|A landscaped garden will enhance the value
of your property and allow you to enjoy
the outdoor environment as soon as
practically possible. Time taken to get
the best results from your contractor
will be well worth the effort.
architect or a landscape designer /
Landscape architects are trained in
design theory, landscape construction,
horticulture and the use of plants and
other materials. Similarly with building
architects, they will design landscapes
to suit your requirements and prepare
documentation that will enable a
contractor to quote on and install the
landscape design under the supervision
of the landscape architect. Landscape
architects are usually (but not
exclusively) employed to design
commercial and large specialized
residential and environmental projects.
Your contractor does not purport to be a
landscape architect but does know what
is required to execute your project.
Contractors may offer a fully comprehensive design and construct service as well as the following specialist services.
Site utilization and flow;
Conceptual and detailed design;
Bills of quantities and specifications;
Landscape construction project management;
Specialized horticultural maintenance;
Contractors may also offer consultation services to clients who wish to
utilize their own resources.
How to start your project.
A landscape project can be complex and to ask your contractor for a
quotation without having decided on style, a design or a budget is
unreasonable. Ask to see a portfolio of recent projects and discuss and
agree a budget to suit your project. The climate and micro environment
needs of your project are important and your contractor will be well
versed in determining and interpreting these needs.
Decide on a garden design or style that suits your taste or the
house/building design. You are now ready to move to the next stage in
having your garden or development landscaped.
Conceptual landscape design drawings or sketches, depicting the overall
layout and features, must be prepared to enable the client and
contractor to reach an understanding. Depending on the size and
complexity of the project, and the amount of work involved in
conceptual design, a financial commitment or cost may be involved.
Proportions of such costs may be credited against the overall project
cost. At the completion of the conceptual stage you will be able to
invite a detailed budget proposal or firm quotation for your project.
Fixed price contract or variable priced contract.
The advantage of a fixed price contract is that you know exactly what
your cost will be. This means that the contractor carries most of the
risk and therefore will have to build this into the price to cater for
‘unknowns’. A variable priced contract, on the other hand, will enable
risk sharing in likely variable cost areas and may better suit certain
types of projects. Discuss these issues with your contractor to find
the best way forward.
The quotation must include for the landscape design, preparation of
drawings and schedules, ground preparation, earthworks, growing medium
preparation, the cost of all the indicated plant material, fertilizers
used during planting, all labour and supervision for planting and
installation, irrigation system installation if appropriate, hard
landscape features, pest eradication, tending on the garden during the
project implementation, a period of maintenance or maintenance
supervision. The quotation must include a project program which will
indicate the time required to undertake the various stages of the
project. The quotation should also include for the pricing of
additional items should they arise, the cost of additional labour and
supervision and the cost of extending the on-site overheads longer than
planned. A ‘practical completion’ and a final handover dates are
The landscape design drawings.
Landscape design drawings must be detailed and to scale and depict the
layout of the garden, lawns, planted beds and hard landscape or water
features. All the plant materials will be depicted on the drawings as
well as accompanying schedules of all plants, quantities and coverage.
Any detailed drawings for construction of retaining structures, water
or hard landscape features are provided at this stage. Modern computer
graphics can even picture your finished garden for you. The cost of
preparing drawings will be either included in the overall quoted price
or be a separate charge. The drawings must be approved ahead of site
preparation or planting starting.
Your contractor will work to set specifications. Consideration will be
given to slopes, falls of ground, storm water run-off, the need to
retain unstable areas, the preparation of suitable growing mediums for
lawns and beds. This will include composting and fertilization. In
severe or extreme conditions, or where a history of problems exists,
this may involve soil testing by a specialist soil science laboratory.
Your contractor will indicate what has been included in the quoted
landscape installation and what is excluded. He or she will also, on
request, indicate what prices may vary, under what circumstances they
may vary and by how much. Typically, changes may be made to the
planting program as a result of choice or availability, or hard
landscape or water features may be added. Be sure to formally approve
Quality control and maintenance.
The landscape work is often started while builders or other services
are still on site, so spare a thought for the sensitivity of plants to
builder’s wheelbarrows, cable trenching and the like. For a good
quality garden, ideally all other trades should be essentially complete
to avoid interference.
Plants are particularly sensitive immediately after planting and some
fatalities may occur despite the best efforts of your contractor,
therefore make a provision for replacement and resolve who will pay for
them. Some contractors will guarantee plants maturing successfully and
guaranty replacement for a period subject to certain preconditions.
This can be beneficial particularly when expensive palms or cycads are
is the landscape work completed and when does the maintenance start?
Usually ‘practical completion’ indicates the commencement of the
maintenance period. Plants can take between six and eighteen months to
mature (and acclimatize) so your contractor should be responsible for
the maintenance (or oversee the maintenance) for a minimum period of
six months. This will ensure that correct maintenance procedures are
followed, lawns are dressed and leveled after initial rooting, plants
that are showing severe stress are identified, and expensive form
plants are inspected for signs of disease or pests before it is too
Especially in newly developed areas, your property has been home to a
myriad of insects, ants, bugs and mites for decades. Along come all
these new (and tasty) plants which make for a feast. Before you know
it, your expensive new garden can become a banquette for the resident
pests. Your contractor will be in a position to take the necessary
precautions before it happens and advise you on the correct maintenance
procedures over the longer term. Weeds are also a major concern in the
newly landscaped garden and are to be expected. This first flush is
normally removed during the project implementation or during early
maintenance and usually will not occur to the same extent again. Be
sure to discuss with these issues with your contractor.
No contractor can work without payment. The quotation and /or contract
agreement must indicate the amount to be paid and when this falls due.
Much work is done before anything happens on site and your contractor
will require phased payment. This may include an initial payment up
front, payment after drawings are completed and approved, and payment
after plants are delivered to site, payment to specialist
sub-contractors, e.g. retaining walls, irrigation contractors etc., and
then a final payment. A retention amount to take care of defects is
negotiable but will also impact on the quoted price.