Commercial landscape design may be extremely varied. It may involve designing residential, public or business landscapes. Designers may diversify or specialise in their work (e.g. parks, factories, interior landscapes, playgrounds, streetscapes, shopping precincts, sporting venues, permaculture gardens, water gardens).
Scope of Work
Landscape design involves:
Gathering Site Information - Existing plans/maps, climate & soil data, surveying (site features, contours)
Consulting - Discussing the client’s needs
Planning - Producing designs and drawing up plans, budgeting, scheduling work
Making Decisions - Earth forming, components, construction materials, plant species selection
Some landscape designers are self-employed, gaining work by reputation. Others work in a larger team. Some take on multiple roles (e.g. designer, supervisor, contractor).
Most designers work on limited term contracts, commonly one or several months; sometimes less. Occasionally designers are retained to work on a large site for extended periods, even many years as the project designs and develops new parts of the same site.
Garden Designers often need to collaborate with other professionals where a higher level of expertise is needed on a job (e.g. engineers, builders, irrigation designers, conservation scientists, etc.)
What You Need to Learn
Garden design - Taking measurements & site information, drawing plans & sketches, principles of garden design, use of features & components
Building science - Understanding stresses and loads, cement & concrete mixes, depth & width of foundations, construction techniques
Materials - Types of materials, characteristics of stone, clay, brick, timber, different paving, fencing & walling materials
Project management - Overseeing small to large scale projects, ordering materials, arranging labour & equipment
Earthworks - Surveying, drainage, flood mitigation
Tools and equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, operation -using it correctly, maintenance, repair machinery & manual tools
Plant knowledge - Plant selection, species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of many different varieties, turf and weed species, biosecurity
Starting a Career
Most people don't start out in landscape design but work towards it by gaining experience in related areas of work. Some ways to get experience include:
Working as a labourer assisting a landscape contractor
Joining a local gardening club
Volunteer work e.g. at local sports grounds or public gardens
Going to trade shows and garden events
Networking with like-minded people
You might even begin by working in your own garden or those of friends or relatives. As you build knowledge you may develop an interest in landscape design and start to experiment. When you are more skilled opportunities will start to emerge. You might get taken on as part of a landscaping team doing basic work initially and learning on the job. Gradually positions of greater responsibility may be offered.
Some people may start their own landscaping or gardening business and slowly move into design as they gain more knowledge.
Progressing a Career
To progress in landscape design you need to keep learning to improve what you can offer. This means topping up existing knowledge and skills through taking workshops, seminars or courses. Visiting and observing existing landscapes and historic gardens can also be a valuable means of gaining insight into design, as well as inspiration.
If there are gaps in your knowledge these should be filled, especially with the types of skills listed under 'what you need to learn'. Any courses you take should be delivered in a way that does not just present and test you quickly, but takes time to revisit, reinforce and embed the fundamentals of garden design into your long-term memory.
It is important to be involved with a professional or trade organisation to learn about current trends and industry changes. Attending trade shows and garden fairs is another means of continuously evolving your knowledge in garden design, landscaping and horticulture.