Garden Landscaping – The Role of the Professional Landscaper
The Role of the Professional Landscaper
Home improvements do not necessarily mean do-it-yourself projects. Some home-owners favour the hands-on approach — especially when it comes to gardens — while others prefer to supervise other people doing the work, or to consult professionals and contract specialists to do everything for them, from design to construction and even planting. The choice is yours.
If your house was designed by an architect, there is a good possibility that patios were included in the basic design, even if these were not initially built. Features such as driveways, swimming pools, patios and pergolas, and even garden walls are often drawn on building plans but only built at a later stage when additional finances are available. Steps may also be included in the plan, but it is unlikely that garden paths would be shown. Whether this is the case or not often has to do with the requirements of various local authorities. Some of the more obvious exceptions include substantial vertical walls, retaining walls, and long or steep external flights of steps, and in these instances, they may have to be built according to an engineer’s specifications. A patio will often be indicated if the plans include a swimming pool, although this may not be necessary.
Check with your local building department and see what the authorities require. One concern is that no building exceeds your property’s boundaries — in fact, some bylaws require that you keep within specified building lines which fall inside your property’s boundaries. If you do need plans, an architect, designer, landscape architect or draughtsman will be able to help you.
Even if you are not required to have formal plans, you may want professional design assistance for paths, steps and patios once the house is complete.
You could approach the architect who designed your house, although it usually makes better sense to engage the services of a landscape architect or even a landscaper with a lesser qualification. These people are garden specialists and will be able to assist with planting as well as construction plans and guidelines.
Landscapers may undertake garden brickwork, paving and so on, but it is best to enquire whether the person you are dealing with intends subcontracting the job or whether he or she has the resources to tackle the entire project. If not, you may be better advised simply to consult the landscaper concerned and employ a contractor or specialist company to do thefor you. If you are prepared to liaise between the two, you are likely to save a substantial amount. In some areas, landscape contractors need a licence to do residential work.
The other possibility for those who are not keen to lay bricks or throw concrete is to employ subcontractors. These people range from experienced pavers to unskilled labourers. Artisans generally demand an hourly fee, while labourers charge a daily rate. Either way, negotiate the amount before work begins in order to avoid any misunderstandings later on.
Whether you use a highly qualified landscape architect, a building or paving contractor or subcontractors, make sure that you get references, preferably in writing, from previous clients, and check the quality of the work with at least some of the referees to ensure that you employ reliable and skilled people.
The only other professionals whom you may need to consult are land surveyors, specialist engineers and geotechnical experts. A land surveyor’s report is useful if you are building on virgin land; an engineer’s report will only be necessary if the site is a difficult one and you encounter large rocks or possibly clay. Make use of their services in the planning stages to save money later on.