Things that drive your landscape gardener crazy

We’ve all heard the stories about cowboy landscape gardeners doing a rubbish job. 

But what about the customers from hell?...... The timewasters, late-payers, mind-changers, micro-managers and feuding couples who put the poor old landscaper in the middle.


This is how not to be that customer.


Long time....and very successful landscaper and now multiple up market "buy to let" business owner Bazig  Mooiebloemen discusses things to avoid if you want your landscaper to stay on side.


"Landscapers like working with me. Seriously, they do.... Even the flowerpotman"


Here’s why: I’ve been there. These days as a property developer I manage lots of landscaping projects, but I used to be that landscaper coping with the timewasters, late-payers, mind-changers, micro-managers, feuding couples and zero communication from the client, mostly for mediocre pay. And because of that experience I avoid doing things that make life harder for my self-employed landscapers.

As a result, they accept my assignments — even prioritize them — turn in great work, make changes happily and go the extra mile when I’m in a rush to let a property.

I make their lives easier, and they make my life easier. No hard feelings, no disappearing slabs. It just works. 


To build great relationships with your landscape gardener and get a job well done stop doing these things:


You don’t pay promptly… and you don’t pay well


Please don’t penny-pinch and don’t make them wait to long for payment. The most anyone should have to wait to get paid is 30 days, but even that is pushing it. 


If you’re still posting invoices and then posting cheques… stop. This is so old-fashioned and annoying

People don’t live like that anymore. I have three words for you: Cash, Bank transfer and PayPal. Today’s tradesmen and women expect and deserve prompt payment by Cash or via electronic means. 


What about landscapers pay.....How much should I pay a landscape gardener?  “There are no clear pay guidelines for the self employed ” you say and you're probably right, but as someone who’s been on both the payer and the payee side for years, I know there are....

  • What about a living wage,
  • Three quotes provide a clue,
  • (Think about this one) You get what you pay for.

Obviously I haven't included materials or extra labour. So what should you pay self-employed landscape gardeners? Lets think about it...... Does the work require an expert i/e dry-stone walling?...... Will they need to employ a labourer or hire specialist plant? Are you providing a garden design to work from?...... Are you asking them to source special materials? What level of technical expertise are you seeking i/e terracing a slope or installing garden drainage?..... These things will drive up rates.

With these factors in mind I'm going to give you some guidelines;

  • Good to great pay for a 5 day one man job: £1000-£2000
  • Low to OK pay for a 5 day one man job: £900-£1000
  • Lousy pay for a 5 day one man job: anything less than £900

Here’s the thing: When you pay your tradespeople well, they want to keep you as a client and will put up with a bit of mucking about (see the list below) even accepting some short notice "we needed it finished yesterday" jobs  — However you can’t be both low-paying and high-maintenance. Can you?

You don’t provide clear guidelines


You know what you want, yes?  So ask them for it, and agree a detailed quote and specification they will work too.

Don’t expect to change the design once the work starts and the first slabs are down, or decide on different materials after they have been delivered to site. Minor changes are fine and to be expected, but don’t make major changes once your landscaper has started work.

If you ask for one thing and, then decide you actually want something else, you need to pay for it. That's fair isn't it?

To help your landscaper give you exactly what you first time around, provide them with:

  • A garden design with clear measurements, a hand drawn plan will do providing they can understand it. Or, ask them to provide a design and be willing to pay for it.
  • Choice of materials, last time I counted there were 351 different types of slabs available, you can't expect them to show up at your door with a lorry load of concrete slabs or even stone flags on the back, can you? Be willing to select from magazines and accept they will look a bit different in real life....... Better still, visit your local builders merchant to see and choose for yourself. 
  • Timing be clear about when you want the job completed by (you might have a birthday party organised and it's fair to expect the terrace or patio whatever to be ready), but know that late deliveries, extreme weather conditions, etc. can delay the job, so if you have a deadline in mind don't book the job at the last minute.  

Get your landscaper to provide you with:

  • A detailed quote that includes specifications, i/e depth of footings, etc. A clear understanding of what you want, timings both start and estimated completion dates and a fixed price for the work. 

So I’m not saying you have to accept a substandard or a "not what you asked for job". If you provided clear instructions and read and agreed the quote with your landscape gardener so they and you both......had a clear understanding, agreement and expectation and they simply didn’t do a good job, by all means, hold payment until it's been sorted out.


You don't respect the landscapers time when getting a quote,


When you’re getting a quote....respect the landscapers time. It’s good to get quotes – essential, in fact, something a good contractor encourages.


As I have just said....."It is the contract both parties understand and work to".


However, don’t invite a queue of landscapers to look at your garden and provide quotes all at the same time. This only sends the message that you are only interested in the price, not the quality of the job. It might be enough to convince them to walk away without ever getting back to you. As soon as I sensed the lowest price would get the job I was off.... 

Some trades-people don’t charge for a quote, although the process can take them away from paid work for a couple of hours to a full day – (Bear in mind they are self-employed)- So respect their time.....

  • Don't expect them to spend hours of unpaid time in your garden listening to your ideas, inputting ideas and measuring-up only to be told "I'm not sure I will do the job" or "just wanted your ideas" or the worst of the lot "I'll need to discuss it with "whoever"....Why wasn't "whoever" at the meeting?
  • If you’re not sure you can afford it or... even want it, why didn't you discuss the project and the price with your landscape gardener over the phone. Don’t formally book them to physically come in until you’re definite that you’ll give someone the go ahead to actually do the job once you’ve got a ballpark price range.
  • A garden makeover can cost a big chunk of money so both decision makers should be at the meeting.

You don’t communicate

Don't be a stranger watching from behind the curtains, but on the other hand don't stand over them watching every block or brick get laid.  

  • Answer their questions promptly, and give thoughtful, thorough replies — especially if they’re trying to get guidance on an unforeseen problem i/e a gas pipe where you planned the wall to be.
  • Provide them with feedback on their work before it gets to the point of no-return.  When something is not looking good (a gap in the slabs that's a lot bigger than the others) point it out, don't leave it until it's too late and likely to cause friction between you and your landscaper. And most important when it is looking good.... Say so, praise can work wonders in enhancing the quality of work and it doesn't cost you a penny. 

You don't give praise

 Freedom and flexibility are the top reasons people choose the self-employed life, but it comes at a price, instability.... they don’t know how much work they’ll have a month from now, and they live on referrals.


If you value your landscape gardener:

  • Say you will refer them to others.
  • Give them a testimonial to use on their website.
  • If you know you have got more work you will want done in the future let them know you will bear them in mind.

These things provide them with a bit of stability, and they will love you for it and it will show in their work. 

To build great relationships with your landscape gardener and get a job well done do these things: 

Be clear about and communicate exactly what you want, respect their time, give praise when deserved and most important of all pay fairly and promptly. 

Bazig  Mooiebloemen