Residential landscape crew looking at design plan 3

4 Tips for Choosing the Best Landscape Design Services in Greater Chicago

Have you been dreaming of the perfect outdoor space? A peaceful area where you can unwind after a long day at work or maybe an entertainment hub where you can roast marshmallows and visit with friends and family into the late evening hours.


Any great landscape renovation begins with expert landscape design. With several landscaping contractors in the Greater Chicago area, you might be wondering how to find a good landscaper. 

Let’s discuss four tips that will help you find the best landscape designers in the Greater Chicago area so you can bring your landscape dreams to life.

1. Spend Time Researching Landscape Designers

Improving your outdoor space with a landscape installation project means you are making a significant investment. The easiest and best way to ensure your investment is a wise one is by spending time researching landscape designers in the Greater Chicago area. Start by investigating these two things:

  • Project Portfolio- Most experienced and qualified landscaping companies feature a portfolio of their completed work on their website. Spend time looking through their projects to see if they have completed work that is similar to the project you are hoping to have installed. Don’t forget that style varies from client to client, so focus on searching for the landscape elements that are important for your project instead of the material selection or color. Do they frequently install the features, like a firepit, that you are interested in also having installed? Is the size of any of their projects similar to the size of yours? Remember, landscape companies will feature their best projects and professional photography speaks to their level of commitment and professionalism. 
  • Customer Reviews- Client reviews usually can help you narrow your search significantly. Instead of looking on the company’s website for reviews, visit their google listing to see what clients have to say. Pay close attention to how the company responds to feedback, especially if it is not positive. Everyone makes mistakes, so look for outdoor designers who give compassionate and honest responses to any reviews that are negative. How the company you are researching responds to less-than-positive reviews says just as much about them as a glowing 5-star review. 

2. Look for Expertise

Choosing a landscape designer who has lots of experience is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure successful landscape design and installation, especially if your project has complexity. Make sure to ask if the person partnering with you on your project is a landscape designer or a Registered landscape architect. Let’s look at the difference between the two:

  • Landscape Designers- Landscape designers do not require any specific education, testing, or certification to call themselves designers. Most landscape designers have experience working in the field installing landscape projects or some sort of prior experience in the Green Industry, but this is not technically required. Designers tend to focus mostly on the aesthetics of a landscape design.
  • Registered Landscape Architects- To legally be called Registered landscape architects, these experts must be licensed and registered with the state of Illinois. This means they must pass a test and typically hold at least a 4-year college degree in the field of landscape design and architecture.  Each year they must do continuing education as well. Registered landscape architects can handle any scope of work from small projects to extremely large ones and have a higher level of technical knowledge and experience in plant and structural design. Registered landscape architects can also be called landscape designers. 

Residential landscape desinger looking at design plan

3. Be Prepared for Your Consultation

Most landscaping companies begin the design process by holding an informational meeting frequently called a consultation. When you call or complete a contact form, ask questions about what might come next. A great company will have a clear process they can share with you. 

When you have your consultation meeting, it is helpful to be prepared with answers to the following questions so that the outdoor designers can work with you effectively:

  • How do you plan to use your outdoor space?
  • What landscape elements are most important to you? Examples would be a patio, outdoor kitchen, or fireplace.
  • What is your estimated budget? Be sure to be as accurate as possible here, so that your landscape designers present you with an attainable plan. 

Residential landscape design family sitting around fire pit

4. How to Find a Good Landscaper? Look for Communication and Collaboration

During your initial informational meeting, you will get a feel for the landscape designer’s level of communication and collaboration. Both collaboration and communication are crucial elements of a successful landscape project. Be prepared to ask these questions:

  • Will my landscape architect stay with me through the entire project or will I be assigned different points of contact? Having one point of contact throughout the design, installation, and project completion phases is essential. It ensures a clear and open line of communication throughout the entire process.
  • Will I have input on my landscape design as it is created? Many companies simply meet with you once, create a design, and then ask you to sign the contract. Look for a landscape partner that offers 2-3 preliminary ideas after your initial meeting. They should walk you through these ideas so you are engaged in the design and development process of what your landscape could be. The final design is then created after you and the design team have an opportunity to collaborate.
  • Are there any completed projects I can see? Some landscapers will allow you to drive by and look at completed projects first-hand. This can give you an idea of what completed work looks like in real life. If this is not an option, they should have a robust portfolio to show you.

After your informational meeting, take time to reflect on how the meeting went. Did you feel that the landscape designers listened to what you wanted to accomplish? Did they get a good idea of your lifestyle and interests? Did they walk the property to get an understanding of your concerns and hopes for the design as well as to take in the architecture of the home? Did you feel like what you had to say was heard? 

Account manager and client under covered walkway

Selecting the Best Outdoor Designer for Your Project

Choosing the right landscape designers can make all the difference in creating an outdoor space that reflects your design style and complements your lifestyle. With so many options to choose from, finding the outdoor designer that is right for you can feel like an overwhelming task. 

However, by investing time into researching landscape designers, focusing on finding experts in the field, preparing for the consultation, and collaborating with your landscape design team you can feel confident in making the right decision for your project. 

At James Martin Associates, landscape design is our specialty. With a focus on collaboration and excellent communication, each client is paired with a Registered landscape architect, whom we call a Project Director. This Project Director both designs your dream outdoor space and partners with you throughout the entire process from start to finish.  Residential landscape design family eating together on patio 5
Ready to learn more about how James Martin Associates can meet your landscape design needs? Get started by filling out our contact form. Our experienced Project Directors will reach out to discuss your vision for your outdoor space and get to work making your dream a reality. 


Request Consultation

Brian Jordison

Brian Jordison

Brian is a Senior Landscape Designer with James Martin Associates.