Why Hire a Landscape Architect?

A Landscape Architect is a design professional who holds a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in landscape architecture, has professional experience under the supervision of a licensed Landscape Architect and has passed the L.A.R.E. (Landscape Architect Registration Examination).

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, services that require a landscape architect include, but are not limited to the following:

• Investigation, selection, and allocation of land and water resources for appropriate uses; 
• Formulation of feasibility studies, and graphic and written criteria to govern the planning, design, and management of land and water resources. 
• Preparation, review, and analysis of land use master plans, subdivision plans and preliminary plats; 
• Determining the location and siting of improvements, including buildings and other features, as well as the access and environs for those improvements; 
• Design of land forms, storm water drainage, soil conservation, and erosion control methods, site lighting, water features, irrigation systems, plantings, pedestrian and vehicular circulation systems and related construction details.


Why Moody Graham?

Commitment – We are committed to exceeding client expectations in every phase of the project. This care extends to the people, flora, and fauna that occupy every site; a promise to start each project on a path of regeneration towards a more artful, ecologically rich, and sustainable future.

Quality – Through design research and multiple initial concepts, we test alternatives and arrive at the most successful solution that beautifully and intelligently addresses problems for each site. Our familiarity with the best product manufacturers, highest quality materials, and experienced craftsmen ensures that projects are completed to the highest standards.


Do you focus on any particular garden style?

No. We are more interested in good ideas than any single style. Good ideas come in many flavors and can be realized in every style. We often research the site or architectural style of existing buildings or landscape elements to mine for garden inspiration.


Do you work on small projects?

Our ability to succeed on a project is determined by a shared set of values between Moody Graham and our clients – not the project cost or size. Those values include a commitment to careful design, dedication to innovation, and a project aim of ecological and social harmony.


Do you work on commercial and institutional projects?

Yes. We work on both public and private projects and have experience with projects ranging in scale from National Mall memorials to two-unit condo developments. 


Are you C.B.E. certified in Washington DC?

Yes. We are a Certified Business Enterprise in Washington, DC. The C.B.E. program provides preference to District-based firms pursuing District Government issued procurement opportunities and expands the availability of business opportunities with District-sponsored development projects. 


Are you familiar with the Green Area Ratio (G.A.R.) requirements and certification in Washington, D.C.?

Yes. We can assist developers in understanding the requirements and assisting with project and drawing development to ensure compliance with Green Area Ratio requirements, an environmental zoning regulation for many new buildings and building renovation projects in the district.  Please visit http://green.dc.gov/GAR for additional information.


Do you have experience working in historic districts?

Yes. We are familiar with many of the local historic districts including the Georgetown Historic District, Capitol Hill Historic District, Cleveland Park Historic District, Foxhall Historic District, Dupont Circle Historic District, and work with the L'Enfant Trust. Before starting the design of any landscape, we contact the appropriate permitting and historic office to review any potential project restrictions.  


How do I know if I am in a historic district?

You can check this map if you are in Washington, D.C.


Do you build the gardens you design?

No. We typically work with general landscape contractors that have the specific skill sets required to build the gardens we design. In some instances (particularly small gardens) we prefer to select and install the plants ourselves to ensure that the highest quality plants are purchased and that we are able to make any substitutions necessary based on availability at the time of installation. 


What kind of maintenance should I expect? 

Gardens require varying levels of maintenance depending upon the garden elements, plant selections, weather, age of the garden, desired aesthetic, etc. We work with our clients to select plants and features that best fit their relationship with the garden.


Do you maintain the gardens you design?

No, but we are happy to provide recommendations for qualified plant care professionals who can help you keep your garden looking great all year round. We are available to answer questions when they arise and can provide a customized garden maintenance manual.


Do you design swimming pools?

Yes. We believe that a carefully considered swimming pool can be a beautiful element within the broader landscape. We typically partner with a local pool builder early in the process to ensure that we are considering the best options for the pool.

How long does it take to design and install a garden?

This is highly dependent upon the size of the project, time of year, contractor schedule, number of trades involved, and many other factors. We make every effort to send out a written proposal for design services as soon as possible after visiting a site to discuss a potential project. We can also outline a rough project schedule that corresponds to the scope of work. 


Will I need construction permits for my project?

This depends on the type of work involved. The construction of new fences, retaining walls, pergolas, swimming pools, and decks typically requires building permits. Building a patio on the existing grade, planting trees and shrubs, and removing small trees often does not require a permit. If your project is in Washington, D.C., you may want to review the DCRA Building Permit Fact Sheet.


Can you help with drainage problems?

Yes. Drainage problems are often caused by improper grading and can be solved with sound landscape design. We trace the cause of the problem and solve it at the root rather than simply addressing it at the point of visibility. 


My site is a magnet for mosquitoes. Is there anything I can do?

Yes. Although there is no single answer to rid your property of mosquitoes, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the population. In the design of any new landscape we often implement these ideas:

  • Remove standing water – inspect gutters, drain grates, low spots, and any other place where water might collect and allow mosquitoes to breed
  • Plant these plants – rosemary, catnip, marigolds, citronella plant and lemon balm have all been shown to be effective in repelling mosquitoes
  • Install a fan – moving air makes it more difficult for mosquitoes to land and also reduces and disperses carbon dioxide, one of the primary attractive chemicals for mosquitoes; a fan installed on a pergola over a terrace is a great way to keep mosquitoes away
  • Use an organic spray


When is the best time to plant?

Here is some information regarding planting times from Kerry Meyer at Proven Winners:

Early Spring  As soon as the ground is workable and not too wet

  • Bareroot perennials, as long as they are dormant
  • Very cold tolerant annuals such as violas, primroses, and pansies – they must be hardened-off in order to survive
  • Certain cold crop vegetables, notably peas, spinach and seed onions
  • Dormant shrubs and trees

Early Spring Two to three weeks before threat of frost is passed

  • Bareroot perennials
  • Annuals such as nemesia, diascia, snapdragons, and osteospermum are good choices for early spring color – it is important they be hardened-off to survive
  • Many potted perennials – make sure they were grown outside or in coldframes so they are acclimated to the cold temperatures of early spring
  • Shrubs and trees, either dormant or leafed out, can be planted as long as they were grown outside
  • Cool season vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, and seed potatoes can be seeded or planted  

Spring – After threat of frost has passed

  • Any annual or vegetable can be seeded or planted
  • Any perennial plants, bareroot or potted
  • Trees and shrubs, either bareroot or potted
  • Perennials that aren't blooming can be dug and divided
  • Summer blooming, non-hardy bulbs and bulb-like plants such as dahlias, colocasia (elephant ear), and gladiolas


  • Plants generally require much more attention and care to survive summer planting and we therefore do not recommend it for most trees, shrubs, or perennials
  • If at all possible, do NOT dig and divide perennials, especially those in bloom
  • Heat tolerant annual or perennial plants can be planted with good success in summer


  • Good time to plant shrubs and trees
  • All perennials
  • Fall is a good time to dig and divide most perennials, do NOT do so with any that are blooming.
  • Cold tolerant annuals
  • Winter hardy pansies and violas
  • Spring blooming bulbs

Fall – As long as the soil is workable

  • Spring blooming bulbs can be planted as long as the ground isn't frozen.
  • Shrubs and trees can be planted; however, earlier in fall is better as it allows for best root establishment before winter
  • Cold tolerant perennials can be planted, but they will be more winter hardy if planted earlier in fall; losses are more likely if they are planted late in fall


What are the average frost dates for Washington, DC? 

Last frost: Spring – March 29
First frost: Fall – November 15


Do you design garden planters?

Yes. We are able to provide customized plant and container selections for critical points in the landscape. Potential sites include entrances, terraces, decks, public promenades, and city streetscapes. Container selections range from the understated to the massive.

Upon client approval, we will order all necessary materials and install the container(s), soil, and plants. Many of the planters have a lead time of 4 weeks or more.

Please see the links below for an introduction to a few of the container manufacturers we work with:

Architectural Pottery
Kornegay Design
Tuscan Imports
Siebert & Rice


What is the difference between a landscape architect and a landscape designer? 

The information below is from the American Society of Landscape Architects and may be helpful in distinguishing different titles:

Landscape Architects design residential gardens, as well as provide professional services in land and urban planning, site design, natural resource management, park and recreation planning, environmental conservation, and historic preservation. Landscape architects have an undergraduate or graduate degree and are licensed in 46 states. Because of their unique combination of design skills, technical experience, and plant knowledge, landscape architects are the best choice for a major outdoor design project, or a project with technical landscaping issues, like stormwater management or native plants, that could have significant environmental impact.

Landscape Designers can be likely choices for designs that do not require construction, grading, or specific technical knowledge. They may have completed a degree program. Some landscape designers attend training or certificate programs, but many are self-taught. Designers are usually a lower-cost option and can be quite satisfactory for planting plans and small projects like perennial bed designs. The best way to evaluate designers is to check references and past projects.

Horticulturists are trained in the science of growing and producing plants. They typically complete an undergraduate or graduate degree in that field. Many horticulturists become nurserymen or work in garden centers. Horticulturists are ideal advisors about specific plant choices and care needs, but typically lack design skills and technical knowledge about drainage, earth-moving, and other aspects of major projects.

Landscape Contractors install planting elements of a design conceived by landscape architects or designers. Landscape contractors may have a practical background in gardening and/or construction work. Prices and quality vary widely. Always check references and past projects, as well as their employment status.

Of course, life is never this simple. Consumers will run across the vague title "landscaper," as well as combinations of categories listed above. Landscapers are generally landscape contractors, but they could also be horticulturists affiliated with a nursery. Adding to the confusion, nurseries often offer free design services with large, full-price purchases.

Design/build firms often advertise combinations of the job categories listed above. These companies offer the design, installation, and at times, the actual plant materials. With design/build firms, a consumer should evaluate the training and expertise of the individuals doing each task; ask if the designer is a licensed landscape architect. Also determine how experienced the installers are, where the plant material is coming from, and who will supervise the on-site installation on-site.