The Landscaper Quiz: 14 Things to Ask

Years ago I used to do a lot of garden club talks. I was often asked about how to select a company from those that were listed in the yellow pages. (Remember the yellow pages?) Each company had a varied expertise including grass mowing, planting installation, design and construction of decks, walkways and other hard surfaces, sodding, irrigation systems, lighting, and even just mulching.  In order to educate, we came up with a list to make anyone a smart shopper before starting a new project.  You must ask questions of anyone that comes to your home to reassure yourself that they will be able to handle the project you have in mind.  Generally, if you get a bad feeling, the feeling will never go away.  Best to start your project with someone you are confident will be able to perform.

  1. What do I want done?  Write it down before you talk to anyone.
  2. What is my budget? Know what you are willing to commit to right now.
  3. Did they schedule an appointment for a specific time?  Did they show up?
  4. Did they introduce themselves and tell you the company they represent?
  5. How many years has the company been in business?
  6. What are the capabilities of the company? Size of jobs completed, references, backlog
  7. Are they members of the local nursery or landscape association? (This should mean that they have certified installers and use inspected nursery stock)
  8. How many years has the individual been doing landscaping? Are you comfortable with this?
  9. Did they listen to you? Were there certain problems that you wanted addressed?
  10. Was the representative familiar with plants? (They should be able to identify a minimum of 80% of your plants while on site)
  11. Was the representative familiar with plant problems?  (Knowledge of disease and insect problems should be evident)
  12. Did they bring to your attention any major drainage, erosion, or potential soil problems?
  13. Were they able to give you a written estimate or a budget amount? (Most experienced representatives should at least be able to give a range of cost)
  14. Were there any action steps?  Yes/No? You are to get back with them?  When?

One of the most frustrating experiences can be talking to someone that is supposed to be an expert….. and find out they are not.

There is no test to be a landscaper.  You must be the judge.  If you are not satisfied with the answers you are given, think twice before letting someone work in your yard.  Ultimately, you must trust them to perform work for you.

Some companies use landscape architects or landscape designers.  Landscape Architects are trained at accredited universities and are licensed by the state they work in.  Their design knowledge is strong and they may be able to envision more creative solutions using unique structural elements and innovative products.  While many are trained well in design, they may not be as knowledgeable or current with regard to plant material as nurserymen.

Many young people start a business mowing grass, then add mulching, then starting doing some pruning and planting.  This may be all you want, however, if the project is going to require evaluation of grade, construction of structures, it will give you peace of mind to find an expert.

Your yard can be a pleasurable space, expressing your taste, designed around your lifestyle. If you need to hire someone, be a smart shopper.

Words from the Landscape Guru

Jim Teske
landscape architect