How To Choose The Best Landscaper For Your Garden Makeover

terraced garden by Manor Landscapes of Guildford

Planning a garden makeover? Don’t become the victim of a rogue trader. Here’s how to choose the best landscaper for your project.

Every year, hundreds of people in the UK invest their savings in a garden makeover, only to be disappointed with the quality of the workmanship.  It must be a horrible feeling to realise that your garden is in worse shape than it was before work began.  Expert witness for the landscaping trade, Gareth Wilson has a portfolio full of horror stories where homeowners have been blatantly ripped off.

So how can you avoid all of the heartbreak and hassle caused by unscrupulous workmen?

  1. Research potential landscapers with the utmost care
  2. Talk to trade associations such as the Association of Professional Landscapers
  3. Have a proper garden design drawn up so that you are sure what’s being quoted for
  4. NEVER use price as the deciding factor when choosing a landscaper
  5. Meet potential landscapers face to face – you will get a ‘feel’ for their personality
  6. Expect to join a waiting list for works to start – the best landscapers get booked up quickly

terraced garden by Manor Landscapes of Guildford

A complicated garden makeover carried out by the Manor Landscapes team.
Retaining walls, steps and water features all need careful planning and some engineering skills to ensure that they stay safe for decades to come.

Researching the best landscapers in your area

These days we are all lucky to have a number of tools at our disposal to help research tradespeople of all kinds.  There’s word of mouth recommendation, online review sites, websites, social media and of course organisations who specialise in trying to raise industry standards.

My first port of call when researching landscapers in my area, would be the APL website.  The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) has a rigorous vetting procedure for all of its members.  Not only is their work checked on a regular basis, all of their business practices are subject to scrutiny.  Every APL member MUST be fully insured, take great care over the health and safety of everyone on site and consistently work to ensure that each and every client is delighted with the works carried out.

Visit the APL website to see a directory of their members and use the handy search facility to find local landscapers who specialise in the work you are planning.

Once your list has been narrowed down, take a look at the landscapers’ websites and social media profiles.  Bear in mind however, that many landscapers, however good they are at their job, are quite weak when it comes to marketing their services.  We are outdoor people – it never occurs to us to update our websites and Facebook pages on a regular basis!

Talk to friends, family and work colleagues – have they ever hired any of the landscapers on your list? Do they know of these landscapers’ work? 

Finally, phone the landscaper yourself.  A quick chat can tell you a lot about their attitude and demeanour.  Have yourself a list of questions ready – what is their timeline? Have they ever completed this type of work before? Do they offer a design service?

Why hire a garden designer AND a landscaper?

semi circular doorstep built from porcelain pavers with an edging of black limestone setts

A good garden designer will add a certain “je-ne-sais quoi” to a garden with little details like this semi circular doorstep edged in contrasting materials.

Would you consider building an extension to your home without consulting an architect? Could you install a kitchen without planning what will go where? Or cook a meal without knowing which ingredients to gather? Building a garden is far more complex than you might imagine, and no good landscaper can quote for work without knowing what he or she is to build.

A garden designer can save you an absolute fortune in labour costs as well as ensuring that the landscaper has correctly interpreted your brief.  After all, if somebody asked you to ‘build a patio over there” how could you be sure that you are meeting their needs in terms of size, shape, colour, height etc?  What if misinterpreted the brief and had to rip it up and start again? That would be a costly waste of time and materials.

Many landscapers do offer a design and build service. Others are happy to recommend a designer who they think you’ll enjoy working with. On the flip side – if you hire a garden designer first – he or she will normally be happy to recommend a reputable landscaper.

What will your new garden cost?

If you are anything like me, you look to find best value for money in whatever you buy.  For me, almost any purchase, from a car to a jar of coffee involves comparing prices between brands and suppliers.  BUT with landscaping, it’s not so easy to compare one person’s work with another.

When finding the best landscaper for your project you need to balance price with personality and ability.  When you have more than one landscaper quoting for the work – make sure they are both working to the same garden design with the same material specifications.  

Check as best you can that each team has the necessary skills to complete your project.

Find out when they think they can start work. And ask about payment terms, insurances and CDM regulations (if they don’t know what that is, cross them off the list!)

Then, rather than base your decision purely on price, use your gut instinct to tell you which team you would rather have working on your property every day. Depending on the size of your project, these people could be at your home every day for weeks.  Do you feel comfortable with them?

Price is not always the best indication of value! Just ask anyone who has been the victim of a rogue trader.

Newly turfed rectangular lawn with laying boards to allow for watering without compacting the soil

It takes a skilled landscaper to make newly laid turf look this good. The joins are barely visible and the surface is perfectly level. Top marks to the Manor Landscapes team!

Landscaping Services in Surrey

Now I’m going to do something that feels completely alien to me.  As I said earlier in the article, landscapers are often uncomfortable promoting their own services and I’m no exception to that rule.  But I do need to pay my team their wages, cover the cost of company insurance and put food on the table. So here goes.

Manor Landscapes, based in Guildford, are arguably one of the most experienced teams of landscapers in the area.  Everyone on the team is on our continuous professional development program.  Although our work is highly regarded by some of the area’s best loved garden designers – we never get complacent about standards and like to keep up to date with new products and techniques.

MD Geoff Gardener (that’s me) is someone who just enjoys being out of doors, working hard and making people feel happy.  I’m not one to try and make anyone spend more than they need to, and I certainly wouldn’t accept shoddy workmanship from any of my team, but I do believe in a fair days work for a fair days pay.  I may not be the cheapest landscaper in Surrey, but I do like to think that my team could well be the best landscapers for your garden makeover.

Want to know more?  Call or email me to discuss your garden makeover ideas.

10 frequently asked questions about landscaping

Visit the APL website to find a landscaper near you

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