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Choosing a Landscape Architect: Ask a Pro

When building a new home, a Landscape Architect is an essential member of the team.  A Landscape Architect is trained and licensed to design the grading, drainage, patio, pathways, fences, gates or pergolas in addition to selecting the trees, bushes and flowers and designing irrigation. Once you’ve found a few landscape architects you think might be right for your project, how do you to make the right choice?  We asked Los Angeles Landscape Architect, Anna Hoffman, what to do, to ask, and to look for when searching for a Landscape Architect.

Anna Hoffman Landscape Architecture

The Interview

  • Be sure to meet at the property where you are building your TBH&H house
  • Bring a list of your needs and wants for the hardscape (patios, pool, pathways, pergolas, fences and all the green stuff).  Prioritizing helps the landscape designer know what is important to you.
  • If you’ve got a survey or a site plan for the lot, bring it to the meeting. Ask your realtor or check your closing paperwork if you are not sure.
  • It is a big help to share any Pinterest boards or Houzz Ideabooks you have created, with examples of the kinds of plantings and garden structures you love at the interview.  Don’t forget to label what elements you like in each picture, so the landscape architect will know whether you saved the photo for the pink azaleas or the gazebo.

Review their portfolio

  • Look for flow from indoors to outdoors in their projects.
  • How does the landscape and hardscape relate to the house and the lot? Are they complementary? Or do the landscape features overpower the house? Or, conversely, do they underwhelm?
  • Do the pathways between patios, gates and fences make sense?
  • How does the color, size and shape of the plantings relate to house and the garden elements?
  • Does their portfolio demonstrate an ability to work with homes and landscapes that differ in style or does the landscaping look similar regardless of the style of the house?

Anna Hoffman Landscape Architecture

Ask to see a set of drawings

  • Do the drawings have enough detail to be able to understand how the yard will be laid out?
  • Can you follow them? Are they straightforward? You have to be able to understand them, as they are the most important “tool” for you and your landscape architect to create your outdoor environment.
  • Pay attention to how the landscape architect explains their plans. They will be your Sherpa through this journey.
  • Also ask if he or she uses software to generate renderings to help you better visualize the final result of the design.  

Visit a matured project

  • Selecting plantings takes vision. Plants look different when first installed. It is the Landscape Architect’s role to imagine how the garden will look once all the plantings have matured.
  • It is helpful to see a project that has been recently completed, but more important to see one that has had the time to develop - so be sure to ask to see a matured project.

Anna Hoffman Landscape Architecture

Be bold and make a choice

  • If you love their work for both its form and function…
  • If you and the landscape architect hit it off personality-wise…
  • If they appear collaborative and respectful of your needs and wants…
  • If they believe they can meet your budget…
  • If you have checked that their license is active and they are properly insured…

…then go ahead and sign up already!

Manage your expectations

  • Landscape is ever-changing. Your yard and garden will look one way on planting day and will slowly transform with every passing month.
  • Landscaping costs continue long after installation – don’t forget to factor in water, fertilizer and costs of a gardener if you don’t plan to weed and mow and trim yourself.
  • Not every existing plant/tree is worth saving – controversial, yes, but true.
  • Plants get old, some die, and will need to be replaced over time.
  • Remember to have an open mind throughout the design process. If you want a true collaboration of creativity and expertise, you must be willing to trust the landscape architect you hire. If you only want someone to do as you say, better to hire a gardener.

Enjoy your new outdoor paradise

So once the final piece of bluestone is laid and last dogwood is planted, kick off your flip flops and run your toes through the grass. The great outdoors shape our lives, making memories of lazy summer evenings with dinner parties lit by fireflies and Sunday afternoon cook-offs. Our yards can be badminton courts and soccer fields, tracks for wheelbarrow and potato sack races or ripe with good spots for hide-and-seek. Whether you use your yard to relax or play, you want it to be tailored to the way you live. With the right Landscape Architect you can take that hammock snooze and rest assured that you made the right choices.