I want my garden landscaped, but how do I find the best person?
What should I do first before contacting someone?
Do I get lots of quotes?
How do I find someone?
Who do I chose?
Could I do it myself?
Do we recommend landscapers?
Creating the kind of garden you want is a special undertaking and one that we hope will be exciting and inspiring and trouble free.
Here are some questions you might be asking, together with a few unbiased answers and tips about finding the right landscaper. We genuinely have no vested interest in who you choose or whether you choose anyone at all. We don't do landscaping ourselves (maybe we should!) and have no deals with any landscapers.
All we'd like is that you don't get ripped off, and that you get the garden you want, will use, and will enjoy. Good luck !
It's really important to first sit down and answer the following questions:
What do I want out of the garden ?
Is it for children to play in ? To grow vegetables and flowers ? Barbecues and romantic dinners ? Do I enjoy gardening or do I want low maintainance ? What do I want in it ?
Am I looking for a radical transformation or minor change ? Do I want a new lawn, play area, shed, water feature, patio, raised bed, archway, steps etc
What do I want it to look like ?
It's crucial to be clear about these questions before you get people in to do quotes. You can design your garden yourself (with the help of masses of books and TV programmes). However, if you intend a full landscaping transformation, it is well worth investing several hundred pounds in a professional independent designer who will specify sizes, materials, plants etc.. When you then ask potential landscapers to quote on this exact plan it will ensure quotations that can be compared like for like, and potentially save you £hundreds.
What is my budget ?
How much can I afford, do I want to spend ? Be realistic. Two people for one day may cost £200 or more. So a full landscaping job will be £thousands. Materials and labour don't come cheap.
Invite several landscapers to quote for you. Make sure that you have your clear design ready (see above, under 'what do I want it to look like') so that they can give an accurate and realistic quotation to you, that you can compare with others. Be clear about what you want and when you want it done etc.. Watch how they respond to you, and how they talk about the potential job. Are they enthusiastic ? Are they professional ? How do they go about working out the quotation ? Have they got a tape measure !
What should I ask them ?
- Ask them about what jobs they've done. They should show you an album of recent work. Do they sound proud of their work, or excited etc..
-Ask them about where they learned to landscape, e.g. courses, training, working for other companies etc.. Are they experienced, knowledgable etc.. Do they work alone or with a team ? - and how experienced will they be? How will they tackle your design ?
-Ask them about any particular conditions, timescale, payments etc.. What would they need from you ? Is there a contract or agreement ? What happens if things go wrong ?
Of course these questions could be equally applied to finding a plumber, electrician.
- Firstly, and best, you can seek out word of mouth recommendations from friends, neighbours, and family. This is the best way of finding a landscaper. You'll get an unbiased opinion of their work, their honesty and reliability, their charges, and get a chance to see their finished work in the flesh.
- Secondly, you can seek recommendations from garden centres and nurseries. Ask them for practical advice, and if they've heard good reports of any particular landscapers. NB they may of course recommend their own people !
- Thirdly, you can trawl through Yellow pages etc.. and local advertisements. You probably won't learn much from the look of the advertisement, as they are often created by a designer wanting to catch your eye, not the landscaper themselves. They may often state they are 'members' of certain bodies etc... You can take or leave this, as gospel or nonsense. We are often approached by professional bodies, who say that we can use their name as recommendation, if we pay a certain sum - few questions asked. We'd recommend contacting a cross section of advertisements, big and small. Compare their response to you.
If you've shown each potential landscaper the same design and explained to each clearly what you want, it should be easier to choose between quotes. Look for how the quote is broken down, into labour and materials. Do these figures seem reasonable ? Can you afford it ? What is your gut feeling about them.. Do you trust them ? Do you like them etc.. What will it be like having them around for a week or so ? Are they pofessional, creative, enthusiastic ? Don't choose someone you have doubts about. Remember you can always ask the landscaper for a contact number or address of a previous job, so you can see how it turned out, and ask the customer how the job went.
Why not ? You'd save a lot of money and achieve the wonderful satisfaction of creating your own garden. There's a lot of help in books and TV, and the message is often the same: 'Give it a go! You don't have to be an expert to build your own garden'. It's not rocket-science ! Alternatively you could do some of it yourself - maybe the bits that feel more straightforward or enjoyable (pay someone to do the back breaking bits!) Finally, if you're not able to do any of the physical bits, you could at least research and buy the materials yourself. You'll save money, because landscapers often make a profit out of the materials they charge you for. You also have more chance of ending up with the materials that you want, not to mention the fun of searching round muddy reclaimation yards and nurseries !
Maybe, possibly... I know that sounds unsure, but we're still debating whether to have no list at all, or to invite any landscapers to pay to advertise their services with pictures etc.. or to list only those who use our supplies.. or to actually recommend a few that we've had closer contact with, and who seem to be creative, trustworthy, solvent etc... .
In the meantime if you can't find a landscaper, and you're desperate, you are welcome to ring us.
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE!
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