Do I need a Landscaper AND a garden designer?

Do I need a Landscaper AND a garden designer?

When your garden needs a makeover, it’s always best to call in the professionals. In this article we’re looking at different roles within the landscaping industry and exploring the reasons for hiring both a landscaper and a garden designer.

What does a landscaper do?

“Landscaper” is a very small word for the sheer range of skills and abilities that go into creating a garden. It’s a collaboration of civil engineering, carpentry, plumbing, tiling, plantsmanship, soil science, drainage expert, painting, kitchen fitting, project managing and quite a lot more.

Just as a builder turns an architect’s drawing into a house, a landscaper turns a garden design into a safe, functional and beautiful outdoor space.

Landscaping is more than the cosmetic work that you actually see in a garden – it involves quite a lot of preparation such as putting in drains, footings and sub-bases to ensure future functionality.

What does a garden designer do?

Don’t be deceived by the job title. A garden designer does much more than draw lines on a page.  A trained garden designer understands drainage, soil types, building regulations, budgets, materials and plants.

In order to design your dream garden, a garden designer needs to first of all help you brainstorm ideas. Then get to know the challenges that your garden might pose. Drainage, access (for landscapers and machinery) light, shade, soil type, views beyond the garden, the view from each window, ongoing maintenance and of course, budget. The art of garden design is bringing all of these factors into a stylish yet practical scheme.

You will have seen garden designers at work on TV makeover programs. Those programs are highly edited and don’t give viewers a complete overview of the role. Did you know for example that part of the garden designer’s role is to create construction drawings for the landscaper to work from? Or that your garden designer can create tendering documents so that you can get an accurate quote from landscapers?

garden design construction drawings

An example of a construction drawing – these save landscapers an enormous amount of time when quoting and on site.
Because the drawings make it clear what needs to go where, there’s no guessing and the garden will be built exactly as the garden designer intended it to be.

Find out more about the garden design process

Can a landscaper quote without a garden design?

For straightforward, small jobs that involve perhaps one or two elements, most landscapers will be able to quote for the work once they’ve done a site visit. So a new fence, a simple patio with no changes of level, or perhaps some raised beds can built without the help of a garden designer.

However, for complex jobs with lots of different design elements and/or changes of level a landscaper really does need professionally drawn plans to work from. Consider all the different disciplines needed to build a house. Could a builder manage without a blueprint?

If you ask a landscaper to quote for a garden makeover and are given a figure before any surveys have been done or materials specified – be very wary indeed. No skilled landscaper will quote unless a firm plan has been agreed upon. And a quote based on minimal information is likely to change several times as the work ensues – in other words there’ll be extra costs that you might not have budgeted for.

I know what I want in my garden. Do I still need a garden designer?

It’s great when landscaping clients have thought long and hard about their gardens. If you have a layout and materials in mind it’s a fantastic start. BUT do you know for sure that those items can actually be placed in those exact places? Will those plants survive in your garden? Could a little tweak to the layout result in some massive cost savings? A garden designer’s technical knowledge is invaluable.

A garden designer will conduct a thorough survey of your garden. It’s not just about dimensions or light and shade, it’s about the contours of the land, slopes, drainage etc. The survey is also there to assess things like access. Re-contouring needs machinery and labour. The smaller the machines you can fit in your garden, the more labour costs will mount up. Tweaks to the design could save you a lot of money.

garden design showing layout for an asymmetrical garden

A professionally drawn garden design plan is easy for your landscaper to understand and ensures that your new garden is just what you expected it to be


Even if you have a clear vision of your new garden, it’s easy for a landscaper to misinterpret your plans. From experience, I would advise everyone to employ a garden designer to translate your ideas into a working plan with construction drawings and clear specifications.

Do landscapers offer garden design services?

Some landscapers do offer garden design services, but always double check that they know their stuff. And never allow work to start until you have seen and approved the master plan.

At Holland Landscapes your garden ideas are our priority, which is why we will always advise having a garden designer on your team. There’s nothing more disappointing (or expensive!) for clients than having to change a design part way through the build because of problems that could have been avoided by using the services of a garden designer.

The Holland Landscapes office is shared by our sister-company Tapestry Design Studios. It’s a great arrangement that means we can work closely together. So whilst we don’t technically offer garden design services, we can certainly get involved. It just means that the design and build parts of your garden makeover will be invoiced from separate businesses.


Who should I contact first? The garden designer or the landscaper?

A landscaper cannot quote accurately without the services of a garden designer. BUT if you have a landscaper in mind, it’s well worth asking for recommendations.

Garden designers come in many different guises, some are very artistic but their designs are not always practical. Others have a talent for designing well engineered gardens that may not suit your personal style. Personality too is important. It’s vital that you actually like your chosen garden designer – after all, this person is about to shape a big part of your life.

Most landscapers will have worked with several garden designers – we certainly have. Your landscaper will therefore be able to recommend a garden designer whose designs are beautiful and workable AND whose personality will be compatible with your own.

paul baker director of landscaping and garden design businesses

Paul Baker is Partner of Holland Landscapes and a hand-on landscaper. He is also Director of Tapestry Design Studios and works with Katie to ensure that her designs can be built within the customers budget.

In summary

Landscaping and garden design are two very different disciplines but the two are interdependent. Like the salt on your chips – without one, the other is next to useless. So yes, you do need a landscaper and a garden designer. But no – hiring both will not add to the overall cost of the project. In fact, you’ll probably save a fortune.

More information about garden design from Tapestry Design Studios

The garden design process – from conception to construction

Landscaping Prices. What does a garden makeover cost?


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