A garden designer is different than a landscaper. Most commonly when we want a new garden we go online and look up "landscaper." A landscaper is a very loose word and can mean any number of things, from a company that does a basic / carbon copy design for new foundation beds then does the install work, to a company that performs a landscape design that's artistic and unique to your home. Most landscaping companies have design and install wings, as do many garden nurseries -- where the variable often is will be in the quality and skill of the designers themselves doing site visits and drawing up plans.
A garden designer is someone, in my mind, a step up from a landscaper or landscaping company. They'll meet with you on site and discuss the nitty gritty, just like a landscaper, and come up with a hardscape and plantscape plan, just like a landscaper. I believe the difference is in TLC as well as artistry. A landscape designer will likely have fewer clients in a year than a landscaper; the latter tends to make money on quantity of jobs. This is not to say a landscaper can't or won't give you a highly personalized or artistic design. Landscapers might be more likely to give you a design with overly-planted specimens and lots of mulch as a major design element -- the kind of stuff we see too often in front of businesses.
Then there are garden designers like me who focus almost exclusively on plantscapes, or, designing the planting plan itself. I'll consult with you and the contractors / landscapers you hire to do the hardscape -- patios, sidewalks, grading, walls, etc -- but I work with the plants in relation to the hardscape features. This means you'll hire a crew to install the plants, and I'll work with that crew to insure proper install.
I obviously take it a step further by focusing on native plants, which can be used in formal and informal designs. I'll carefully match plants to every micro climate in your landscape (trust me, you have many), being obsessively particular in matching plants to soil, light, drainage, exposure, etc. And I'll give you a design that focuses on lower maintenance long term -- one that uses plants as a living, green mulch, eradicating the need for wood mulch and improving wildlife habitat and environmental function. I also won't just use what's available or in stock at local nurseries -- I'll search far and wide to find the right plant for your landscape, one that fits the design aesthetic as well as wildlife value and performance over time. I also provide complete plant lists with wildlife value (what uses them, when, and why), as well as annual maintenance info for each plant and the overall garden.
So, there you go. Thought I'd toss this up on the blog and maybe someone would find it helpful as spring gets revved up. :)
If you'd like a consult, or want to dip your toes into an online class or mini trial garden, link here.