The right landscape architect can help transform your outdoor living spaces.

Are you thinking of redesigning your home’s garden, backyard, courtyard or outdoor living spaces? “It’s a big investment, but with a wonderful return,” says Jennifer Horn, a leading landscape architect based in Washington, D.C. A professionally designed residential landscape can add up to 15 percent to a home’s value, just one reason why hiring the right professional for the job is so crucial. “It’s more like selecting a doctor than a mechanic,” says Horn. “It’s an emotional, personal relationship, and if you don’t have the right fit, you’re likely to be disappointed.”

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) can help you find that fit, says Horn, who chairs the organization’s Residential Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network Group. Founded in 1899, ASLA focuses on big-picture issues – ranging from sustainable design to historic preservation and environmental stewardship – but homeowners wanting to beautify their own outdoor spaces can also turn to the society for advice and ideas.

The ASLA website is an excellent place to start. The Residential Design page is packed with informative articles on growing plants and vegetables, tips for saving water, and detailed guides on sustainable landscapes. Once you’ve done your research and set a budget (typically 5 to 10 percent of your home’s worth), you’re ready to meet with landscape architects to discuss your project. ASLA’s extensive Firm Finder can help you zero in on the best landscape architects who specialize in your needs, whether you’re looking for a therapeutic garden, low-maintenance terrace, or more elaborate outdoor entertaining space.

You’ll have plenty of professionals to choose from with ASLA representing more than 15,000 members in 49 chapters throughout the United States and in 62 countries worldwide. And you can be assured the landscape architect you hire really knows his or her trade. The society’s full members must hold an accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture and/or be licensed in their state, with at least three years of professional experience.

“You get a higher level of education, greater detail in the design and plans, and a stronger emphasis on responsibility toward the land with an ASLA landscape architect,” says Horn. “On a practical level, you’ll get a much more educated and thoughtful approach to your home project. ASLA landscape architects also consider sustainability, aesthetics, programmatic functionality and detailing in all of their work.”