Landscape design is an independent profession and a design and art tradition, practised by landscape designers, combining nature and culture. In contemporary practice, landscape design bridges the space between landscape architecture and garden design.
Landscape design focuses on both the integrated master landscape planning of a property and the specific garden design of landscape elements and plants within it. The practical, aesthetic, horticultural, and environmental sustainability are also components of landscape design, which is often divided into hardscape design and softscape design. Landscape designers often collaborate with related disciplines such as architecture and geography, soils and civil engineering, surveying, landscape contracting, botany, and artisan specialties.
Design projects may involve two different professional roles: landscape design and landscape architecture. Landscape design typically involves artistic composition and artisanship, horticultural finesse and expertise, and emphasis on detailed site involvement from conceptual stages through to final construction. Landscape architecture focuses more on urban planning, city and regional parks, civic and corporate landscapes, large scale interdisciplinary projects, and delegation to contractors after completing designs.
There can be significant overlap of talent and skill between the two roles, depending on the education, licensing, and experience of the professional. Both landscape designers and landscape architects practice landscape design.
Design factors include objective qualities such as: climate and microclimates; topography and orientation, site drainage and groundwater recharge; municipal and resource building codes; soils and irrigation; human and vehicular access and circulation; recreational amenities (i.e.: sports and water); furnishings and lighting; native plant habitat botany when present; property safety and security; construction detailing; and other measurable considerations.
Design factors also include subjective qualities such as: genius loci (the special site qualities to emphasize); client’s needs and preferences; desirable plants and elements to retain on site, modify, or replace, and that may be available for borrowing of scenery (“shakkei”) from beyond; artistic composition from perspectives of both looking upon and observing from within; spatial development and definition—using lines, sense of scale, and balance and symmetry; plant palettes; and artistic focal points for enjoyment. There are innumerable other design factors and considerations brought to the complex process of designing a garden that is beautiful, well-functioning, and that thrives over time.
The up-and-coming practice of online landscape design allows professional landscapers to remotely design and plan sites through manipulation of two-dimensional images without ever physically visiting the location. Due to the frequent lack of non-visual, supplementary data such as soil assessments and pH tests, online landscaping necessarily must focus on incorporating only plants which are tolerant across many diverse soil conditions.