If you decide to use a landscaper, here are some tips:

There are a lot of scams in horticulture, and nowhere is the phrase “You get what you pay for.” so true. If you’ve got a cheap quote it’s probably because the owners are being stingy with how much the labourers are paid, the quality of the plants, soil and mulch.

A far too high percentage of the gardens we are called into to resuscitate have already been “done” by a landscaper or designer leaving a client wailing in despair: “Why do I not love this? I’ve spent so much money.”  And it usually is because of the following:

* Plants plunked in with a machine and not growing well. We’ve uncovered huge trees bound and gagged in metal and burlap and had to re-plant with great difficulty. Proper tree planting techniques evade the person with a giant machine and an even bigger tree. Instant effect is usually feckless , usually pretty quickly.

* Terrible soil prep. Oh it might look good on the top but if you dig down a foot, you’ll still find construction garbage (old swimming pools in a couple of cases) you thought had been removed.  Usually it’s just disguised with a few inches of soil and a layer of mulch.  It means your woody plants (trees and shrubs) will not grow well. They sit there sulking until someone comes along to start from scratch with a new excavation, new soil and compost and then replants them.

* Watch the plant list. If a landscaper leans on the same old, same old plants, he probably doesn’t have a breadth of knowledge about plants and planting.

On the other hand, I’ve seen very well-intentioned professional gardeners who can actually plant but then put in highly invasive vines such as Akebia or Trumpet vine or a grass like Northern Sea Oats because they haven’t a clue what these plants will do.  Be very vigilant about what’s put in your garden and double check everything with a reliable source. Just because a person has a lot of machines, nice truck, and a bunch of workers does not mean he knows his onions or his maple trees for that matter.

* Smoking on site:  anyone who has so little regard for plants should be banished from being around plants. At least make it a rule that they can’t smoke in your garden.  And you have a right not to listen to their noisy radios, leaf blowers and all other unnecessary machines.  You make the rules, because you are in charge.  Don’t get baffled by a slick sales pitch and a bunch of cute little drawings spit out by a computer generated app.

A garden isn’t cheap, but it is part of the environment that we are here to care for.  Treat it gently and with respect.