Sometimes it’s hard to figure out who you need to call for help with your landscape. Some people want to have everything done for them, others want create their garden as a do-it-yourself project – maybe with just an occasional bit of advice to avoid expensive mistakes, and still others want a combination expert help mixed in with their own efforts. Here is a brief, general list to help you shop for professional landscape, design and garden help.
Call a horticultural or garden designer/consultant if:
*You want to do some or all of the job yourself and could use some extra knowledge in design, which plants are appropriate where, or want creative ideas in construction, materials, plant selection, problem solving or artistic approaches.
*You need plans on paper drawn to show to others (such as associations, gardeners, or contractors).
*You are concerned about ‘custom’ issues: specific styles, child or pet safety, edibles, ecology, fire resistance, native plantings, etc.
*You want creative or unique design ideas and/or out-of-the-ordinary plants (for example, native plants or plants to create a special theme). Or you want something really artistic, environmental, cutting edge or unusual. (Make sure your designer/consultant has an artistic or appropriately creative background.)
Call a garden coach if:
*You want to do things yourself, but you can use some expertise and direction in design, gardening or technical gardening or hardscape (permanent feature) issues.
*You want private gardening lessons.
Call a landscape architect if:
*You need major construction done or you need highly technical design/building advice.
*You have an elaborate and/or extensive design requiring specific construction details and drawings.
*You want official ‘blue print’ designing.
*You want a highly creative full design for your property. (Again, check the credentials and the work of the person you want to use to see if the style and capability is a match to your expectations.)
Call a nursery if:
*You need plants. Some can provide interesting and unusual choices as well as the regular fare. There are even specialist nurseries that will let you sort through various cultivars of your favorite types of plants.
*You want a simple, standard design with readily available plants. For nurseries that provide this service, these will be your least expensive quotes. Be aware that few nurseries employ artistic designers and many know more about selling plants than they do about designing or installing a garden. There are nurseries that have fine services to offer outside of the nursery and there are nurseries owned by hobbyists who know they can’t pass contractor or master gardener exams but always wanted to plant gardens. Again, do your research if you want to use a nursery for more than just buying plants. A poorly designed or planted landscape can become a disaster and a huge expense in the future.
*You need someone to install your plants/trees/gardens or (if this service is provided) to install your sprinkler systems. Expect labor help, not design input. Most nurseries will only install their own plants.
Call a landscaping company if:
*You want a basic design done and installed. The same cautions apply as for nurseries. Low and high bids are not enough to make judgment calls. Find out what you are getting for your money. Only a few companies keep talented designers on staff. Some outsource good designers. Some use generic designs adapted to your space. Some have little to no sense of design but want to be designers (the same with some nursery owners) and should be avoided for purposes of design. If you already have your design done, then check the installation work quality of the landscape company you are considering by visiting some of their completed jobs.
Call a pool company if:
*You need a pool or Jacuzzi constructed. For any permanent structure, you need someone with the appropriate contractors’ license and knowledge of state and local construction codes and permits.
*You want water gardening. Some pool companies also specialize in building ponds, waterfalls and other water features.
Call a specialist if:
*You need masonry (stone, brick or cement work), carpentry (wood and other material construction), electrical, or special features such as waterfalls and ponds, or murals and sculptures. For tree issues, it is always worthwhile to get in a certified arborist.
Call a landscape contractor if:
*You need any of the above services coordinated or overseen.
*You need to know about state and local codes and permits.
*You want a person who may be able to provide you with a combination of some of the specific skills listed above. Individual contractors vary in their abilities, so ask lots of questions before deciding how best to use a specific landscape contractor.
Call a garden service if:
*You basically need a lawn mower/blower. Don’t expect most garden services to carefully trim, transplant, divide or clip your plants. Be careful with weeding since a lot of service employees do not know the difference between your favorite plants when small and a weed. Do not use these folks for designing. Most have no artistic sense whatsoever. Do check out who you hire if you need some genuine gardening help. There are some treasures hidden among the masses that really know and love gardening. Expect to pay more for knowledgeable people. Like everything else in live, you usually get what you pay for!