If you have a new landscape to do or an old one to renovate, it’s time to get to work . If you’re going to hire help, make sure you hire the right person. Please be aware that you rarely get more than you pay for, but you can certainly get less. Do some serious research before hiring help. Make sure the lowest bid isn’t giving you the lowest quality that will lead, eventually, to the highest expense. Grill the “salesman” because a good “salesman” (and you are not getting “free consultations” – you are getting free “sales calls”) will be focused on impressing you. Ask questions. Listen carefully. No one’s going to tell you he or she needs to cut corners in order to come in with a competitive bid though it may cost you dearly in the future. If you want something personal, you need to find someone who is capable of listening to your needs (and doesn’t just tell you what to do).
Most (but not all) landscapers have minimal horticultural knowledge and depend on a limited group of plants. It’s cost efficient for them to use plants that are easily attainable with large mark-up margins (grown in bulk). They want to impress you with a nice hardscape and a pretty planting right away. In some situations, this might be perfect. But keep in mind that factoring in the colors, shapes or favorite plants you personally want may be impractical when bidding against other landscapers. Considering individual needs such as avoiding poisonous plants, planting for allergies, pest or fire resistance requires specialized knowledge. Few landscapers or nursery people have a design or artistic background. Fewer are imaginative. And fewer still, can take the time to design with safety in mind or to be concerned with the disasters these same pretty plants may become to your home or yard in the future when they reach mature size.
Make sure the person you select has what you need. Do your homework. If you know you want more than just the basics but you’re not sure exactly what you do need, call in a consultant, designer or landscape architect. This person is being paid to focus on your needs, not any other part of the job. He/she has nothing to gain by giving advice that isn’t to your advantage. And be careful not to negate what you have learned from an expert if someone later promises to fulfil all your wishes for the price you want. If the expert quoted high, there is usually a reason for it. I have seen too many jobs where regrets far exceeded the initial savings.
Be aware that most landscapers are not experts in all areas, even if they believe themselves to be so. It is confusing out there. It’s easy for someone else to claim to know what is right for you, but you’re the one who will own the results. I repeat. You rarely get more than you pay for, but you can certainly get less. Just like everything else in life, taking the time to do something right at the beginning will usually be the most economically sound choice. The average small landscape starts at about $25,000 — depending on what part of the country you are in and can cost hundreds of thousands depending on size and taste. Isn’t it worth a fraction more to make sure it’s done right?
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