Hiring a Pro

HIRING A PRO: ? Research ? Meet ? Be informed
THE MANY TYPES : Maintenance Only ? Landscapers ? Garden Designer ? Landscape Architects

Gardeners are crazy. Here we have time to sit back appreciate the autumnal stream of scent and colour, but what?s going on? We?re thinking about what to do next year.

Trouble is, if you need help, this is a great time to line up a professional and you can?t be casual about it. Experts are expensive and can be dodgy especially if you have a gardener?s ego, because you can bet designers have egos you can drive a tank through or they wouldn?t survive.

There are few rules you want to observe.

  • Do some upfront research.
    • It?s such a clich? but it?s iron clad: check them out with other clients. Ask if they enjoyed the process. If they had terrible rows, or it was no fun, move on. It?s your money.
  • Have a meeting.
    • Does the expert listen? I?ve seen hours pass when you?d think the designer and the client were speaking different languages.
    • Never hire anyone who isn?t listening to what you are really saying or who isn?t asking good questions: what you need the garden for and how it will function?
  • But don?t be dumb about things.
    • Have some information yourself especially about the light conditions.
    • And if they ask about or check out your soil before they do anything else, you know you?ve got good one.

Professionals come in many guises:

  • Maintenance Only: Make sure they know the difference between a weed and a perennial. Never hire anyone who thinks peat moss is a fertilizer.? These people cost anywhere from $15 to $50 an hour. Asking for a demonstration of a couple of hours? (paid) is not out of line.
  • Landscapers can do a quick blitz on a regular basis and it?s going to end up costing about the same. But make sure they have a sensitive touch. I watched a gang hit a nearby garden and strip it down to the ground in so-called grooming. It?s taken a year for the garden to recover.
  • A Garden Designer may not have official training but can be really creative with a lot of experience?all the more reason to check out other gardens. But don?t hire an over-stuffer who will fill up the garden just for an instant effect. You?ll be pulling plants out in a couple of years and plants (along with the gas that effects their price) are expensive.
  • I love Landscape Architects but you are dealing with someone who is highly educated and probably has an ego to with it. So don?t think you?ll be changing this person just because you are the client.
    • LAs are specialists in hardscaping (patios, stonework, buildings such as gazebos and pergolas). This sounds nuts but don?t hire someone whose style you don?t approve of. You aren?t going to change him/her. Go for the style but not if the person is a crabby egocentric divo (or diva).
    • If you find someone who is a good listener, don?t turn them into a psychotherapist. They hate that. Every minute you are yakking onwards is costing you money. And by the way, so do e-mails and phone calls as they should.
    • Many LAs have a limited range of plants they use because they use only those guaranteed to survive. Pick one who has a wide knowledge of plants as well as one who knows how to construct French drains.

A pro can save you money, solve problems and the good ones are so much fun this could or should be one of the best experiences of the year. And nab them now before things get crazy in the spring.