Garden Designer vs. Landscape Architect: What’s the Difference?

Property Resources

Garden Designer vs. Landscape Architect: What’s the Difference?

Posted by All Metro Service Companies LLC
9 months ago | July 17, 2023

When it comes to improving the outdoor area of a property, be it a business or residential, there are many professionals that can help with an outdoor space. While landscaping companies may be the first thing that comes to mind, two different professionals landscapers and companies turn to assist them: garden designers and landscape architects. While these titles may seem interchangeable, they represent two different jobs and specialties.

In this blog post, we’ll explore their roles to help answer the question, “What’s the difference between a garden designer and a landscape architect?” It may also help you decide who to hire for your next landscape project.

Garden or landscape designer or landscape architect? What's the difference?

What is a Landscape Architect?

A landscape architect designs outdoor spaces like parks, gardens, plazas, and other open spaces. They plan the layout of these spaces, select and install plants, construct walkways and other features, and integrate sustainable design elements. They also address issues like stormwater drainage and soil erosion. Landscape architects typically hold a professional degree, such as a bachelor’s degree, and must be licensed to practice.

What is a Garden Designer?

A garden designer is responsible for creating or planning the design of gardens, parks, and other outdoor spaces, such as residential or public spaces. They usually work with clients to create a design that best fits their needs and budget while considering the area’s existing landscape and climate. They provide advice and guidance on landscaping, garden tools, materials, and plants to create the desired design. Though they may have taken some general education courses, they do not have the same formal education as a landscape architect. We’ll get into more of this below.

What’s the Difference Between a Garden Designer and a Landscape Architect?

There are a few key differences between the professions of designer and architect in landscaping. Here are a few examples:

A Difference in Education and Credentials

As we hinted above, one of the major differences between these two professions is the education and licensing requirements. Garden designers may have a degree in horticulture, but it’s not required.
Landscape architects, however, must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture from an accredited program. They must hold a license in the state where they work. While this may seem complex, this education and licensing process is necessary for someone who must legally sign off on designs and construction elements.

Focus and Scope of Work

The second difference between these two professionals is the focus and scope of their work. Garden designers tend to focus exclusively on a property’s plants, garden maintenance, and greenery. They may have a thorough understanding of how to care for and maintain plants, how to plant them in a way that maximizes their health and beauty, and how to choose plants appropriate for a particular climate or soil type.

On the other hand, while knowledgeable about plants, landscape architects tend to focus on the overall design of large-scale projects such as residential projects, construction projects, golf course designs, and more. Their process may involve the plants, greenery, and hardscaping, such as patios, walkways, and retaining walls. Computer-aided design can play a critical role in their professional services.

Is There a Difference in Cost of Services?

Like any project, cost is always a factor to consider. In this case, there can be a significant cost difference between hiring a landscape designer and a landscape architect.

Generally, a landscape designer works for a lower fee than most landscape architects due to their scope of services. Not only do they typically work on smaller projects, but they also usually work outdoors on clients’ properties, at nurseries, and or at landscaping businesses.

A landscape architect may be the better choice for those with much larger, more complex projects. Landscape architects have a broad range of skills and expertise, allowing them to handle intricate projects requiring significant work and coordination. A landscape architect typically works in an office setting but may also occasionally visit sites and work outdoors.

Landscape architects also usually work with clients to create designs for parks, gardens, golf courses, cemeteries, campuses, commercial developments, private residences, and more. Because of the nature and scale of these types of projects, it’s not uncommon for landscape architects to work for landscape design firms that pre-determine fees or cost of services. These can typically be higher.

Landscape architects typically work with corporate companies, small businesses etc.

Timeline of Projects

When planning an outdoor project, the timeline is another crucial aspect. Because designers tend to work on smaller landscape design projects, it allows them to complete a project relatively quickly.

On the other hand, if a more extensive project requires a comprehensive design, environmental concerns, or interaction with government agencies, a landscape architect may be your better option.

Remember that landscape architects may require several weeks or even months to develop the perfect design plan for a property or project. Ultimately, the ideal choice depends on the needs of each project and how much time you can invest.

Dedicated Project Management

Garden designers provide valuable guidance during the design phase and assist with the placement of plants. If, however, you work with a designer who works within a landscaping company, they can help ensure a smooth transition from start to finish between the design and completion phases.

Regarding landscape architects, their expertise in landscape architecture and garden design allows them to advocate for clients during the entire process. From site planning to the construction process, architects ensure that every aspect of the project is to the highest standard. This level of detail and service is because landscape architecture requires a certain level of detail, responsibility, artistic flair, site engineering, and communication skills to deliver on-budget designs.

Like garden designers, landscape designers work within the landscape industry but don't have the same formal education as a landscape architect.

What is a Landscape Designer?

While we’ve covered what a landscape architect is and a garden designer, another term you may run across is landscape designer. Like garden designers, landscape designers focus on the overall plan for a landscape project, including designing and installing trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and other plants. They may also be involved with hardscaping and water feature design.

Landscape designers use knowledge of garden layout, soil types, and the environment to create aesthetically pleasing designs. Not to be confused with a landscape architect, landscape designers take a different approach to garden design and work on smaller-scale projects. In comparison, a licensed landscape architect will oversee large-scale projects and consider things like sustainable practices, landscape environments, construction environments, and more.


There are certainly a few significant differences between garden designers, landscape architects, and even landscape designers. From one needing a bachelor’s degree to the size and scope of a project they work on, all three professions offer valuable services and a different take on landscape design.

By understanding the differences and considering a project’s needs and budget, you can better select which professional best suits your needs: licensed landscape architects, garden designers, or landscape designers.

Remember, when choosing any landscape professional, select someone who understands landscape design and can manage a client’s expectations. Some projects may require an individual who can assist with large commercial projects, while others may be much smaller. Having a professional who can answer your questions, produce construction-ready plans if necessary, and create something that meets your needs.

If you’re in the Twin Cities area and have additional questions regarding the difference between these professionals and how we can help you choose professional landscape designers or professionals, contact All Metro Service Companies today.

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