Hiring a landscape designer used to be only for the wealthy, but as house prices have climbed, homeowners have begun to invest in both indoor and outdoor space.
Looking at the yards of neighbors and friends is a good first step in finding a landscaping firm. When you find something you really like, look for the designer who created it.
Adele Ashkar, director of George Washington University’s landscape-design program, says, “You should ask to look at a portfolio of projects. It’s the best indication of whether you will like a designer’s style.” It’s also useful to look at a firm’s Web site, which often shows pictures of its work.
Asking professionals about their certification and training is also a good idea. Landscape architects are products of two-to-three-year graduate programs and have been trained in horticulture, design, and engineering. In most states, they must pass a board exam to practice. Maryland and Virginia require landscape architects to be licensed; DC doesn’t. Most landscape architects do large-scale commercial or public projects and, because of their training, are often more expensive.
Landscape designers don’t have to pass an exam or have a license. Essentially, anyone can call himself or herself a landscape designer.
When deciding which type of professional is best, consider your project’s complexity. Whereas landscape architects concentrate on the spatial organization of the outdoor space, designers tend to focus more on plantings. As such, landscape designers can be a good solution for smaller projects. Your need for a landscape architect increases with the project’s complexity—for example, if the topography presents drainage problems.
There are many good landscape professionals in the area. The Neighbor-to-Neighbor section of checkbook.org contains homeowners’ recommendations of landscape designers and architects. (While some parts of the site are accessible for a per-use fee, you must subscribe to access this section.) Three free services offer referrals to local contractors and other home-improvement businesses, including landscapers: Home Solutions Connection (homesolutionsconnection.com), Urban Referrals (urbanreferrals.com), and Home Connections (homeconnections.com). The national service Angie’s List (angieslist.com) recently started serving Washington; it charges a membership fee, but until May 18 Washingtonians can get a year free.
We arrived at our list by asking for recommendations from architects, remodelers, garden centers, landscape architects and designers, and readers. Listed are landscape-architecture firms, which provide only design services—but often have relationships with contractors—as well as design/build firms, which have installation crews on staff. Design/build firms are designated as such.
If a firm isn’t listed here, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Firms are usually happy to provide referrals; this list can be used as a starting point for finding other well-regarded professionals.
Arentz Landscape Architects, 4201 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 407; 202-537-8020; additional office in Warrenton; arentzdc.com. At this design/build firm, owner Richard Arentz and his team of six landscape architects use a lot of stone and water in large-scale, high-end residential projects.
Chapel Valley Landscape Company, 3275 Jennings Chapel Rd., Woodbine, 301-924-5400; 3041 Colvin St., Alexandria, 703-823-5751; 21617 Cedar La., Sterling, 703-406-0802; chapelvalley.com. Large design/build firm that does residential and commercial projects. Specialty in installation of large trees.
Clinton & Associates, 5200 Baltimore Ave., Suite 201, Hyattsville; 301-699-5600; clinton-la.com. Sandy Clinton, a landscape architect, horticulturist, and general contractor, worked for Oehme, van Sweden for 14 years before opening her design/build firm.
Fine Earth Landscape, 16815 Budd Rd., Poolesville; 301-983-0800; fineearth.com. Design/build firm with a gardening and maintenance division; specializes in high-end projects.
Fine Landscapes, 45714 Oakbrook Ct., Suite 160, Sterling; 703-421-7441. 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; gardengate.net. This 42-year-old design/build and maintaining firm does only residential projects.
Graham Landscape Architecture, 229 Prince George St., Annapolis; 301-858-5330; grahamlandarch.com. This highly recommended firm does a lot of work along the Chesapeake Bay.
Gregg Bleam Landscape Architects, 110-B Second St. NE, Suite 202, Charlottesville; 434-997-3232; gbla.net. This Charlottesville firm is known for its modern style and does lots of projects in Washington.
Jane MacLeish Landscapes, 3743 Upton St., NW; 202-966-8279; janes-garden.com. A small design/build firm that specializes in gardens with an English feel; lots of country estates.
Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture, 1003 K St., NW (moving in June to 711 Florida Ave., NW); 202-737-0451. Owners Holt Jordan and Joan Honeyman emphasize detailed planting designs.
Landscape Architecture Bureau, 1740 20th St., NW; 202-588-0148; labindc.com. Formerly the Fitch Studio, this small firm does high-end work.
Lila Fendrick Landscape Architect, 6904 West Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-907-7700. Highly recommended by peers; emphasis on architectural elements.
McHale Landscape Design, 6212 Leapley Rd., Upper Marlboro; 301-599-8300; mchaleandmchale.com. Large design/build firm with its own masonry and carpentry divisions.
Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, 1102 King St., 2nd Floor, Alexandria; 703-836-5557; www.vergason.net. Recommended by peers and known for simple, clean lines.
Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, 800 G St., SE; 202-546-7575; ovsla.com. Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden are internationally known for natural, contemporary gardens; 21 landscape architects on the staff of this design/build firm.
Scott Brinitzer Design Associates, 927 S. Walter Reed Dr., Suite 18, Arlington; 703-892-0266; brinitzer.com. Small design/build firm with landscape designers and landscape architects on staff.
Shimizu Landscape Design, 6101 Bryn Mawr Ave., Glen Echo; 301-229-9483. Osamu Shimuzu’s designs often incorporate water and have a Japanese quality. His wife, Holly Shimizu, is director of the US Botanic Garden. The firm also does building.
Tom Mannion Landscape Design, 3219 N. Fourth St., Arlington; 703-528-9098; tommannionlandscapedesign.com. This one-man design/build company creates lushly planted, contemporary gardens.
These stores sell high-quality flowers, plants, and gardening supplies; some also offer landscaping services and education.
Alden Farms, 19215 Beallsville Rd., Beallsville, Md.; 301-972-7183; aldenfarms.net. Unusual annuals, perennials, garden ornaments, and high-end tools; owner David Therriault offers design services.
American Plant Food, 5258 River Rd., Bethesda, 301-656-3311; 7405 River Rd., Bethesda, 301-469-7690; americanplantfood.com. Offers design and consultation services and has its own installation crews; carries a wide variety of perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees.
Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, 301-937-1100; and 9545 River Rd., Potomac, 301-938-9200; behnkes.com. Considered one of the best in the area, the original 11-acre nursery in Beltsville is more than 75 years old and offers everything from heirloom tomatoes to annuals and perennials. Design services available.
Betty’s Azalea Ranch, 12507 Lee Hwy., Fairfax; 703-830-8687; bettysazalearanch.com. The nation’s largest azalea collection as well as trees, perennials, annuals, bulbs, turf and garden supplies, and water-garden materials. Landscape design and implementation services.
Bittersweet Hill Nurseries, 1274 Governor Bridge Rd., Davidsonville; 410-798-0231; bittersweethill.com. This 45-year-old nursery has a large selection of herbs, water lilies, and unusual wildflowers.
Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, 7900 Daffodil La., Gloucester, Va.; 804-693-3966; brentandbeckysbulbs.com. More than 1,000 flowering bulb varieties including daffodils, tulips, and lilies. The Bulb Shoppe, the farm’s retail outlet, is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 to 4. You can also sign up for tours and lectures.
Craven’s Nursery, 9023 Arlington Blvd., Fairfax; 703-573-5025; cravensnursery.com. Lots of perennials and a good selection of orchids. Two hardscape designers design and install patios, walkways, and driveways.
DeBaggio Herbs, 43494 Mountain View Dr., Chantilly; 703-327-6976; debaggioherbs.com. Specializes in herbs and vegetables, including more than 100 tomato varieties.
Garden District, 1801 14th St., NW; 202-797-9005; gardendistrict.biz. This four-year-old store in DC’s Logan Circle neighborhood sells annuals, perennials, ornamental shrubs, trees, pottery, and exotic and hard-to-find plants.
Ginkgo Gardens, 911 11th St., SE; 202-543-5172. Caters to small, urban gardens with perennials, small trees, shrubs, and outdoor furniture for townhouses. Design, installation, and maintenance services, primarily in the District.
The Greenhouse at Washington National Cathedral, Wisconsin and Massachusetts aves., NW; 202-537-6263; cathedral.org. On the south side of the cathedral grounds, the Greenhouse specializes in herbs but also sells perennials, annuals, topiaries, fruit trees, pots, and statuary.
Greenspace Unlimited, 7835-B Richmond Hwy., Alexandria; 703-780-8657. Large selection of perennials, annuals, and herbs. One landscape-design crew.
Hill’s Nursery and Camellia Gardens, 1722 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington, 703-527-3472; Hill’s Nursery West, 10500 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, 703-759-2207. These companies share ownership. The first specializes in mature camellias, the second in custom residential landscaping. Its 20 acres of planted fields, home to large rhododendrons, azaleas, and perennials, are open on weekends.
J.H. Burton & Sons & Granddaughter, 8215 Chestnut Grove Rd., Frederick; 301-898-8215; jhburton.com. Specializes in large trees such as dogwoods, evergreens, and Bradford pears. Landscape-architecture services.
Johnson’s Florist & Garden Centers, 4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-244-6100; also in Kensington, Olney, and Gaithersburg; johnsonsflorists.com. Annuals, perennials, statuary, garden art, furniture, and cut flowers.
Lilypons Water Gardens, 6800 Lilypons Rd., Buckeystown, Md.; 800-999-5459; lilypons.com. Water-garden products including plants, fish, and pond essentials such as filters, pumps, and lights. Cleaning and maintenance services.
Merrifield Garden Center, 8132 Lee Hwy., Merrifield, 703-560-6222; and 12101 Lee Hwy., Fairfax, 703-968-9600; merrifieldgardencenter.com. Garden center, nursery, and landscape-design/build company carrying everything from flower and vegetable seeds to houseplants and trees.
Nicholls Gardens, 4724 Angus Dr., Gainesville; 703-754-9623; nichollsgardens.com. Thousands of irises along with daylilies, hostas, and peonies. Primarily a mail-order business; it’s best to call and set up an appointment before visiting.
Pine Knot Farms, 681 Rockchurch Rd., Clarksville, Va.; 434-252-1990; pineknotfarms.com. A four-hour drive from DC, this nursery specializes in hellebores and other unusual perennials.
Susanna Farm, 17700 White Ground Rd., Boyds, Md.; 301-972-7513; susannafarmnursery.com. Specializes in unusual evergreens and Japanese maples.
Thanksgiving Farms, 1619 Buckeystown Pike, Adamstown, Md.; 301-662-1291. Homegrown produce, orchard fruits, and vegetables as well as unusual annuals, perennials, herbs, deciduous shrubs, evergreens, and trees.
Tri-State Stone, 8200 Seven Locks Rd., Bethesda; 301-365-2100. Source for Carderock stone and other types of flagstone and wall stone.
Winterberry Gardens, 1225 Reynolds Rd., Cross Junction, Va. (near Winchester); 540-888-4447. More than 6,000 irises—Japanese, Siberian, Louisiana, dwarf, and intermediate—with a specialty in reblooming and tall bearded varieties. Also 1,000 daylilies. May is a busy month; it’s best to call first.
Barbeques Galore, 12219–21 Fair Lakes Promenade Dr., Fairfax; 703-278-0024; also in Columbia, Gaithersburg, Springfield, and Sterling; bbqgalore.com. Grills, smokers, accessories, and patio furniture; Web site offers cooking and grilling tips as well as recipes.
Brookstone, 7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda (Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery); 301-469-9610; also in Pentagon City, Gaithersburg, Fairfax, Tysons Corner, and Springfield; brookstone.com. Outdoor furniture, grilling accessories, games, and lighting.
Country Casual, 9085 Comprint Ct., Gaithersburg; 301-926-9195; countrycasual.com. Specializes in teak garden furniture such as Adirondack chairs, porch swings, and dining tables.
Crate & Barrel, 4820 Massachusetts Ave., NW; 202-364-6500; also in Alexandria, Bethesda, McLean, and Clarendon; crateandbarrel.com. Contemporary outdoor furniture, grilling accessories, and kitchen and serving items.
Fogdog Sports, fogdog.com. Sports Web site with outdoor sports equipment including basketball hoops, croquet and bocce sets, and trampolines.
Frontgate, frontgate.com; 800-626-6488. High-end source for outdoor merchandise including a copper fire pit and a customizable, professional-grade outdoor “cooking suite.”
Go Mama Go!, 1809 14th St., NW; 202-299-0850; gomamago.com. This housewares store with an international flair features picnic items, outdoor dinnerware, citronella candles, fountains, and metal sculptures.
Home Rule, 1807 14th St., NW; 202-797-5544; homerule.com. Hip, colorful outdoor accessories, dinnerware, and picnic baskets are included among this housewares store’s merchandise.
Mrs. McGregor’s Garden Shop, N. 4801 First St., Arlington; 703-528-8773; mrsmcgregors.com. Statuary, fountains, benches, weathervanes, and other accessories and accents.
Notting Hill Gardens, 815-B King St., Alexandria; 703-518-0215; nottinghillgardens.com. High-end imported garden furniture and accessories—urns, containers, tools, and watering cans—from Europe. Owner Geoff Stone offers landscape-design services.
Offenbacher’s Fireplace, Patio & Christmas, 5500 Randolph Rd., Rockville; 301-881-8565; also in Columbia, Falls Church, Fairfax, Springfield, and Sterling; offenbachers.com. Large selection of outdoor furniture in aluminum, wrought iron, wicker, and wood.
Park Place, 5100 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-342-6294; parkplacedc.com. High-end outdoor furniture in teak and wicker as well as portable lighting and garden accessories.
Patio.com, 8022 Leesburg Pike, McLean, 703-827-0099; 824 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-309-0025; patio.com. Extensive selection of patio furniture and accessories along with outdoor games.
Plow & Hearth, plowhearth.com. Catalog and online store with a large selection of traditional outdoor furniture, some with a country flair.
Pottery Barn, 3077 M St., NW; 202-337-8900; also in Chevy Chase DC, North Bethesda, Clarendon, McLean, Reston, Fair Oaks, and Leesburg; potterybarn.com. Stylish outdoor furniture, accessories, and items for entertaining.
Qi, 722 N. Henry St., Alexandria; 703-838-1600; qihouse.com. Reasonably priced garden ornaments, birdbaths, and fountains, mostly from China. Large selection of glazed ceramic pots and planters.
Restoration Hardware, 1222 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-625-2771; also in Alexandria, Tysons Corner, Columbia, and Leesburg; restorationhardware.com. Outdoor furniture in wicker, wood, and durable aluminum as well as items for entertaining and other accessories, many with a retro feel.
Smith & Hawken, 1209 31st St., NW; 202-965-2680; also in Chevy Chase and McLean; smithandhawken.com. Well-made garden accessories such as statuary, fountains, and birdbaths, plus furniture and games.
Sport Systems, 10078 Tyler Pl., Ijamsville, Md.; 301-607-4747; sport-systems.com. Installation of high-end backyard game courts, such as half- or full-court basketball courts, tennis courts, and multiuse backboards for tennis, lacrosse, and inline skating.
Spring Valley Patio, 4300 Fordham Rd., NW; 202-966-9088; springvalleypatio.com. Outdoor furniture in teak, wrought iron, wicker, and aluminum; also hammocks and swings.
Sur la Table, 5211 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-237-0375; also in McLean and Pentagon City; surlatable.com. Kitchen and party items, ice buckets, and coolers.
Urban Essentials, 1330 U St., NW; 202-299-0640. Contemporary teak furniture, mosaic tables, and outdoor glassware and accessories.
Williams-Sonoma, 5300 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-237-1602; also in North Bethesda, Pentagon City, Clarendon, Alexandria, Tysons Corner, Reston, and Fairfax; williams-sonoma.com. High-end grills, accessories, dinnerware, and outdoor furniture.
Magazines such as Garden Design, Horticulture, and Fine Gardening can provide good ideas. Here’s a list of Web sites, public gardens, and organizations that can help you get started:
Association of Professional Landscape Designers, 4305-A N. Sixth St., Harrisburg, Pa.; 717-238-9780; apld.org. Web site has resource links and a searchable member database.
Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton; 301-962-1400; brooksidegardens.org. Fifty acres of gardens, special exhibits, lectures, classes, and family events.
George Washington University’s Landscape Design Graduate Certificate Program, 202-973-1130; nearyou.gwu.edu/landscape. For-credit program with a concentration on small-scale landscape design. Many well-known area designers are graduates.
Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria; 703-642-5173; greenspring.org. Twenty-seven-acre park offering lectures, demonstrations, classes, family activities, and rentable gardening plots.
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 1550 Anacostia Ave., NE; 202-426-6905; nps.gov/nace/keaq. Twelve-acre park with many varieties of water lilies and lotuses on display. Educational programs and gift shop offer information on aquatic gardening.
Landscape Contractors Association MD-DC-VA, 15245 Shady Grove Rd., Suite 130, Rockville; 301-948-0810; www.lcamddcva.org. Web site has a searchable database of landscape professionals in the area, links to plant databases, landscaping tips, and a list of industry organizations.
Montgomery College Landscape Technology Program, 20200 Observation Dr., Germantown; 301-353-7803; montgomerycollege.edu. Courses in horticulture and landscape design, technology, and contracting.
Professional Landcare Network, 950 Herndon Pkwy., Suite 450, Herndon; 703-736-9666; landcarenetwork.org. Web site provides tips for finding a landscape contractor as well as a searchable database of contractors.
United States Botanic Garden Conservatory and Bartholdi Park, First St. and Independence Ave., SW; 202-225-8333; plant hotline, 202-226-4785; usbg.gov. National plant museum showcasing unusual ornamental plants that grow well in the Mid-Atlantic. Educational events include lectures and tours as well as programs for children.
United States National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave., NE; 202-245-2726; usna.usda.gov. Specialized gardens including azaleas, dogwoods, herbs, and perennials. The Friendship Garden is a signature New American Garden by Oehme, van Sweden. Education programs and lectures on a wide variety of topics.