Create outdoor design concepts. Landscape architects come up with a holistic design vision for a site that may include natural elements like plants and boulders, hardscaping like pathways and decks, and structures such as arbors or trellises. “We typically design everything except structures with a roof,” says Jennifer Horn of Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture in Arlington, Virginia. “That can include driveways, motor courts, pathways, walls, retaining walls, drainage structures, topography [or] grading, pergolas, swimming pools, water features, fire features and outdoor kitchens. Along with, of course, gardens, irrigation systems and lighting.”
In the initial concept design phase, landscape architects convey their ideas to clients through a site plan showing the overall layout of the design, as well as with sketches, perspective renderings and plant palettes. “Paths, patios, water features, pergolas — all that would be laid out. All the planting areas and plants themselves are laid out,” says June Scott of June Scott Design in Los Angeles. A landscape architect may also share mood boards and inspiration images from Houzz to communicate their ideas.
“If it includes changing the exterior footprint of your home, changing the views or adding any outdoor amenities, a landscape architect is uniquely trained to think holistically about how architecture, engineering and landforms all come together,” says John Conte of Conte & Conte in Greenwich, Connecticut. “Working with a creative landscape architect can open up possibilities a homeowner may never have thought of. And what’s more, they can save them from making costly and unsightly mistakes.”
As the landscape architect and client work together to finalize the vision, the pro will begin to create more detailed drawings and documents that home in on the design and its various elements with greater specificity and detail.
They may also act as point person coordinating with other professionals who can bring specific expertise to the design. “Sometimes the project requires subconsultants like civil, electrical, structural engineers, architects, irrigation designers, artists,” says M.J. Meneley of Hitchcock Design Group in Indianapolis.
Analyze the homeowner’s site. A landscape architect will probably ask his or her clients for a recent survey of the property and may also take measurements to confirm it is accurate. “You would be amazed how many times surveys are wrong,” Reynolds says.