Haha! my passion!
If you compare Blender with dedicated landscape renderers you find that there are a few features that are missing or awkward to use.
1 - A dedicated terrain primitive.
Vue/Bryce/Terragen/Carrara/POV-Ray have terrains that are uniform matricies of heights. This data structure means that you only have to give a single number to indicate height for each cell; storage requirement is much lower than a mesh (1 float vs. 3 xyz float + all the non needed adjacency info which are implied). This means that a 1024x1024 terrain is trivial with such programs, in Blender it is a 1 million quads mesh. In addition, when you have such representation, there are optimized algorithms for tracing/hit test and so on (see POV-Ray heightfield primitive).
2 - Ecosystems (Vue) / Populations (TG) / Replicators (Carrara).
You can somewhat simulate them with particles, but they are much more easy and controllable in the above mentioned programs.
3 - Atmospherics.
Mist, haze, clouds, etc. etc. etc. See Vue/Terragen tutorials to appreciate the level of completeness and realism you reach in those environments.
GeoControl and World Machine are for creating highly detailed terrains and are therefore needed provided that you can see the terrain. I explain better: if your super detailed terrain is then covered with a lush Pandora-like forest 95% of the details vanish and you only see the terrain general struture so a low res model is more than adequate (and you can fully handle the thing with a sculped mesh).
W.r.t. to plants Arbaro/ngPlant are probably enough; if you want utmost quality XFrog is apparently the best thing in town. Vue has a thing called Solid Growth plants which is a totally proprietary technology to create a variety of instances. I have the feeling that you can simulate infinite variety with a few instaces randomly rotated, slightly randomly scaled and randomly inclined (this is a thing I will check infuture and report to this board because, if what I think is true, it is immediately applicable to Blender).
As far as the pipeline is involved, my current approach is to render panoramas in Vue using Blender as a tool to create content for the scene plus GC/WM/my programs for terrain generation. I think that for internal scenes/limited external ones Blender is more than adequate for rendering purposes (especially with stuff like Cycles coming) but for wide scenery the lack/lack for ease of use of the above features is currently crippling.
I personally want to try to see how much I can free myself from Vue and I will duly report my results to this community.
Bye!!! and if anybody has ladscaping question, please pester me.