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Why Be APLD Certified?

What is Certification?
By Leanne Goulding
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APLD’s National certification program, the only landscape design certification program in the United States, offers professional recognition to Landscape Designers based on established standards of excellence.

Currently, approximately 20 percent of APLD members are certified. Certification is available for Professional members in good standing who have been practicing landscape design for a minimum of four years.

APLD certification training

The certification review process, overseen by our National Certification committee, evaluates a candidate's submitted work, consisting of three installed projects.

For each project, the Designer submits:

Once Certification is awarded, this designation is identified when the letters ‘APLD’ follows the last name of a Professional member. You will find these Designers are listed first on the APLDWA website page, ‘Find a Designer’.

To maintain certification, Certified Professional members must continue to develop their skills by completing 30 hours of approved continuing education credits (CEU) over every three year period.


Why Be Certified?

In the state of Washington, Landscape Designers are not licensed which means anyone can be a Landscape Designer. Beyond an educational degree (if held), APLD Certification is the only certification available to differentiate us as professional, trained, experienced Landscape Designers.

It says we have knowledge and a body of work that has been peer reviewed and found to meet high standards. This is an important conversation to have with potential clients as well as other industry professionals.

Barbara Lycett, APLD, Certification Chairperson, summed it up perfectly: “As a professional Designer, I received training not only in landscape design, but in design. I strongly believe that applying my education in design is what makes a good garden. We understand not only hardscapes and the arrangement of various elements but also horticultural practices. I welcome a way to distinguish myself from others in our industry.”

APLD certification work

There is a national trend to regulate and hence restrict the type of work which can be performed by Landscape Designers.

“Already in Washington, certain municipalities may restrict work that most Certified Landscape Designers are capable of doing. We become a stronger vocal presence in discussions with regulatory bodies when there is a clear indication that our members are trained and experienced in these areas of design. Every member who becomes Certified strengthens the voice of our professional organization and our ability to advocate for members,” explains Lisa Port, APLD, Advocacy Chairperson.

Just over the border in Oregon, Landscape Designers have seen severe restrictions enacted against their opportunities for work.

“Project management or oversight is illegal because Landscape Designer are considered ‘non-licensed professionals’. In Oregon, if you want this type of work, you must be a licensed landscape contractor, and although still in process, it may be that only Certified APLD members will be allowed to sit for the contractor’s exam to even have the opportunity to do this type of work.” California and many other states have instituted or are currently considering similar regulator restrictions on Landscape Designers and installation companies.

APLD certification raises the bar




In an industry where many companies have limited knowledge, ethics or long-term commitments to their trade or clients, Certification raises the bar of professionalism - welcome progress for both landscape professionals and their clients.



Ready to Consider Certification?

Many of us already have the experience and body of work to become certified. For others it may be a longer term ambition. Either way, it is a laudable goal with real and tangible benefits. Barbara Lycett, APLD, Chapter Chairperson of the Certification Committee, would be happy to answer questions or assist you in the process. Additionally, our website is a great source of details.

Leanne Goulding
APLDWA Board President-Elect



Leanne has over 20 years of experience of working closely with clients to create unique and imaginative gardens. She has co-created gardens in four Northwest Flower & Garden Shows, receiving several awards, including Gold in 2013. To discuss your need for certification contact her today at 206.948.1601.

Author: Leanne Goulding

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