Hiring a landscaper to design your perfect, ‘idyllic’ garden can be almost as exhilarating experience as buying a dream home. Even the top professionals in this game vary drastically in methods, finesse or personal style. This is why you should take extra special care when evaluating prospective designers.
It is typical to begin with a referral from a colleague or friend, neighbor, or local nursery. It’s also possible to consult your state’s landscaper’s association for an extensive record of local contractors. A few nurseries offer design services and there exist some very capable unlicensed professional designers out there, who will do a great job for you. A careful selection process can help ensure that you hire the most appropriate team for your project.
Initially, it’s a good idea to request that the landscaper or designer personally visits your home to assess your property and specific needs. Insist that they bring references with them, in addition to photographs of earlier projects they have overseen and completed. You may be lucky enough to find the perfect candidate at the first time of asking, but it’s worth allowing for two other appointments to give other contractors a chance to present the ideas.
Don’t have them around at the same time, though! That could turn out to be confusing and may be perceived as rude by the contractors. Find out what variety of garden landscaping they have specialized in to date. You want to be sure that their skill set fits in harmony with your vision.
Well ahead of the scheduled meeting, compile a checklist of the features you hope to include in your project. It’s common to lose track of what you’re doing during a consultation and neglect to mention your favourite garden feature, or an essential part of your plan. Prepare detailed questions on paper.
Another good idea is to flip through magazines and books depicting beautiful landscapes you appreciate and the ideas you would like to incorporate into your project. If there is a particularly stunning garden in your locality and you want to borrow some inspiration, take a few snaps and have those ready to present to the candidate.
Take the candidate on a personal tour of the specific area of your property you want to landscape. Express yourself openly, as to your visions for the project. Use this opportunity to find out about the designer, too:
- Does he or she pose any questions at all?
- Does he or she request clarification on any points, or to give additional information?
- Do they appear genuinely engaged in your ideas?
- Do they seem enthusiastic about your plans?
- Do you strike a good personal rapport?
It’s crucial that you find it easy to communicate your thoughts and ideas to each other. The majority of homeowners have a distinct image of their plan and a skilled designer should be able to grasp those concepts and run with them. Dedicate more than an hour to this initial meeting, so you have plenty of time to run through every detail.
Your task is to be extremely clear and upfront about what you want. Of course, the budget and timeline are included in this. There is nothing wrong with discussing money and timelines with each prospective designer; there is no need to feel embarrassed or awkward about it!
The landscape designer will be interested in your house, because interior furnishings and décor demonstrate a great deal about your taste – including details that may have been lacking from verbal descriptions and photos. They will also like to find out which aspects of your garden and landscape are framed by the windows from inside, as this is likely to influence the selection of styles and colours for common features like fountains, wall paint and tiling, and also aid with the arrangement of trees and shrubs to create a pleasant view from inside the building.
Second time of Meeting
Okay, so you’re now in receipt of a rendering of the designer’s proposed plan for the landscaping project. Typically the designer will explain the choice of materials at length and run through the installation process with you. Again, do not hold back – keep asking questions and listen closely for the use of your terminology in the designer’s talk, so you can be sure that they’ve been attentive to your needs and wants. If you don’t like anything, speak out about it. Professionals are well accustomed to making adjustments to keep clients satisfied.
Making a Decision
Finally, it’s time to evaluate all those proposals! These are the points you want to mull over:
- Did the designer meet all the deadlines you specified?
- Has the designer incorporated everything you asked for?
- Does the result fit within the limits of your previously stated budget?
- Did the designer include any extras or nice surprises?
Punctuality is a strong indication that the contractor takes all agreements seriously and will work diligently to satisfy client expectations. On the other hand, a common problem is that not all landscapers are as skilled in horticulture as they are with design.
Whittle the list down to one or two designers, then closely study their references. Consult the referees personally if you want extra reassurance before committing to an expensive project. With all due diligence out the way, your choice will come down to who you feel comfortable with, trust, and whose designs you favour.
Written by Jessica Stone. She spends her time reading books at her lovely garden. She is fond of browsing landscaping and gardening magazines.