I recently received a postcard in the mail from a competitor offering a $50 landscape design. It made me think. While I admire the drive to get more work and there are many great programs on the market today that will produce high quality displays, a design is something that should evolve with time and effort. There are times when one would be foolish to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a landscape design. Simple foundation plantings where you are simply looking for a row of plants in front of your house or you have a bed or two off to the side of your driveway that just needs to be conceptualized you could get away with a cheap design or really no design at all.
The catch is that those designs are seldom exceptional, they sort of look generic or they are heavy with what is in the nursery at the time of year that you do your project. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, but if you are looking to have an interesting, unique, seasonal garden or landscape it takes planning. What is your soil like? What are your lighting conditions? Are there acidic trees nearby? Does the wind blow particularly hard in the winter because you are so exposed? These are questions that can be asked, but a professional landscape designer or architect will want to see and feel the conditions. Designing landscapes is both an art and a science. When done well people notice.
It is much like buying a cheap production seashore painting at the mall or buying a unique one at a local art show. Yes they may both be paintings of the seashore, but they certainly are not the same. One is $5o and meant to hang in an office building or dorm room, the other may cost hundreds or thousands, but would hang in your home.