The lone voice of horticultural reason

Don’t contact a landscape company, engage them to bid a project that includes design, plant selection and installation, then ask them if you could save money by doing some of the planting (except, like, the big trees) yourself.

This scenario happens often enough in the landscaping industry that it’s worth comment. It’s no different from engaging a contractor to remodel your kitchen, then telling him/her that you’re handy with a hammer and tape measure, and would like to reduce the cost of the job by working on the crew. Or going in for an oil change and asking if you could remove the screw from the oil pan to save a few bucks. The answer is no.

As with money you pay doctors, lawyers, remodelers and mechanics, when hiring a landscaper, a portion of the cost in the bid is his/her time and expertise. A good landscaper will be down at the wholesale nurseries prior to your installation, personally picking out your perennials, trees and shrubs (I always do). When I’m selecting the trees and shrubs for a client’s job, I could tell you three things I’m looking for as I wade through rows and rows of the same plant that a majority of homeowners don’t see or know. I could tell you a couple of things about perennials.

There are five or six things a good landscaper and his/her crew knows about planting trees and shrubs that the average homeowner doesn’t know, except for astute gardeners. Penny-pinching homeowners will often make mistakes if they do it themselves, very often to the detriment of the plant material. Not to mention the fact that a landscaper is not going to warranty a plant for one year if the homeowner is the one sticking it in the ground.

If you want to reduce costs when renovating your old landscape or landscaping a new home, do your own design, select the smaller plants you want, buy them at your nursery and plant them yourself. If you want to hire a landscaper to select, purchase, deliver and plant the big, ball-and burlap trees or #20 container plants, terrific. Hire a landscaper.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener