Are you looking to create a garden from scratch or make over an existing one? Will your project involve building a patio or retaining wall, or is planting your priority? Is your budget big or small? If you’re looking to hire a landscape professional, the answers to these questions can help you figure out whom to call.
If your project is large and complex and involves a lot of building, a landscape architect is your best option. Most have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture (DC doesn’t require landscape architects to be licensed; Maryland and Virginia do) and are equipped to deal with structural elements such as patios, driveways, drainage, swimming pools, and retaining walls. Landscape designers often have expertise in this field, but they don’t have to—they tend to focus more on horticultural aspects of garden design. A landscape designer is a good choice for smaller projects and is usually less expensive.
As with any renovation project, personal referral is the best way to find a landscape professional. If you like a friend or neighbor’s yard, ask if she used a designer she’s happy with. Most landscape architects have Web sites with portfolios to peruse. Once you have recommendations, talk to a few designers about what you need.
“The aesthetics of each designer can be very different, so it’s great if you can identify some who are doing the kind of work you like,” says Nancy Somerville of the American Society of Landscape Architects. “Then talk to previous clients about what it was like working with them.” Most designers will be happy to refer you to someone else if they feel they’re not the best person for your project.
Prefer to do the work yourself but looking for guidance? Some designers offer consultations—for a small fee they’ll visit your yard and recommend ways to get the most out of your space.
There are other ways to find a good landscape professional. Both the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers have lists of members online. Web sites such as Home Solutions Connection, Home Connections, and ServiceMagic screen companies to offer a free list of recommended landscape professionals. Angie’s List provides a similar service for a $15 membership fee and $8.75 a month. Washington Consumers’ Checkbook ($34 for two years) offers subscribers a forum to share feedback about companies they’ve worked with.
What follows isn’t a comprehensive list of the best Washington landscape professionals—there are many more creative and efficient companies in the area. These are the names recommended most often by architects, remodelers, garden centers, other landscape architects and designers, and readers. Included are design/build firms, which can do things such as build walls and patios, and landscape-architecture firms, which provide only design services but often have relationships with contractors who can do the actual work.
Arentz Landscape Architects, 4543 44th St., NW, 202-537-8020; 8014 Charnick Rd., Marshall, Va., 540-341-4330. Richard Arentz and his team of three landscape architects specialize in detailed, sustainable design. Arentz also owns Ironwood, a landscape construction company.
Chapel Valley Landscape Company, 3275 Jennings Chapel Rd., Woodbine, Md., 301-924-5400; 21617 Cedar La., Dulles, 703-406-0802. This large design/build firm specializes in installing large trees, exterior lighting, and irrigation.
Clinton & Associates, 5200 Baltimore Ave., Suite 201, Hyattsville; 301-699-5600. Horticulturist and landscape architect Sandra Clinton started her design/build firm a dozen years ago. It emphasizes lush planting and livable outdoor spaces.
Fine Earth Landscape, 16815 Budd Rd., Poolesville; 301-983-0800. Joel Hafner and Bernie Mihm’s design/build firm specializes in complex, high-end projects and the installation of patios and retaining walls.
Fine Landscapes, 21558 Stonetree Ct., Sterling; 703-421-7441. A high-end design/build firm doing projects mostly in Great Falls, McLean, and Leesburg.
Garden Gate Landscaping, 821 Norwood Rd., Silver Spring; 301-924-4131. This 46-year-old residential design/build firm has seven landscape architects and designers and excels at renovating existing gardens.
Graham Landscape Architecture, 229 Prince George St., Annapolis; 301-858-5330. Jay Graham’s team of 12 is highly recommended for its attention to detail and careful blending of landscape and structure.
Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect, 110-B Second St., NE., Suite 202, Charlottesville; 434-977-3232. This firm is known for its modern, minimalist designs and does projects all over the country.
Jane MacLeish Landscapes, 3743 Upton St., NW; 202-966-8279. A small design/build firm specializing in country estates with an English feel and whimsical gardens with a sense of fun.
Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture, 711 Florida Ave., NW; 202-986-0711. This 20-year-old firm is known for its site-specific planting designs, arbors, and gazebos.
Landscape Architecture Bureau, 714 Seventh St., SE; 202-543-6550. Formerly the Fitch Studio, this design/build firm specializes in urban designs with a creative use of space and color.
Lila Fendrick Landscape Architects, 6904 West Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-907-7700. This small firm, highly recommended by peers, is known for its design versatility and extensive range of projects.
McHale Landscape Design, 6212 Leapley Rd., Upper Marlboro; 301-599-8300. A large design/build firm with its own masonry and carpentry divisions; recommended by peers for its outdoor kitchens.
Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, 800 G St., SE; 202-546-7575. Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden are internationally known for natural, contemporary gardens. Two dozen landscape architects are on staff at this design/build firm.
Scott Brinitzer Design Associates, 2300 Ninth St. S., Suite M-1, Arlington; 703-892-0266. A small design/build firm founded in 1987 and specializing in classic residential designs.
Shimizu Landscape Corporation, 6101 Bryn Mawr Ave., Glen Echo; 301-229-9483. Osamu Shimizu’s designs fuse Eastern and Western styles and often incorporate water. The firm also does building.
Tom Mannion Landscape Design, 3219 N. Fourth St., Arlington; 703-528-9098. This one-man design/build company creates lushly planted, contemporary gardens that usually include water.