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Do you need professional landscape help? Here is how to choose.

Do you need professional landscape help? Here is how to choose

When you're remodeling a garden or startinga new one, you have a variety of landscape specialists you can call on for help. A landscape architect is one choice (see page 284 of the April 1985 Sunset), or you may want a landscape designer, horticultural consultant, contractor, even a nurseryman.

Knowing what these professionals can doand their qualifications for doing it can help you pick the right one for your job.

Before you hire anyone, shop around

Ask friends and neighbors--or relatedprofessionals such as architects or builders --for referrals. Once you find someone whose style and workmanship you like, look at qualifications, references, and his or her experience with the kind of work you have in mind. If you're unfamiliar with someone's work, ask for a list of previous clients so you can see examples and talk with the owners.

Before hiring a contractor, be sure to getbids from several firms. But don't base your choice on price alone; in the end, a contractor's reliability and skill will determine your satisfaction with the job.

While it's often convenient to have onefirm design and build your project, there are practical advantages to separating these steps. If yours is a large project, for example, or one that will be built in phases, having a plan (and, ideally, construction drawings) allows you to compare different contractors' estimates. Also, because landscape architects--and in most cases designers--are not in the business of selling plants or building materials, they can be more objective in their recommendations.

Whomever you choose, if the job involvesmore than minimal consultation, get a written contract before you pay a retainer or let work proceed. This can be a simple letter of agreement, but it should clearly spell out the fees, payment schedule, and scope of work to be done.

A look at landscape specialists

Landscape architects generally hold a degreein landscape architecture from an accredited university. In 9 of the 13 Western states (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington), they alone are licensed to create landscape plans for a fee.

To qualify for licensing, they need two ormore years of work experience in addition to schooling in landscape architecture, or six years of work experience under a licensed landscape architect, and must pass oral and written examinations similar to those given to architects and engineers. They can provide a range of services from hourly consultation to preparing complete design and construction drawings.

The initials ASLA indicate membershipin the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Landscape designers are less easily defined;they have no license or certification, so the title doesn't reflect specific qualifications.

Their training and experience can varywidely. Many are recent graduates of horticulture or garden design programs in two- or four-year colleges. Others are accomplished horticulturists. Some have the same training as landscape architects. Reflecting this range of experience, their rates vary from $15 to $80 an hour.

Despite their diverse backgrounds, mostspecialize in residential garden design. Increasingly, they include people who are artisans or, to some degree, exterior decorators. Some offer specialized kinds of planting schemes like perennial borders, container planting, drought-tolerant landscapes, or water gardens.

In addition to making plans, landscapedesigners may help you find unusual plants or select outdoor artwork and furnishings. Where state laws limit their work to planting and other nonstructural design, they sometimes work through a licensed contractor, architect, or engineer to be able to include decks, arbors, and other kinds of structures in their plans.

Landscape contractors are trained and, inmost states, licensed to install paving, planting, structures, lighting, and irrigation systems. They implement the plans of landscape architects and designers; many will also design the projects they build (fees are generally included in the cost of construction).

The contractor's own crew may do thework or, on a large project, he or she may coordinate various subcontractors. Many contractors belong to a state association, which keeps them informed of new materials and techniques.

You can also hire specialty contractorsyourself for individual jobs--building a fence, doing masonry work, putting in a pool or waterfall, installing garden lighting and irrigation. But be cautious about hiring an unlicensed "landscaper,' even though you may be tempted by lower prices. State licensing protects you from possible liability for workmen's injury on the job. It also gives you legal recourse if the work is not properly done.

Nursery personnel are sometimes availablefor garden consultation. In Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, certification through the state nurserymen's association tells you they have passed tests on knowledge of such things as garden plants, diseases, insects, weeds, and soils. They are also familiar with growing conditions and plants that do well in your area.

To encourage business, nurseries may alsohave a designer on staff who can prepare plans using plants and other materials, such as fountains or paving stones, that the nursery sells. If you buy supplies from them, the advice may be free.

In some areas, large retail nurseries haveseparate landscape divisions that will provide complete design and construction services, for a fee.

Photo: Conferring on entry remodel, landscapedesigner teams with contractor
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1987
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