Personal recommendations can often be helpful when making decisions about home improvements, however the ‘right’ landscape gardener for your friend or neighbour might not be the right one for you. The following tips should help guide you towards making the best decision for your specific requirements:
Have a plan
Before you do your research into WA’s many reputable landscape gardeners, all of whom have different specialisms, services and fee structures, sketch out some provisional plans or write down some ideas, including your budget range. These initial ideas will help inform your decision – it’s also important to consider other factors such as the size and layout of land, the quality of the soil, how much shade and direct sunlight your garden has, the scope of the project and the anticipated timescale. You can refer back to your early sketches and share these with your chosen contractor; he or she can then use their years of experience and expertise to modify your plans in order to make your vision a reality.
Every established landscape gardener will have a portfolio to showcase their ‘before’ and ‘after’ (and ‘during’) photos to prospective clients, demonstrating their creativity and ability to produce a sensational finished product. Ideally, select a landscape gardener who is able to both design and construct your garden (some companies specialise either in design or construction only). This will minimize the risk of something getting ‘lost in translation’ between the planning and the creating of your outdoor space. Looking through portfolios will also give you inspiration and show you what is possible, even with the smallest of gardens.
Before going ahead with signing a contract, thoroughly read the contractor’s credentials and endorsements, and check the fine print. Check that the landscape gardener is fully and comprehensively licensed and insured; also enquire about their accreditation and professional membership – for example, the Landscape Industries Association WA has a Code of Ethics and Values with which all its members comply. Look into the guarantees and warranties the landscaper provides, and investigate their track record in compliance regulations. A self-employed gardener might be in a better position to devote themselves to your project, and for a substantially lower fee than a large professional landscaping company, however they might lack the specialist equipment and industry insight, which may mean they end up taking longer to complete the job.
Book an initial consultation
An opportunity to meet in person is essential in establishing a rapport and determining that they are definitely the ‘right man/ woman for the job’. You are making a substantial investment, and this is a project that will inevitably entail significant noise, disruption and expense, so take your time before you sign on the dotted line. You should feel comfortable with your chosen contractor and the way they communicate with you – for example, responding clearly and positively to your ideas and feedback. If you don’t feel confident that they can offer what you are asking for (experience, manpower, courtesy, reliability, knowledge and skill), look elsewhere.
Practical considerations and aftercare
Agree on budget and time constraints, and other practical considerations. Both parties should establish clear communication around the estimated costs and timescale of the project; when and how regularly the contractor requires payment; what you the client should expect at each stage; plus issues such as installation, equipment and materials. It’s also important to understand their process should any design changes be required mid-project, and whether you will be charged additional fees for these. If necessary, can your gardener perhaps stretch your budget and be a little bit flexible and innovative to help you achieve the garden of your dreams?
Finally, your landscape gardener should be willing to spend some time with you explaining the care and maintenance of your newly-renovated garden, and show you how to keep it flourishing season after season, year after year.