to understand the principles of permaculture, and both plants and animals, in order to create a landscape that is productive and self-sustaining.
• A water garden designer needs to understand how to contain water, and create a water environment that is ecologically balanced and aesthetically pleasing.

Where Do They Work?
Landscape architects usually work on more costly projects; such as public gardens, commercial and industrial properties and large private gardens.

Some government departments, as well as consulting engineers, planners and even large landscape contracting firms, may employ landscape architects on permanent staff.  Landscape architects may find more work available when governments are spending big, and less when tax revenue is under pressure. Many landscape architects are self-employed, or work in a small business with one or two partners. Landscape architects can earn a great deal more than garden designers, but the amount of work at that level is always going to be far less than for landscape designers.
Landscape architects can become more viable if they diversify the services they offer, perhaps into things such as environmental assessment, media, teaching or consulting.

Landscape design work has increased significantly in recent decades, driven by two things:

1. Municipal governments requiring landscape plans to be submitted and approved on building projects.

2. Social constraints – i.e. both partners in a household work therefore they don’t have time to do things around home, as a result all home services are in bigger demand -including garden design.

Many garden designers are self-employed, and often garden design might be only a part time occupation. Garden design is often coupled with garden maintenance as it is relatively easy to build up a base of clients by firstly maintaining their gardens and then offering design work as it is required. Word of mouth then extends the design side of the business over time.  Some do build a very viable practice doing garden design only, but that usually requires some effective marketing; perhaps building an alliance with a plant nursery, landscape contractor or supplier of landscape materials. Some even work for a firm of landscape architects to provide the planting designs.

What is Needed?
Landscape architects usually undertake university level studies; either a bachelor degree or post graduate qualifications in landscape architecture. Landscape architects often move into this field following studies and/or working in related disciplines such as planning studies, engineering, environmental science or horticulture.

Landscape designers and garden designers need the following:
• An ability to draw a garden plan (either on paper or on a computer)
• An ability to survey a site and collect all relevant information, including topography. Ability to identify several hundred plant species that can be used in a design
• An understanding of how plants grow and what is appropriate to plant under what conditions (e.g. soil, light, water, wind, heat, cold, etc.)
• Knowledge of hard landscaping components and how to design (engineer) them and how to use them in a design

Most landscape designers start out by either working on the job, or more commonly doing a certificate or diploma course.  The piece of paper is just the start with many courses that may offer little if any practical skills or intensive knowledge of plant species and their correct culture. This should be part of a well-constructed course. 


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