Spring is a good time to freshen up your yard, whether you want to update the garden with a few new plants or completely redo your landscaping. Even if you have a green thumb, hiring a landscape professional for larger projects can help you get the most out of your outdoor space.
When Lauren Garcia bought a historic house in Old Town, the neglected garden was beyond repair. She decided to build a new back yard from scratch, and she hired garden designer Jane MacLeish. "It was my first landscaping project, so I didn't know anything about how to get started," Garcia says.
She was referred to MacLeish by a friend. Most experts say this is the best way to find a designer who fits your style and is agreeable to work with. For Garcia, working with a designer wasn't just about making her yard look better--it was about creating a more usable space. MacLeish broke the back yard into "rooms," one for the pool and one grassy area where Garcia's son could play lacrosse. "Jane really spent time trying to understand how we wanted to use the space," she says.
A less expensive option than an independent landscape architect is to work with garden designers on staff at nurseries such as American Plant, Behnke, and Merrifield Garden Center. Garden shops may offer everything from just a consultation--for a fee they'll visit your yard and offer recommendations on plants and basic design you can do yourself--or, in some cases, installation of the project.
If you have a small job you think you can tackle yourself, there are resources that can provide advice and guidance. The United States Botanic Garden has a free horticulture hotline (202-226-4785) where you can ask top botanists questions such as how to get the most out of your roses or how to get rid of a particular weed. The online resource Landscape for Life (landscapeforlife.org) offers advice on landscaping sustainably.
Here's are some of the area's best landscape designers, garden shops, and other resources, recommended by experts in the field as well as readers. It's meant to be a starting point; there are other good landscape professionals and resources in the area. For referrals, see the member lists at the American Society of Landscape Architects (asla.org) and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (apld.org).