What is “landscaping”? And why you won't see that word here.

 
 
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Typing into the search bar on Google or Pinterest, how would you describe the land your house is on? Back/front/side yard? Outdoor rooms? Exterior spaces? Most likely, you’d type “landscaping.”

Yet ask a landscape architect or designer about your “landscaping” and they will likely bristle at the word. There’s a big disconnect between how homeowners and industry folks refer to the work that’s being done on these exterior spaces, and this gap tends to cost homeowners time, money, and headaches. Knowing who to call for your outdoor job means getting the right expertise, right away.

Let’s look at the work of outdoor renovations (that “L” word) through the eyes of a landscape designer or contractor.

 
 

Landscaping is a verb, “to improve the appearance of an area of land as by planting trees, shrubs, or grass, or altering the contours of the ground” (or so says Dictionary.com). Landscaping is also “to do landscape gardening as a profession.”

So who’s the subject of this verb? Landscapers. These are the folks who are on site doing the work of fertilizing, planting, leaf blowing, laying down pavers, and clearing gutters and ice after storms. Landscapers keep landscapes in tip-top form. Landscape management companies specialize in this work. Many states don’t require any specific training or licensure for landscape management companies.

Landscape contractors focus on the initial installation of a design, which they’ll usually refer to as its construction. Landscape contractors run construction companies and may dabble in landscape management services as well, once the project is installed, but that range of services is not a guarantee. General contractors must be licensed by the state to legally perform work, and are often bonded, meaning that they hold an insurance policy that protects property owners. Depending on the complexity of the project, landscape contractors see a project through by bringing in specific expertise (electricians, nurserymen, or masons, for example) who need a state license of their own.
 
Backing up a bit — new landscape construction starts with a design. In this realm, you’ll find both landscape designers and landscape architects. Both offer design services to improve the aesthetics and functionality of your outdoor spaces. Landscape designers will locate pathways and seating areas, layout planting beds, pick plants, and can create an overall plan for the look and feel of your yard. While landscape designers may belong to a state or national association, there are no legal requirements for their training or oversight on their work.  

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Landscape architects do need state-issued licenses to practice and must meet educational and training requirements. For this, they get a “wet seal,” which they use to stamp drawings that are submitted to cities or counties for permits. Like landscape designers, landscape architects also design outdoor spaces through layout, planting, and materials plans, though they also undertake technical issues like retaining walls, drainage, lighting, and irrigation. Designs become stacks of drawings and a long text document illustrating in detail the precise construction of every element of the design. Commercial and civic project like campuses and parks require these services to ensure public safety, but the extensive process is often overkill for residential projects. Though if your property has water issues, slopes, or any potential engineering problems, you may be better off bringing in a landscape architect. 

YardKit was founded by a landscape architect to streamline residential landscape design by folding all of these services into a logical sequence for homeowners. With this behind-the-scenes knowledge of the outdoor renovation industry (and an over-the-top obsession with things like concrete and camphor trees), we’re creating a step-by-step process for landscape renovations, starting with design.

We’re trying to make things simple, but the range of expertise and skill along the way is far from simplistic, and landscaping is one piece of the puzzle. That’s why you won't hear us using the “L” word around here. 

 
Janice Nicol