The clouds clear, the temperature warms and the first tiny pink and white blossoms emerge from the leafless branches of the Plum, Almond and Evergreen Pear trees.
You suddenly realize that you’ve been tucked away in your warm home, darting from the door to the car, to avoid the rain, and haven’t had a chance (or the thought) to take a good look around your landscape.
Now that you’ve taken a look, you discover it to be quite the mess; fallen leaves blanket the pathways, since they first fell last Fall, and most of the plants look in need of a good pruning before they awake from their long Winter’s nap.
The more you think about it, the more you realize that your garden is in need of more than just a clean up; you not only want to plant that Apple tree that your daughter asked you for last Summer but decide to finally tackle the back patio, which you feel is lacking the space and accoutrements necessary to be inviting, functional and attractive all year round.
Where do you begin?
Your first thought is to call your neighbor, who completed a modest front landscape project last summer however, on second thought, the design doesn’t really grab you and more importantly, the project seemed to have dragged out longer than necessary, where you noticed many days passing with no one working.
Flipping through the phone book seems so one dimensional.
Finally, you decide to Google ‘Landscape Contractor’ for your area and feel yourself potentially becoming overwhelmed by the plethora of names, options and information listed in front of you.
Ready, set, go!
Grab yourself a cup of coffee (or tea if you prefer) and drive around the neighborhoods that have landscapes that you admire and knock on doors to inquire who installed them- don’t feel shy, people are generally eager to discuss their garden!
Also ask your family, friends and neighbors, who have had gardens installed that you like, for a reference.
Finally, pour over the Internet to find local landscapers who have posted the type of garden that you like in their website Gallery and depending upon what luck you had gathering names from family, friends and neighbors, attempt to comprise a list of at least three names from which to call to schedule an interview.
Wait a minute!
Before you begin your calls, you first need to determine your project ‘hit list’ and your budget investment for the project. It also doesn’t hurt to gather pictures, from those gardens you admire in the neighborhood or from books and magazines, to use as a visual aid while communicating with the landscapers on your list.
When you call, make mental note of how they answer the phone, if they do, and if you leave a message, how promptly they return your call.
In the event that your project requires an artistic eye, be sure to inquire whether or not the contractor is also a designer, or will be working closely with one.
Communication is paramount to not only achieving the landscape of your dreams but to also insure a smooth relationship, between you and your landscaper, through even a small project, as unforeseen issues are likely to arise, for landscapers do not have X-Ray vision as well as you have invited this person into your personal space, so you want to not only have good communication, but feel comfortable with them.
By the way…
Be prepared to hear that some landscapers may charge for their initial meeting with you; it is common and standard in the industry. While it is true that some will come out for no charge, those who do, do so not only to determine your commitment, but also because they are sharing their expertise and time with you.
After you’ve invested a few hours of your time, meeting and sharing your ideas with the landscapers on your list, you will hopefully choose and hire one of them, so be sure to contact the others to let them know that you have decided upon someone to work with.
Your landscaper will help you determine if your project requires merely the standard detailed proposal, a simple sketch or a to scale site drawing- or all of the above!
In many cases, with good communication and a landscape contractor, who is also a designer, a simple sketch, with a detailed proposal, for even a complicated project, saves time, money and is often sufficient.
However, this only works when working intimately with one contractor/ designer. If you want to have multiple contractors bid on your design, you will need to first start with finding a designer and then at least three landscape contractors to bid on your project. Keep in mind, the least expensive bid is not necessarily the one to choose; the contractor may have cut corners to secure the job, which might present themselves in Change Orders later, or not have the expertise or skilled laborers to competently execute your project.
Cross the T’s and dot the I’s.
Before signing the proposal contract, you might also ask your landscaper for several references, from clients recently worked with, to call and inquire into the workmanship, whether or not the projected completion date was met, their experience working with the contractor and not only if they are pleased with the contractors work, but would they recommend them?
When can I start?
Because you are not the only home owner looking around at their winter ravaged garden, be sure to start your search early! The process of finding a landscape contractor, whom you are excited to work with, may take more than a few weeks; by the time you do your research, to compile a list of prospects, make phone calls to coordinate schedules and meet for an initial consultation and then receive and agree upon their completed proposal. There additionally may be a wait, as you are placed in a busy contractor’s project queue.
Get out the Bar-b-Que!
If you start early and all goes according to plan, including any few unforeseen challenges, you very well may be enjoying your beautiful new landscape by this coming Summer!