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Before you start… information on the landscaping professions

Designers and design

There are several actors on the garden design stage: landscape architects, landscape designers (garden designers) and landscape contractors.

Landscape Architects

A landscape architect typically has a college degree or certificate in landscape architecture. Everyone using the term “landscape architect” in California must have passed a grueling series of examinations to be registered with the state. They also need to pay licensing fees to the state, like contractors.

Supposedly, this means they can deal with more complex landscape issues. For this reason, they can stamp plans for commercial and public projects.

Landscape architects’ licenses are four, possibly five, digits long. 

Landscape or Garden Designers

A landscape designer may or may not have a college degree or certificate in landscape architecture. Basically anyone doing residential design can use the term “landscape designer”. Their scope of services is limited  in California, since they didn’t pass the registration exam. They may have a contractor’s license, or not. Some use business licenses, but these have to relation to skill level - unlike contractor’s licenses.

As far as the design goes, it could be just as good as a landscape architect’s. The difference is all in background and registration.

Landscape contractors licenses are at least six digits long. 

Working with Contractors

The three most important things to do are get references and speak to them, check that their license and bond are valid, and get more than one bid. Another is to remember that a good contractor is on your side and will deal with unforeseen conditions on site. The state contractors’ board recommends three bids so you’ll have a good estimate of what your work will cost.

Landscape contractors licenses are at least six digits long.

Landscape Terms

The landscaping industry has a lot of fairly unique words. Knowing them can help you communicate with builders and express yourself in a somewhat foreign language.

Plants in California’s Central Valley

Our climate is much less “laid back” than the coast. We get frost. We get heat. We have clay soil.