Understanding Landscape Design Cost in Bozeman & Big Sky, MT

Written By: Mason Shaffer

Oct 22, 2019 3:44:00 PM

Landscape design cost can be confusing to understand since there are a lot of different ways that landscape companies charge for their design services. While every company has its own way of pricing this creative work, it’s important to understand what you’re receiving for your investment. 

On the surface, it may seem as though these different companies are all offering the same thing but the fact is, landscape design in Bozeman or Big Sky, MT can vary drastically.

Because we know that landscape design cost can vary dramatically (not only in how much you’re paying but even the structure of the pricing), we’ve put together some helpful information that will help you better understand what you’re getting for your investment.

Models of Landscape Design Pricing

Most landscape companies that charge for design either charge an hourly rate or a flat fee. Both are valid and sometimes certain circumstances warrant certain options. 

Let’s take a look at each method of charging and what they mean.

Hourly Rate

An hourly rate is probably the most common way that landscape companies charge for their design services. It factors in all of the hours that went into the design process. 

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Landscape design with water features in Bozeman, MT

Generally speaking, an hourly rate takes into account the landscape designer’s level of experience, training, and certifications. That means that a company with more experienced landscape designers is naturally going to charge more. But the caliber of your design will be better. It’s important to remember that as with anything in life, you get what you pay for. 

Flat Fee

Sometimes landscape design cost is factored as a flat fee. But many times, if you are given a flat fee for your landscape design, it’s because the designer has already calculated how many hours it is going to take to complete your design. If it’s a relatively straight-forward project, this is easier to do. 

Free Landscape Design

Of course, there are some companies that do not charge for landscape design at all. This might be used as a selling point and while this may sound appealing, it should actually be viewed as a red flag. A company that does not charge for design might not be all that invested in the details of your project. You aren’t going to get a high-quality professional design if it’s free.

In fact, when a company does not charge for design, it might not even be creating a design! At the most, perhaps they’re sketching something up quickly. This is troublesome as you can’t possibly know what you’re going to end up with if you don’t have a design.

What to Expect with Landscape Design Cost 

No matter how the company structures its pricing, chances are, you want to have an idea of what you can expect to pay. The national average for landscape design cost, according to HomeAdvisor, is between $2,000 and $6,800. That’s going to be impacted by many factors, including the size of the project and even where you live.

Patio designed by Blanchford Landscape in Bozeman. MT

At Blanchford Landscape Group, our landscape design hourly rate is between $75 and $100 per hour with the minimum residential landscape design project usually taking around 40 hours. When clients want to understand a flat fee, we tell them that our base is in the $3,000 to $4,000 range as a starting point, but it can go up from there. 

It’s important to point out that those 40 hours are not just time spent in front of a computer. It also factors in time spent on the site, gathering a ton of information, product sourcing, and more. There is a tremendous amount of time and effort that goes into the design process by a highly trained professional who is committed to your project.

Hiring Design/Build vs. Landscape Architecture Firm

An important point that must be addressed and understood when it comes to landscape design cost is that a design/build firm like Blanchford Landscape Group is not only designing the project but also building it. That makes us different from hiring a landscape architecture firm, who is only going to complete the design (and then you’d hire a different company to build it).

A landscape architecture firm is also going to charge more. On average, we’ve found that these firms charge around $100 to $150 per hour in our region. They create plans that are incredibly thorough and therefore take even more time to complete. Oftentimes, they are going to “bid,” and their plans might even need to meet certain “specifications” since different construction companies are going to be looking at them. 

For comparison, our plans might be 2 pages when finished versus a landscape architecture firm’s might be 10.

However, there’s value in terms of the design/build combination as opposed to hiring your design company and your construction company separately. The design and paper documents that come from a landscape architect firm need to convey every single thing that the design/build company needs to do

But this can be skipped when the same company that is designing the project is also building it. Plans don’t have to be quite as overly detailed when there is ongoing and direct (in-house) communication between the designer and builder. That means we can put a little less time into the design and save you some money while still giving you the same high-caliber finished project. 

Having everything performed in-house is ultimately an advantage to you in more ways than one, including the fact that there are no disconnects as there would be if you had one company designing the project and another one building it. Everyone is working together and on the same page. 

At Blanchford Landscape Group we have an advantage in that we perform both design and build really well (many landscaping companies in Bozeman and Big Sky, MT tend to excel at one or the other). That gives us the unique opportunity to see a project from design all the way through construction and into maintenance, as we offer that too. We’re really committed to building lifelong relationships.

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Why Paying for Landscape Design is Valuable

As we mentioned, there are some landscape design companies that advertise that they do not charge for design. That point may still have you wondering why you should pay for it and what sort of value you’ll get for your investment. We’ve already mentioned that the caliber of the design that you’d get for “free” is going to be subpar (or maybe non-existent). But investing in design actually has other tangible benefits.

Design Results in a Highly Customized Project

The fact is, there is quite a bit of value in a thorough and well-thought-out plan. For one, it allows you to get that fully customized project that includes all of the details that are important to you. It’s not just throwing materials in. There is continuity and a sense of belonging for each detail that goes into the finished project. In other words, there is a direct link between the caliber of your design and the caliber of your finished project.

Great Design Can Mean Saving on Construction Costs

There are also literal savings to be experienced when a project starts off with a detailed landscape design. 

At Blanchford, we are fortunate to have many clients who understand the value of good design and are willing to invest in it. For instance, we had one client who was willing to double their design fee in order to save money on the construction (because of everything being so well-planned). Whereas the initial design fee that we quoted was $10,000, they were willing to invest $20,000 and let us spend a lot more time on the design. In the end, their project was originally quoted at $1.4 Million but was able to be brought down to $500,000.

Design Allows for Phasing

Another ultimate savings related to landscape design cost is the ability for phasing. While you might have long-term plans for your backyard, you don’t necessarily want to have everything built at one time. You might want to “phase” the project out over several years in order to pay for it in chunks at a time. A “Master Plan” will allow you to do that and will ensure that the finished project doesn’t ultimately look “pieced together” because it wasn’t planned well from the start.

There’s also an infrastructure component with design and phasing in that certain elements must be installed at certain phases. For instance, if you have plans for a future pergola or pavilion, the footings should be installed during the first phase of construction on the patio. If they aren’t, you’ll have to dig up your patio at a later date in order to install those footings down the road.

It will actually cost you more money down the road if you don’t plan well from the start! That’s on top of the hassles associated with extra construction or having to tear up and re-finish projects that could have been otherwise left alone if there was a plan in place.

Receiving Authentic Landscape Design

At the end of the day, the fact is, you’re hiring a professional for a reason. You want a spectacular outdoor living space—and that needs to come together in real life, not just on paper. That’s why it’s so important that you choose to work with a landscape design company that can offer it all—great design and great construction.


When it comes to your new outdoor space, you want more than just a sketch or a dream, you want to take that dream and make it into a reality. That is best achieved by investing in skilled and professional landscape design at a design/build firm that can then take that plan right into construction and see it through to completion.

Like many landscape companies, at Blanchford Landscape Group we begin our process with a free consultation in which we will start to develop the conceptual ideas for your project and talk budget. Once we begin the actual design, we will charge an hourly rate that will be discussed upfront. We’ll work closely with you each step of the way as we bring your vision to life both in design form and in real life.

You’ll know exactly what you’re getting before we even begin building, giving you peace of mind that everything will come together just as you’ve dreamed. The end result of a truly authentic design is a customized finished project that is exactly what you desired.

Are you ready to get the process of bringing your outdoor dreams at your Bozeman or Big Sky, MT home to life? Let’s connect and talk about your project. Then, we can meet and begin talking about your ideas. We can’t wait for you to enjoy a beautiful outdoor living space.

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Topics: Landscape Design

Posted by Mason Shaffer

Mason has earned both a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture prior to joining our team in 2011. Outside of work, you will find Mason spending quality time with his wife and two little girls. They will likely be exploring the outdoors, camping, fishing, golfing, planting, or just playing in the dirt.