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Landscape Designer

What does a Landscape Designer do?

Landscapers design and recreate gardens by changing the shape of land through terracing, grading, backfilling and mounding to include landscaping plants and ornaments. It takes a lot of patience, knowledge and skill to be a successful landscaper. A landscaper's focus is to accommodate the needs of the client as well as address the ecology, the site and locality of the project. Secondly, the landscape designer must fulfil a decorative role after the functionality of a garden has been sorted out to fill the beds with planting design, hard landscaping features and furniture.

It's important to note the difference between a landscape designer and a landscape architect. Whereas a landscape architect needs a degree, a landscape designer does not require any certifications. Landscape architects works on more public and larger projects, while landscape designers work on residential and smaller projects.


What qualifications do I need?

If you do want to formally qualify yourself as a landscape designer, the first step is to complete a qualification in horticulture, landscape design or a related field. This will give you the skills and knowledge you need to be successful in the role. Once you have your qualification, the next step is to find work with a landscaping company. This will give you hands-on experience and allow you to put your skills to the test. Once you have a few years of experience under your belt, you may want to start your own landscaping business. This will allow you to be your own boss and set your own hours. 

What subjects do I need?

Physical Science
Life Science
Agricultural Management Practices


Where can I study?

Introductory Landscape Design Techniques

JPJ Landscapers
Three Day Basic Landscape Design and Horticulture Training Course

Irene School of Gardening Design
One-year comprehensive garden design course 

Where can I get more info?

South African Landscapers Institute (SALI) - www.sali.co.za
Urban Design Institute of South Africa (UDISA) - www.urbandesigninstitute.co.za


Interview with a Landscape Designer

Mark Kretzmann | LANDSCAPER | Owner at Livingscapes

Mark Kretzmann | LANDSCAPER | Owner at Livingscapes


Why did you choose landscaping? 
I’ve had an affinity with and appreciation of nature from a young age, as well as the creative aspect involved in design work, drew me to the profession. In a way, choosing landscaping was a balance between working with nature while still having all the cultural and social benefits offered by city living.

What training did you undergo?
I did a National Diploma in Horticulture at Cape Tech and a Bachelor of Science, majoring in botany and environmental science, at UCT.

Describe a typical day
Meeting with the staff in the morning; ensuring that the correct tools and materials are loaded for a particular project. I spend a few hours on site(s) to make sure that everyone knows their tasks for the day and that everything is running smoothly. The rest of the day is taken up with sourcing materials, either physically or via email, design work, and meetings regarding upcoming projects. I usually return to site later in the day to review productivity and make any adjustments needed.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
The potential to design with plants. Using natures’ own colours, textures, shapes, fragrances and seasonal variations is inspiring. I’m still like a child let loose in a sweet shop every time I visit a nursery. The creative aspect of design is also rewarding, when translated from theory to practical installation and seeing it all come together.  

What don’t you like?
Standing in dog poo! Seriously though, it has become demanding at times, but I think most of that relates to owning my own business and the broad spectrum of requirements and responsibilities that that involves, rather than the profession itself.

Any hurdles you’ve had to overcome?
To be assertive when the occasion demands – both with staff and clients – although I always do my best to keep a client happy within the allocated budget. The management aspect is a role I did not foresee.

What’s been the highlight?
We have worked for some top clients over the years, where the design concept for the garden has dictated the budget, rather than the norm of designing within a budget. A landscaper’s dream situation. I’ve had some memorable experiences: working on two game farms, and spending 18 months working in the Seychelles. 

What are your future goals?
To design full time and outsource the installation aspect. As far as installations go, I’d like to shift the focus more to natural restoration and rehabilitation work. 

Experience vs formal training?
There are a number of self-taught landscapers who have been very successful. A Diploma in Horticulture, however, gives a good grounding. 

Is there a type of personality best suited?
People who like to be outdoors! People skills are important, for managing staff, maintaining good communication with clients – getting them to understand your vision for their garden, while simultaneously interpreting and understanding their desires and requirements. The ability to think practically is also important, both on the design and installation level. 

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
The sooner you focus on your goals and set about achieving them, the better.

Interview date: May 2021