By Dr.
Leonard Perry
Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist
University of Vermont

Are you in the market for a landscaper? Knowing what
to look for will help you get the most for your money
and the results that you desire.

Many homeowners who landscape their properties spend
an average of 10 percent of the value of their house
on landscaping. This includes not only the plants and
statuary, but the design, installation, and maintenance
of the landscape.

The first thing to consider when selecting a landscape
professional is the scope of the job. What is it that
you are hiring someone to do, and how much do you want
to spend? If you need someone to design your landscape
or draw up plans, hire a landscape architect, consultant,
or designer.

Although all three provide similar services, it is
more common for architects to work on large commercial
projects and designers and consultants to handle landscape
plans for homeowners. However, be aware that landscape
designers and consultants do not have to be licensed,
so anyone, regardless of credentials, can use those

A good way to find a qualified designer or consultant
is through your local nursery or full service garden
center. Or select from the list of certified Vermont
horticulturists (those professionals passing an exam),
which is available from the Vermont Association of Professional
Horticulturists, P.O. Box 396, Jonesville, Vt. 05466.

To turn those plans into reality, you may need to find
a landscape contractor, if the designer isn’t handling
the installation, though many do. For smaller landscape
maintenance jobs, such as reseeding, dethatching, or
even just mowing the lawn on a regular schedule, you
won’t need the same level of expertise. A hardworking
gardener or lawn maintenance professional should be
able to handle the work.

How do you select a landscape professional? A good
way to start is to ask for recommendations from friends,
neighbors, and your local garden center or nursery.
Then interview the candidates that sound the most promising.

Ask for references and to see their portfolios. Inquire
about their training, education, and experience. Visit
sites to view their work, and ask past clients if they
were satisfied.

Shop around for the best price since fees can vary
greatly. You may be able to get a better deal if you
will be using the same firm that designs your landscape
to also install and maintain it. Just realize that you
often get what just you pay for! A person or firm you
haven’t researched as above, and without proper horticultural
knowledge, may do more harm than good to your landscape,
lawn, and environment.

Ask for a timetable for completion of the work. The
best firm for you may also be the busiest, so be patient.
If you must have your landscape plans or project completed
by a certain time, make sure the firm knows this and
builds in extra time for delays. As we all know, weather
is very changeable and a big factor to consider. It
is something we can’t control, and it can delay outdoor

Once you have decided who to hire, get a written contract.
This protects all parties involved. The contract should
specify what you want to have done, the estimated costs
and date of completion, and what you expect from the
individual or firm. It’s a good idea is to work with
the firm up front to decide how many changes can be
made during installation of the project. Otherwise,
it can stretch on forever, your deadlines won’t be met,
and you may end up paying more than you expect.

Don’t get locked into a contract that obligates you
to use the landscape professional for more than you
need. Once the plans are drawn up, and the plantings,
walkways, and statuary are in place, you may want to
take over the maintenance yourself. Or you may decide
to have the landscaper only draw up the plans and do
part of the installation, while you do the rest. Doing
your own work will not only save you money, but can
be a relaxing and rewarding way to enjoy your new landscape!

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