By Mathieu Hodgson
While you can certainly do your own landscaping, it’s sometimes better—and so much easier!—to hire a certified professional landscaper.
Certified, you say? Although there are many landscapers with no certification who offer very high-quality services, it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish them from the less professional landscapers unless you have references or have seen their work (jobs done for neighbors for example).
Helpful Hint: It can take several years for poor quality landscaping to degrade, so it’s always wise to you wait awhile before judging the competence of a landscaper.
In Canada, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association offers the Accredited Landscape Horticulture Company certification to landscaping businesses who want to have their professionalism recognized. The program ensures that companies who earn the designation have achieved a high level of proficiency and expertise in landscape creation. The American equivalent is the National Association of Landscape Professionals who offers certification for landscape managers and technicians. Similar associations are found in Europe and, indeed, all over the world and also at the local level.
Are you thinking of landscaping your property yourself? While it’s quite possible to create a landscape that will amaze your neighbors all on your own, are you really ready for the investment in time?
Here are 10 good reasons to hire a certified landscape designer to install your landscaping:
- It makes things easier! Landscaping a backyard, for example, including installing a paving stone patio or a wooden deck, putting in retaining walls, preparing flower beds and planting trees, shrubs and perennials, can take even a team of professionals several weeks—or indeed months!—to accomplish. Are you ready to sacrifice your evenings and weekends or have the job spread over several years? It would be much easier to hire a professional!
- Landscaping is a profession. You can always represent yourself in court, but with a lawyer you have a better chance of winning your case. Likewise with landscaping. It’s an increasingly technical field that mixes engineering, hydrology and biology with art and design. You’ll find that it’s necessary to take into account the property’s relief, rainwater management, the nature of the soil, the penetration of sunlight and safe practices as well as the municipal, provincial/state and federal regulations. And all that without forgoing esthetics. So, let a professional do it!
- It’s a massive, dirty, backbreaking job! Let’s say you want to build a 15 ft by 20 ft paving stone patio. You’re going to need to excavate about 20 tons of material, the equivalent of a 12-wheel truck. Then you’ll have to bring in the equivalent amount of gravel to form the proper foundation for the pavers. And, of course, a few tons of pavers. Get out your shovel, you’ll be building muscles!
- You have to use the right equipment. The landscape professional uses a variety of heavy and light equipment to carry out the job. Digging requires an excavator, a loader and a dump truck. He also employs a compactor to ensure the stability of the foundation, a concrete saw to cut paving stones, a jackhammer to break up concrete slabs, plus shovels, rakes, sledgehammers, hedge trimmers and so much more. While you can indeed buy or rent these tools, you won’t have to deal with any of that if hire a certified landscaper … and it might even cost you less.
- To save money? Yes, hiring a landscaper can help you save you money. As mentioned before, they have all the necessary tools that you won’t have to pay for. They also have discounts from their suppliers and pay less than an individual property owner. But more importantly, they’ll keep you from having to redo the job. Let’s say you put in a retaining wall and it collapses after a few years … as retaining walls, unless perfectly installed, tend to do. It will probably cost you more to take down and rebuild the wall than it would to have hired a professional to do it the right way the first time!
- Design and advice. By using a certified landscape professional, you’ll not only benefit from their technical knowledge, but also from their talents as a designer. With so many years of experience, a seasoned landscape designer has seen many other landscapes! They’ll then be able to advise you on yours. They know what works, what people like and they’ve also learned from their past mistakes. In some cases, your municipality will require a landscape plan. Many landscaping companies prepare these plans themselves or can recommend a landscape architect.
- For the landscaper’s knowledge of horticulture. When people ask me why a garden that was so beautiful when it was first installed is in such pitiful shape today, the answer is usually obvious: a poor choice of plants. Plants that require sun were planted in the shade, others that are not salt resistant were placed near the curb, water-loving plants were surrounded by concrete … and the list goes on and on! A professional designer will be able to help advise you on the right plants for your conditions.
- Insurance. Members of certified landscape associations are required to sign a contract before work can begin. In Canada and the US, this contract offers you a one-year warranty on plants and two years on hardscape.
- Turnkey projects. Several landscaping companies offer turnkey projects. Do you want a swimming pool? They’ll coordinate its integration into the project. Maybe you prefer a spa or need irrigation? If they don’t provide such services themselves, they often have industry contacts they trust who do.
- Passion for gardens. The certified landscape professional is usually a passionate person. They appreciate design, plants and the nobility of the materials. They can offer you a landscape that is as esthetic as it is functional and that will make all your neighbors jealous.