Gardener Or Landscaper: How To Know Who You Need.

Gardens provide nourishment for our souls, peace for our hearts, and clarity for our minds. Gardens can be such a joy, but many of us are uncertain of how to go about creating a garden. Rudyard Kipling in The Glory of the Garden (1911) said, “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh how beautiful’ and sitting in the shade.” A truer statement has never been made. In the modern world, gardening knowledge has become very scientific. Two different professionals are involved in developing and maintaining gardens. These are the landscaper and the gardener. For some people, these two terms mean the same thing, but there is a difference. So how do you know whether you should get a landscaper or a gardener to help you out with your garden?

Landscapers design and construct the structures that establish the form of the garden. They are called garden builders. Gardeners are focused on all aspects of plants in the garden. You need to choose a landscaper, gardener, or possibly both by identifying what you are wanting to do in your garden. 

You need to know the difference between a landscaper and a gardener. What the focus of each profession is and what knowledge they can offer the client. 

What Does A Landscaper Do?

A landscaper could be called a garden builder. Landscapers focus on the structure or form of the garden, designing and building the permanent structures and features in a garden. This is sometimes known as hardscaping. Landscapers focus on construction. Landscaping includes altering levels of the ground if necessary or even creating terraces if the client so desires. Structures that may be built by a landscaper encompass:

  1. Pergolas or gazebos
  2. Decks
  3. Steps
  4. Retaining walls
  5. Ponds 
  6. Swimming pools
  7. Paving
  8. Treehouses
  9. Play structures
  10. Garden furniture
  11. Laying turf
  12. Barbecue areas or garden pizza ovens
  13. Planting a garden
  14. Rockeries
  15. Installing irrigation
  16. Installing lights

What Training Does A Landscaper Complete?

Training differs depending on the country or state where the landscaper is working. The general study period is four years. The students have intensive practical training to implement the theory they learn.  An example would be one day of theory lessons per week with four days of practical work per week. Landscapers can complete a landscape -architecture degree. In some countries (the United States included), the degree course is required to register for a landscape business. There are three major areas of study:

  1. Garden design
  2. Construction
  3. Garden Maintenance

There is a heavy emphasis on construction. The landscaping students must have extensive knowledge about soil types and how this affects construction. There are some engineering skills required to design and build adequate foundations for the various structures. Building techniques and choice of material are another area of study. Landscape students learn about plants, but it is not the primary focus of the educational course. 

Does A Landscaper Need A Trade License?

In most first-world countries, landscapers require a trade license as they are designing and building permanent structures. The structures must meet safety standards and comply with building regulations of that area. The landscapers must be familiar with municipal bylaws and regulations governing building requirements. 

What Tools Does A Landscaper Use?

Landscapers often use heavy-duty machinery such as earth moving equipment  – for example, Tractor-Loader- Backhoe (TLB), a compacter, a concrete mixer, and an augur. Building equipment is essential – scaffolding, building tools, power tools, etc. 

What Does A Gardener Do?

A gardener is plant-focused. Landscapers often refer to gardeners as the “plantmen.” Gardeners have a better understanding of plants compared to landscapers. Their knowledge includes:

  1. Plants of all types
  2. Best locations to situate plants
  3. What climates suit what plants
  4. Turf planting and maintenance
  5. Lawn mowing in various seasons as well as aerating lawns and removing lawn thatch
  6. What to prune, when to prune, and how to prune trees and other plants
  7. Soil types and the effects of soil on plants.
  8. Soil improvement with fertilizers and nutrients
  9. Pests and diseases that affect plants
  10. Establishing food gardens
  11. Harvesting food from plants
  12. Soft-scaping is building features or structures that do not require construction, such as pebbled areas or paths.
  13. Tree care – some gardeners specialize in tree care and are known as tree surgeons.
  14. Application of herbicides and pesticides
  15. Weeding

What Training Does A Gardener Complete?

In some countries, gardeners do not need formal training, and many gardeners function in their job based on their experience. There are formal gardening courses that vary in length from one to four years and may even extend to a science degree in horticulture. The focus of gardening courses is horticulture – which is the cultivation and management of gardens. During a garden apprenticeship, the gardening students will often spend a large part of their practical study time at plant nurseries. They gain valuable information on plant propagation and plant care at a nursery, and they are exposed to many different types of plants.  Soil drainage is a crucial element in gardening. Thus knowledge of water tables, water management, and structure of the ground in the area is essential.

Master Gardeners are people that have completed intensive studies under the tutelage of highly experienced and qualified gardeners or horticulturists. They are usually registered with a governing body. 

Does A Gardener Need A Trade License?

Gardeners generally do not need a trade license, but this can vary in different countries and states. 

What Tools Does A Gardener Need? 

Gardeners do not need expensive equipment but sometimes choose to use power tools instead of manual tools to make their job easier. There is a range of power saws that are specialized for different cutting techniques. For example, there is a saw-toothed hedge trimmer that removes the hard labor of trimming hedges manually. Power augurs may help dig holes for planting trees in hard soil types. 

Differences Between Landscapers And Gardeners 

Visualize a garden space and create it.Detail orientated in order to attend to plants
The focus is on construction.The focus is on plants.
Work on hardscapingMaintain plants and complete soft-scaping
Usually, work on the project to establish the garden and then do not have further involvement.Gardeners work on gardens on an ongoing basis throughout the year. 
In the United States, a degree in landscape architecture is required. A horticultural degree is not required but can be completed. Experience and practical classes can qualify a gardener. 
Design the garden and build the structuresChoose the appropriate plants for the garden design
Concerned with aestheticsConcerned with growing plants
Can change and sculpt the terrain to create a new landscape Work with the existing landscape and fit plants into it
Do not do garden maintenanceGarden maintenance is a critical part of the job. 
Must be licensed.Does not need to be licensed

Similarities Between Landscapers And Gardeners

There are several similarities between gardeners and landscapers. 

  1. They can both work in the private sector – client homes. The public sector – parks, zoos, municipalities, nature reserves  and botanical gardens  the corporate sector – office parks, business grounds.            
  2. Both can be done as a hobby or as a profession.
  3. Both landscapers and gardeners have plant knowledge and can advise clients.
  4. Both must have a good understanding of soil structure and water drainage.
  5. Both work outdoors.
  6. Both can install irrigation systems.

In practice, there is an overlap between gardeners and landscapers. Landscaper companies often include garden maintenance and may even employ gardeners to continue caring for the garden once it has been established. 

Do You Need A Landscaper Or A Gardener?

The question of whether you need a landscaper or gardener can cause some confusion for people. The answer to the question depends on

  1. The stage of the project – for example, just beginning or already established.
  2. What your aim is.
  3. What your budget allows.

New Garden

When starting a new garden, it would be best to consult a landscaper who can provide a vision or plan for the entire area. The landscaper will sculpt the land into the required levels and shape areas to give specific effects. The landscaper will build retaining walls and other structures that you may wish to incorporate into your garden. Once you have consulted the landscaper and decided on a design, the construction work can commence. At this stage, you should consult a gardener to choose the correct plants. The gardener can plant the plants and maintain the garden for you. 

If you have financial constraints and want to use the land as it is without altering it or including structures that require building permits, then you could possibly do without a landscaper. Most gardeners do some garden design in their studies or have experience with designing gardens.  A gardener could design the garden and assist you with buying the plants and maintaining the garden. 

Existing Garden And You Want To Make Some Structural Changes.

If you have an existing garden and want to make changes that require altering or including structures that need construction, contact a reputable landscaper. The landscaper will advise you on what is possible and how to achieve it. Landscapers know the regulations of the area in which they work and can assist you with obtaining permits if necessary. The landscaper is legally qualified to complete the structural changes. 

Existing Garden And You Want To Change The Plants.

If you have an established garden and are happy with the layout, but you want to change some of the plants or use plants to create an effect, consult a gardener. The gardener will know the best plants to create that effect and advise you on what plants might grow in your area. 

Many people are interested in growing food gardens. If you would like to try your hand at cultivating your own fruit and vegetables but are unsure of your knowledge, contact a gardener. Some gardeners specialize in establishing fruit and vegetable gardens. 

Food forests have become popular with people who live on large properties. A food forest is an area where all the plants are chosen for the food they provide. A food forest has trees, shrubs, and ground cover. Fruit and nut trees will be used to create the upper canopy of the forest. Berries and pomegranates may be used to provide the mid-level or shrub level of the forest. Vines that grow pumpkins, squashes, watermelons, grapes, and beans can be included. Ground cover plants such as herbs, edibles flowers, and root plants such as carrots, potatoes, and turnips will form the bottom level. A food forest is designed to grow with minimal maintenance. The plants will continue to seed themselves and procreate. To establish a food forest, consult a gardener who is well-versed in developing them.  

Existing Garden And You Have A Plant Disease.

Sometimes gardens can be attacked by plant diseases. If this is your problem, you definitely want to call in an experienced gardener. The gardener will identify and diagnose the disease. He or she can either give you advice on eliminating the disease or applying the remedy themselves. It is essential to use any poisons or remedies for disease in the appropriate manner. Many states in the United States have strict laws governing the use of poisons. They must be used according to instructions, or you could find yourself facing a hefty fine. A gardener will know about these regulations and can give you the appropriate advice. 

Does A Small Garden Need A Landscaper?

Sometimes people feel their gardens are too small to require a landscaper. Although you don’t have to involve a landscaper, you may be missing out by not consulting one.  If you aim to create a unique garden with interesting features, you should consult a landscaper. Landscapers are trained to take a space, no matter how small, and use it fully. A small garden can be transformed by adding varying levels that will allow you to include special features. For example, adding height to the garden will enable you to have a water feature. The sound of water running is soothing and can bring peace if you live in the middle of a busy city or suburb. 

Themed Gardens

Themed gardens have been popular with the wealthy for generations. The ancient Egyptian royalty and elite were fond of elaborate water gardens – some large enough to rowboats on. The Victorian era saw intense interest in geometric patterns in gardens. The English Regency period was obsessed with creating mazes and Grecian gardens complete with temples called follies. 

In our current era, some people like to create gardens that follow a theme. Japanese gardens which use stones, water, koi ponds, and sculpted plants are trendy for the serenity they induce. 

Some people prefer to be eco-conscious and plant water-wise gardens. These gardens usually use indigenous plants adapted to grow in the local climate with minimal extra watering. Water-wise, gardens make use of stones, rocks, mulches, and logs to cover the ground and prevent water evaporation and minimize the number of plants required in the garden. 

If you plan to create a themed garden, consult a landscaper, especially if different levels are required, or plan on constructing features. Gardeners could advise on the right plants to use and how to place them. If there are no structural changes necessary for your themed garden, then you could use a gardener without consulting a landscaper. 

Gardens To Attract Wildlife.

For many people attracting wildlife to their gardens adds to their pleasure and quality of life. There is a particular soul-satisfying joy in watching delicate fluttering butterflies and swooping birds enjoying the garden you have created. Specific plants that can be used to attract wildlife to your garden. These plants vary according to geographical location. A gardener would know exactly which plants to use to attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Some homeowners like to add water features to encourage frogs, toads, and salamanders. If you want to create a water feature to attract water-loving creatures, consult a landscaper.  

Established Garden But No Time To Tend It.

Gardens require care. You must water, prune, weed, and plant new plants as old plants die. Enthusiastic plants overgrow quickly, and you must cut them back to provide space and light to shyer, more reticent plants. If you love your garden, but you are too busy to care for it, contact a gardener or gardening company. They will maintain your garden, keep it weed-free, mow the lawn and plant new plants. 

Preparing For A Consultation With A Landscaper Or Gardener.

A garden should be a unique expression of yourself. Some gardens are chosen to represent cultural values or heritage. Preparing for your consultation with a landscaper or gardener is an important step. You should look at gardening magazines or landscape books and, if possible, visit public gardens or open days at private gardens to get an idea of what you would like your garden to look like. It is good to visit nurseries to see what plants you prefer and what are available in your area. Take photographs and draw sketches of what you would like to achieve. Creating a gardening scrapbook is a good idea. A scrapbook gives you a visual reminder of all you have seen, and you can use it to show your ideas to the landscaper or gardener. 

Prepare a list of questions for the landscaper or gardener. Keep an open mind as the professional may have some valuable suggestions that will enhance your ideas. The landscaper will also know the regulations for your area and what is possible and what is prohibited. Gardeners are helpful in sourcing plants and will have plant suggestions that you may be unfamiliar with but could work well in the garden design or effect you want to achieve. 

If you are consulting a gardener or landscaper to resolve a problem, think through the problem beforehand to be clear on what the issues are. Do your budget so that you know what money you have available to deal with the situation. People are often embarrassed to talk about finances or the lack thereof. Most professionals understand that financial constraints must be taken into account. They prefer an upfront, honest statement on affordability than wasting their time drawing up plans that you cannot afford and ultimately reject. 

How To Find A Landscaper Or Gardener.

Landscapers can be found by contacting the American Society of Landscape Architects – you can click here. Master gardeners can be found by contacting the Extension Master Gardener Program or Master Gardeners. If your budget is limited, you can approach gardening or landscaping schools with a cheaper option as they need gardens for their students to obtain practical experience.

Recommendations from people are an excellent way to find reliable gardeners or landscapers. If you see a garden you like, ask the owner who designed and planted the garden.   

What To Do If You Cannot Afford A Landscaper Or Gardener.

There are different levels of gardeners and landscapers. If you can’t afford top professionals, don’t despair; achieving a beautiful garden is still possible. 

Consult someone who has a passionate interest in landscaping or gardening. Sometimes people who garden or landscape as a hobby will offer consultations. These usually occur outside of office hours. These people typically have regular jobs and do these consultations in their spare time. Retired people who love gardening are sometimes available for consultation. 

Join a gardening group or society. These groups are filled with people passionate about gardening and landscaping. Their collective knowledge may be enough to help you on your way. They also recommend people that can help and will also know the best nurseries to obtain plants. 

Gardening design apps are part of our modern world. 

Apple has Home Design 3D Outdoor & Garden. This app can only be used on Apple products such as iPhones, iPads, or Apple Computers. It comes highly recommended with users stating the three-dimensional feature is immensely helpful in visualizing the outcome. 

Gardena have the Gardena My-Garden App. This app is free and gives essential information on the size of adult plants so that you don’t overplant your garden and waste money. 

The Royal Horticultural Society has an app called Grow Your Own. This app is aimed at growing fruit, vegetables, and herbs. It can be used on both Android and Apple devices and is free of charge. It provides a personalized calendar to remind you of maintenance tasks and is chock full of ideas to inspire you. 

There are many more apps available that can be of assistance. A quick search on the internet would provide the names and reviews of the apps if the ones mentioned here do not suit your needs. 

Gardener Or Garden Service?

Some people prefer to have a gardener that works full time in their garden. This is ideal for maintaining your garden in tip-top condition, but unfortunately, it is usually expensive. A manual laborer can be used to maintain your garden. However, generally, these people do not have extensive garden knowledge. You may still need to consult an experienced gardener for advice or research plants and designs yourself. A low-level gardener will require you to have a lot more involvement in giving instructions daily.  

A garden service is when you employ a service to come in regularly to maintain your garden. Garden services have become very popular for a few reasons:

  1. You have access to a knowledgeable gardener who can advise you on plants, diseases, and general maintenance.
  2. They carry out gardening tasks without needing your oversight.
  3. They are usually cheaper than full-time gardeners.
  4. Garden owners do not have to deal with staff issues that come with employing a full-time permanent gardener. 


Landscapers are garden builders focused on form, design, and structure in a garden. Landscapers are licensed builders and have good knowledge of building requirements and legislation in your municipality or state. Gardeners are focused on all aspects of choosing, planting, and growing plants. You will need a landscaper to construct structures in the garden and design a new garden. A gardener is used to select and plant plants and give advice on plant problems. You should choose a landscaper or gardener by assessing the nature of your project and which one would assist you best with it. Most of all, though, remember that your garden is a personal expression of yourself. You can dream of a wonderous and beautiful garden that will soothe your soul in the busy world. With a little help, you can achieve it, so go forth and garden!


Domoney, David. 35 inspirational gardening quotes and famous proverbs.

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