These broad definitions apply to the United States only. Laws vary from state to state regarding the work performed by landscape designers, landscape architects and landscape contractors. Some need to be licensed by the state; others do not. Permits may or may not be required for landscape work performed in your state or locality.
Landscape designers typically have training in landscape design and horticulture through formal education or on-the-job experience. The Association of Professional Landscape Designer's certification program confers professional recognition to landscape designers based on experience and established standards of excellence. Landscape designers provide design concepts, landscape plans, and selection of materials. Some designers provide only design services, others work closely with contractors during installation and some provide construction services themselves as permitted by state law. Many landscape designers are also professional horticulturists. Landscape designers can provide design services for both residential and commercial clients, although many specialize in residential design.
Landscape architects have obtained a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school. Only those who have have met their respective state requirements may call themselves landscape architects. A landscape architecture curriculum usually emphasizes site analysis, design, presentation and construction techniques rather than horticulture. In addition to the types of plans provided by a landscape designer, many landscape architects produce plans and construction -ready documents for institutional and commercial projects.
Landscape contractors perform a wide range of services, including garden and lawn installation, garden maintenance, masonry, carpentry, other landscape elements and sometimes design. Many work for nurseries or design/build companies and others have their own firms. When working with a landscape contractor, be sure to clarify the design process used, whether you will receive drawings for your review and approval, or whether you have just a verbal description of the landscape to be installed.