I recently got an email and invite to attend a garden tour organized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation has started an initiative called “Garden Dialogues”. It’s an opportunity to visit some spectacular landscapes, meet the owners and the landscape architects they’ve hired on to plan and design their spaces and learn about the whole process. The dialogue here in Seattle begins in a few weeks with three landscapes that will be open to the public (for a fee of $35 per garden). It’s no surprise that the garden that claims to have the most diverse and interesting plant material is sold out (Green Residence), but the other two should still offer a lot of interesting things to observe and definitely learn from.
For more information on the gardens and this whole program, visit their site.
It’s an opportunity to be in a space that we probably can’t afford, but if you’re at all interested in architecture and landscape design, this is well worth getting an opportunity to see! I decided to mention this event because it raises a topic that I’ve been wanting to discuss. In my line of work, job titles vary considerably and are loosely given to anyone who claims to be a “landscaper”. I’ve often been asked what the difference is between a landscape architect, a landscape designer, and a landscape contractor. Many will think that they’re all the same, but these terms are very “loose” at times as they mean different things depending on what part of the world you’re in and/or if you’ve got a license or credentials stating you are, in fact, a landscape. One of the problems that has occurred over time has been individuals or a company will claim to be one or another in order to secure a job. When someone is looking to hire a company to work on a landscape, most people expect a company to be able to do EVERYTHING. So when it comes to billing, it’s just one check; to one company; and that’s that.
Let’s start with defining each one:
Landscape Architects (LA):
Focuses on the planning, design and direction of a public/private spaces. This field determines the BIG PICTURE thinking more about objects in a space and how it works together. They design city plans, parks, recreational spaces, large estates, commercial properties and occasionally, large-scale residential landscapes Very little emphasis or knowledge of plant materials and environmental factors beyond their expertise.
Integrating concepts of design using structure/hardscape and plants/softscape (a term rarely used these days, it seems). Potentially a non-licensed LA. This is what most residential home owners will want to hire. They often have a very strong background in horticulture and pay close attention to proper plant selection, environmental factors, and are able to cater to the needs and specific requests from a client.
This is the individual or team that is responsible for physically building, installing and maintaining the landscape. They are often general contractors able to build structures, move and handle rocks, install irrigation, and water features.
A smarter and more practical approach is to understand the different roles these different fields/specialties and hire where you see fit. Some folks want to discuss plants and determine which ones grow well together; others want a design to follow and they want to DIT (Do It Themselves), and, of course, most wants the “money-saving package” where everything will be done. There is A LOT of overlap between the three fields (especially Designer and Contractor) which makes finding someone to work with even more complicated. The results of the work and potential collaboration, however, can be absolutely beautiful and the gardens here on this tour should effectively demonstrate how it all comes together. I hope you truly consider taking in a garden or two.