What is Landscape Design?

Whether green thumbs go back generations in your family, or you can barely keep your houseplants alive, spiffing up your home’s exterior can be daunting! Engaging a landscape designer to help sounds great – but what is landscape design actually, and what exactly do landscape designers do? With Spring on the horizon here in Lee’s Summit, there’s no better time to dive into the details of landscape design!

Landscape design for backyards and homes in Lee's Summit near Kansas City


Landscape Design Defined

Landscape design thoughtfully maximizes your outdoor space, making it both functional and beautiful, while avoiding mistakes that waste time and money. A well-executed landscape design can bolster your outdoor living experience and increase your property value, in some cases by as much as 20%.


What is the Purpose of Landscape Design?

In the same way an interior designer can bring your vision for the inside of your home to life, a landscape designer creates the look and feel you desire for your home’s exterior. And just like your decor is personal, residential landscaping is also extremely so. In fact, your choices in landscape design can give passersby an inkling of your personality and lifestyle. 


A lot of homeowners in recent years have chosen to invest in a design that essentially adds another room to the home, complete with hardscaping that creates an outdoor kitchen, built-in seating, lighting, and plumbing, for the ultimate outdoor living and entertaining experience. Others are more interested in cultivating an environmentally friendly wildlife habitat that is both aesthetically appealing and productive. Families often opt for a playful design that includes a balance of open spaces for running in the Missouri sunshine and areas for friends and family to gather together. The purpose of landscape design is as individual as the people who will enjoy it day-to-day.

Patio party after landscape design from Evolving Landscapes in Lee's Summit near Kansas City


What Exactly Do Landscape Designers Do?

To give you the front yard or back yard (or both) of your dreams, a professional landscape designer will follow a five-step process:


1. Listen

The very first step an effective landscape designer should do is to listen to the client’s goals and preferences, asking such questions as: How do you intend to use the space? What challenges does the space currently pose? What colors and styles do you prefer? How do you want to feel in the space once the project is complete?


2. Analyze

Mission in hand, the landscape designer will make a holistic assessment of the space. S/he will analyze the character of the site, including consideration of the soil condition and erosion patterns, evidence of water runoff and flooding potential, and sun exposure and shade protection. 


3. Plan

Next, the designer will apply the major principles of landscape design to create a plan that will fulfill the needs and wants of the client. This plan will incorporate existing structures, hardscapes, and trees and plants that are to remain; factor use of the foreground, middle ground, and background; and consider numerous elements of design, including:

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Unity
  • Variety
  • Repetition
  • Contrast
  • Balance
  • Transition
  • Line
  • Scale
  • Emphasis


4. Design

Now the fun begins. The landscape designer will activate their formal education, practical experience, and extensive horticultural knowledge to custom-create a design that addresses all requirements of the brief. Designer and client then partner to refine and finesse the design rendering to the client’s satisfaction. 


5. Execute

The last step, of course, is installation. The landscape designer and his/her team will execute the new design. Depending on the scope and scale of the project (and the weather!), the installation phase may take days or weeks to complete. Additionally, professional landscape designers will revisit the site to assess the performance of the landscaping and hardscaping, and maintain the plants as the design evolves through the seasons if requested.

Stone retaining wall and staircase by Evolving Landscapes in Lee's Summit, MO


Is Landscape Design the Same as Landscape Architecture?

Landscape design and landscape architecture are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, but they describe different processes – just as a designer and an architect have distinct jobs. Here are some of the key differences:


Landscape Designer
Landscape Architect
Can be self-taught or have formal education in horticulture Has formal training in engineering and in horticulture
Typically designs residential landscapes Typically designs commercial landscapes
Works closely with homeowners Works closely with engineers and architects
Designs to beautify a property and enhance the quality of life for building occupants Designs to make efficient use of space between buildings
Personally has an in-depth knowledge of different types of plants  Engages people with an in-depth knowledge of different types of plants
Is typically on-site throughout or for part of the installation, and is usually hands-on  Maintains project oversight, typically has/contracts a team for installation  



Near Kansas City and interested in learning more about landscape design? Connect with the team at Evolving Landscapes to talk about your goals and ideas for your outdoor space, and how we can help you achieve them. We can’t wait to get started!


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