LANDSCAPE

Complex landscaping may require a licensed landscape architect or designer.

Your yard and garden are much more than just a strip of grass and plants. They create the backdrop for your home. A well-designed landscape is a delight to see each time you drive up to your home, and the curb appeal of a beautiful landscape can really set your home apart. But how do you find and work with a landscape designer?

Design first

When looking for a landscape designer it always helps to have a basic idea of what you'd like your yard to look like. Drive around your neighborhood and snap photos of houses that have the type of landscaping that appeals to you. Flip through decorating magazines or websites and create an idea board.

If there are plants you'd like to have in your design, be sure to make note of them. It's equally important to keep a list of plants you don't want. By having an idea of the kind of landscape and plants you prefer -- and can show that to your potential designer -- your designer will be able to help you create your new landscape look more easily and help make your vision come alive.

Locate a designer

Landscape designers can range in skill from a licensed landscape architect to a landscaper with a flair for design. Start by visiting your local garden center. A well-stocked garden center often works with designers, architects and landscapers. Some garden centers will even help you with a design if you purchase their plants.

Ask around your neighborhood. If you have a neighbor with a beautiful landscape, ask if they used a designer, or check your local neighborhood apps for recommendations of designers in your area.

Once you've found a designer or two, ask to see their work. A reputable designer will have photos of projects to share, and some may even give you addresses where you can see the landscape for yourself. This is especially helpful, because when you see the landscape and the house together, you'll be able to see how their designs hold up -- if the plantings suggested are working well, or if the designer's work is simply a rubber stamp, using the same planting designs and plants at every house.

Understand your designer

The last step in the process is to understand how your designer works. Is it simply design and you install the planting yourself? Or, maybe the designer creates a landscape plan, installs it, and handles all the details.

Make sure you understand how you would like your designer to work, what you want them to do, and clarify all the financial details. Some landscapers will charge an hourly rate or will double the cost of the plants to install them. Other designers, like garden centers, may help you DIY your design. Landscape designers or landscape architects are usually more costly but their skill level means they can create an architecturally sound landscape. Complex designs that incorporate large plantings, hardscaping, such as walls and paths, may require a licensed landscape architect or designer.

(For more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her website, www.redlotusletter.com.)