Working with landscape designers

Avoid This Pitfall When Working With Landscape Designers

Post by
Scott D. Renwick
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Working with landscape designers can have its advantages. However, it would help if you were wary of one thing in particular. Read on…

If someone classes themselves as a landscape designer, they likely have some academic credentials to back that up.

These credentials could be anything from a certificate to a master’s degree or Ph.D. in any of the following:

  1. Landscape design
  2. Landscape architecture
  3. Garden design
  4. Horticulture
  5.  Architecture

and perhaps some other disciplines as well.

In the case of Ireland’s renowned garden designer and TV personality – Diarmuid Gavin – his qualification was in horticulture, coming from the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin.

A lot of people may not know that he is not a classically trained designer, however, it certainly has not held him back. He had achieved Gold medal status and Best of Show at the Chelsea Flower Show in London – One of the world’s if not the world’s most prestigious garden exhibition.

I’m not here to warn you from inviting Diarmuid Gavin into your home. However, I am here to bring caution to your thinking if you choose to go down the route of hiring a designer to create a fantastic outdoor space for you.

The Problem with Landscape Designers


A lot of designers spend too much time in front of their computer screen on the various design software that exists, of which there are many. AutoCAD. Sketchup, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Vectorworks to name but a few.

They have clean, soft, delicate hands and great minds that can be used to fuss over details to the exact millimeter.

You may think that is exactly what you want, however, there is a gaping void to fill. That gaping void is the lack of practical knowledge.


What do we Mean by Practical Knowledge?


We mean having an understanding of things such as:

  1. The up-to-date prices of materials
  2. How long a project will take
  3. What professionals are needed to create the design
  4. How to design effectively so that it can be built efficiently
  5. What are the structural implications of the design
  6. What potential physical challenges may occur that will alter the design and/or increase the price
  7. What is the site accessibility like

These are aspects of landscape design that a designer will often overlook. The designer tends to be more concerned with the vision and being as accurate as possible in their details.

Now not all landscape designers will be so oblivious, but a surprising amount of them are.

It’s not their fault, this is how they are taught.

They know what a wall should look like, yet have never laid a brick in their life, or mixed the mortar, or wheeled a wheelbarrow up some front door steps, through a hallway, then through a kitchen and down the steps on the other side coming out the back.

Nope, they haven’t got that experience and that’s the problem with a lot of landscape designers/architects.

The motivation behind this article is that we (SAS Landscapes) were called to do a job for a potential client. This potential client had their garden designed by one of Ireland’s leading landscape design offices.

The plan cost almost €2,000 EUR.

I reviewed this plan and it was excellent. Every detail was thought of, from a design and planning point of view.

What Did They Not Think of?


They didn’t think at all of the client’s budget, which was let’s say €10,000 EUR.

Halfway through the process of pricing this job, it became very clear to me that the materials came to about €15,000 EUR.

Not only this but the project required 5 different professional disciplines and therefore required a project manager. Hiking up that bill even further.

This project if implemented as designed would come to a cost of about €40,000 EUR. A far cry from the €10,000 EUR that the client had in mind. 

These landscape designers designed a garden like there was no budget. Not surprisingly, they brushed off the client and told them that they were “too busy” to do the work and could only get to it next year.

This is basically professional speak for “there is no way in hell we’re doing this project for €10,000 EUR”.

This design firm only thought about their image and what they wanted to achieve. They pretty much ignored their client. The fact that their plan was of high quality and well thought out, was of little to no relevance.

The client spent almost €2,000 EUR on a plan they can’t use.

Some people may say that’s robbery. Others may give the benefit of the doubt and simply say it was a result of poor communication. 

I guess we’ll never know.

One thing is for sure, this won’t happen with SAS Landscapes – we have both the academic experience and the practical experience. We know how to listen to clients and produce plans that can be used.

Contact us today for a quote:
083 137 7834

Cover image credit: Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

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