All posts by Eileen

What is the difference between a landscape architect, landscape contractor, landscape designer, garden designer, and master gardener?

Landscape Architects (LA)  are required to be licensed in Oregon and many other state to protect health, safety, and welfare. Significant and costly problems arise when landscapes are designed and/or  installed poorly or incorrectly.  Besides plants dying, flooding, erosion, walls tipping, and decks collapsing are typical failures. Many failures can harm people. Practicing landscape architecture or using the title “landscape architect” , ‘”landscape architect designer, or similar without a LA license is illegal in Oregon.

Landscape architects design and manage any project concerning the design and use of outdoor space and the land. The scope of the profession includes site planning, town or urban planning, park and recreation planning, regional planning, garden design and historic preservation.

Landscape and garden designers are not licensed, nor are there any standards associated with these titles.  They are therefore limited by law to making plans or drawings for the selection, placement, or use of plants when the execution of such plans or drawings will not affect the public health, safety, and welfare. Generally, that limits designers to designing simple planting plans that do not require changes to the ground surface or design of structures.

Landscape Contractors (LC) are required to be licensed in Oregon and many other states to protect health, safety, and welfare.  They are licensed to install plants, patios, walls (with height limitations), decks, irrigation. outdoor lighting,  and similar landscape items.  A good LC is highly skilled in all aspects of landscape installation.  LC contractors install landscape designs developed by landscape architects.

Horticulturists are trained in the science of growing and producing plants. Many horticulturists become nurserymen or work in garden centers.  They have extensive knowledge in plant health, pests, diseases, growing conditions, and most concerns of growing and maintaining healthy plants.

Master Gardeners are individual volunteers who have gone through 40  hours of horticultural training through a college program.  They offer advice and direction regarding many aspects of plant health, and collaborate with other professionals to answer homeowner’s landscape and gardening questions. They recertify with the college extension office annually.

Should I Hire a Landscape Architect or a Landscape Designer ?

What’s the difference between  a Landscape Architect and Landscape Designer?  Does it Matter? …..YES!

Courtyard Garden BackyardIf you are planning on installing a new landscape or revising an existing one, it is in your best interest to hire a licensed Landscape Architect. Landscape Architects are not only trained in the many components of landscape design but also in human behavior, ecology, environmental functions, grading, design of outdoor structures and more.  Landscape architecture is an art and our medium are living plants, soil, construction materials, and environmental functions.   Landscape Architect’s are highly trained in creating designs that utilize plants as art and structure.  We create  environments in which people, plants, animals and other living organisms thrive. We contour the land and plan for rain, wind and snow impacts.  We design structures that a beautiful and stable.  Our designs are alive!

When you hire a Landscape Architect they become your advocate on 4 fronts.  First, our goal is to create beautiful landscape design that will support your lifestyle. The design is focused on you, your goals, your environment, your property, your style.

Second, the plan is your vehicle to find the right landscape contractor for your project. We typically ask 3 licensed landscape contractors to bid on your plan. During this process we learn who will best address your concerns, who has the necessary skills to install your project, and who has proposed a realistic budget.  Installation costs can vary greatly.  Many of my clients have saved more money through this selection process than the cost of my design services. Hiring a Landscape Architect and bidding the plans can more than pay for their design services.

Third, your plan is your quality control instrument for installation.   The plan shows exactly how things are to be installed. Before any work begins, you, your landscape contractor, and I go over the plans to make certain that they are understood.  The landscape contractor has the opportunity to offer his input on the plan and to make suggestions. Landscape contractors have different experience than a Landscape Architect and a good landscape contractor can offer suggestions that benefit the project.

Fourth,  your landscape construction plan is your legal contract with the installer. It requires the contractor to install your landscape as directed on the plan.  If the contractor makes changes without your approval, doesn’t plant all of the plants on the plan, or substitutes lower quality materials, your plan is the legal document for restitution.  You are entitled to what is on the plan without additional cost. 

In every profession there are various levels of training and expertise so be sure to check references before hiring.  Now that you know that hiring a licensed landscape Architect can get you a beautiful design, save you money, be your advocate, and insure the quality of your project, why wouldn’t you hire a landscape architect ?

Legally, a Landscape Architect*  is a member of a regulated profession with qualification requirements.  A Landscape Designer  is not in a regulated profession.  There are no qualification requirements to call yourself a Landscape Designer.   In Oregon a Landscape Architect is required to:  1) have a Landscape Architecture degree in an accredited college, 2) to have worked under the guidance of a licensed Landscape Architect  for one year, 3) to pass a strenuous 3 day national approved test,** 4) take 12 hours of  approved educational classes per year, and 5) pay annual state licensure fees. Landscape architects are licensed in Oregon in order to protect health, safety, and welfare. There are no requirements for a Landscape Designer in Oregon.

To read more on how a hiring a Landscape Architect can save you money,  go to the link below.


*I’ve tried to simplify the definitions for simplicity, but if you are interested you can go to

** this is a 3 day test similar in difficulty to an Architect or engineer.



“Dappled Earth” in intended to evoke an image of the patterns we place on the earth. Consider a dappled shade pattern that moves across the ground through the day. Never static, the patterns move and change; darken and lighten. Now consider the patterns we place on the earth when we build homes, communities, and activities as simple as planting a tree. These patterns too are dynamic. They change and evolve with our values and our whims. As an educated and experienced landscape architect, I design nurturing landscape for our families, our communities, and our planet. Move with us beyond sustainability and into landscapes that nurture life.  Landscape design is more than planting shrubbery!
sunken patio 2 sides


When you have Eileen Obermiller design your environment, your life will be brilliant and beautiful. She will create a place that will surround you with nature’s best. Our work together on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway Welcome Station is a testament to her outstanding talents and creative skills. I highly recommend Eileen and Dappled Earth to you. Robin Lee Gyorgyfalvy, FASLA