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What to Look For in Your Landscape Designer

The five traits that are sure to lead to a great design

So you’ve decided to invest in a new landscape for your home.

Making this decision is a big step to take, and you might feel a bit intimidated — or, at the very least, unsure of where to start. Entrusting your hopes and dreams to a landscape designer who you’ve just met isn’t exactly a simple thing to do.

I’m one of those designers — and I completely understand where you’re coming from. Whether the size and scope of your dream landscape is large or small, I want to help you make your choice with confidence. Here are my top five traits of a good landscape designer.

1. Empathy and good listening skills.

Listening skills are the most crucial trait you should look for in your designer. And not just whether they can repeat everything you say to them — they should be actively listening and prodding you along with helpful questions during your first meetings.

The questions they ask should also come from a place of empathy, where your designer is able to put themselves in your shoes and understand what you’re looking for. When this is done well, the questions can expand your vision and give you new ideas that you might not have thought of. 

An empathetic designer who can truly listen to you is far more likely to get your design right when all is said and done.

At Vandenberg, we always start your landscape design by asking a simple but profound question: “why?” We ask this question because we think it’s the most important first step we can take together — it’s why we call it our “purpose-driven design process.”

2. Credentials, training and licenses.

Check the qualifications, professional accreditations and memberships that your designer and their team claim to have. The capacity and ability of a landscape firm are based on their education and training.

One thing to look for is industry association memberships. The Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) is a big one that runs conferences, workshops and seminars on industry best practices and standards. There are also many design conferences throughout the country that keep designers up to date on new trends and products too!

As the lead landscape designer at Vandenberg Landscapes, I have a Horticulture degree from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the Landscape Design program and am continuously learning through part-time schooling in Design at Thompson Rivers University. But I got my start in landscaping by spending four years on an installation crew — this experience helps me understand what works well during a build and afterwards, and helps me communicate with the crews building our clients’ designs.

3. A beautiful portfolio of previous work.

We all know that education is important, but real-world experience is even more important. Look at examples of your designer’s past work and make sure they have a wide range of experience.

Beyond that, it’s fun to look at how other landscape designs have come to life, as it’ll get you comfortable with what to expect — and inspire you with what’s possible!

If you’re in the Lower Mainland and are considering us, we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to see some of our past projects. We also constantly post professional photos of our projects on our Facebook and Instagram profiles — check them out for some fresh inspiration!

4. Positive testimonials from happy clients.

Take some time to research multiple landscape companies online. And while you’re doing so, look for reviews and testimonials from previous clients. These can be very telling! 

Whoever you hire will have their employees working in and around your home, so it’s important to get to know them, form a positive relationship with them and most importantly — trust them.

Reading testimonials will give you many clues in these areas. You can see some of ours on Houzz and Google.

5. The ability to communicate with clarity.

Once you’ve committed to a designer, it should be obvious what’s happening — and when. 

Potential red flags to look for include unreturned phone calls, missed deadlines or meetings, unclear processes or not having a point person to contact at the company. 

To combat and prevent any of these red flags, at Vandenberg you’ll work directly with me — the person designing your landscape!

What about the design process?

So you’ve settled on a landscape designer. What’s next?

If you’re curious about what’s all involved in the Vandenberg design process, you can see the steps involved here. Check it out! If you’re just looking for some inspiration for your next project, take a moment to browse some of our featured projects while you’re here.

We want to make sure you have the tools to choose the right landscape designer for you — and part of that is knowing what to expect. If you have any questions at all about how design works at Vandenberg, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help!

Written by  Trent Brown