Want a stylish garden? Then you need the help of the professionals
The qualifications in landscape and horticulture vary considerably, as do areas of expertise, rates and services. Before you call a designer, decide what sort of help you need and how much money you want to spend. Also think about the style of garden you want and about any problems that need to be solved as you create your new garden.
With a university qualification in landscape architecture, a landscape architect is the top end of landscape design. They will design and oversee construction of your garden. If you want a garden designed for your new house or around an extension, get the landscape architect involved early. Use a landscape architect when there are serious problems to overcome, such as massive level changes. Most are members of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, the professional association. Keep in mind, though, that not all landscape architects carry out domestic work; many specialise in commercial projects.
A landscape designer has a certificate or diploma in landscape design. Landscape designers have a sound knowledge of construction, garden detailing and plants. Landscape designers are often at the pricey end of the market but provide a unique design. Most have links with a landscape contractor. They will oversee the construction and planting and may offer ongoing maintenance. Most are members of a professional landscape design association, such as the Australian Institute of Landscape Designers and Managers.
Experienced in gardening with a qualification in horticulture, a garden designer or horticulturist will advise on planting and maintaining your garden. If you have an existing garden that needs a makeover or a plan of management, or you are simply looking for a low-cost option, hiring a garden designer is a good starting point. To find a good garden designer, ask at your local nursery or garden centre or contact the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Call a landscape contractor when your garden needs a lot of structure, such as walls, steps, paving and drainage works. Many also offer a garden design service, so can design, build and plant your new garden. Good landscape contractors have tertiary training and a builder’s licence and will be a member of a state-based professional landscape contractors’ association. To help you find a qualified landscape contractor in your area, each state association has a member directory on its website.
You may like to oversee the construction of your garden yourself, calling in specialist contractors such as bricklayers, fencing experts or swimming pool builder as required. Always check that any contractor who works on your property has a valid licence and appropriate insurance. Also, ask for the names of satisfied customers as references. Find subcontractors in the Yellow Pages, the classified section of your local newspaper or by asking around. You can also seek out contractors who are members of their industry association. For example, look for pool builders who are members of their state branch of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association.
A planning checklist
Plans and surveys a designer might need to see:
Plans of recent building works
Plans of proposed building works
Typical questions a designer might ask you:
How will the garden be used?
What is the family situation?
What are your long term plans?
What style of garden do you like?
What is on your wish list?
What are your storage requirements?
What is your budget?
Finding a professional
Australian Institute of Landscape Architects
Australian Institute of Landscape Designers and Managers
Australian Institute of Horticulture
Landscape Contractors’ Association of NSW
(Incorporating the ACT)
Landscape Industries Association of Victoria
Landscape Queensland Industries Inc
Landscape Associations of South Australia
Landscape Industries Association of Western Australia