Craftsman Wanted

Our home needs a new roof.  Badly.  For a couple of years.

A month ago my wife, Karyn,  started the process of hiring a roofer.  Karyn asked me who to call.  I mentioned a large roofing company and an acquaintance who started his career in roofing and now works in all aspects of carpentry.

Karyn asked for recommendations on Facebook and compiled a list of 5 roofers to call.

Karyn called all the companies and scheduled four appointments.  One company never returned her call.

Of the four companies who gave us a quote we narrowed the list down to three companies.  It’s a difficult decision considering the investment and what’s at stake if a leak develops.

I’m sure my client’s feel the same when deciding whether to hire me or not.

Two of the companies had a dedicated salesperson.  The salesmen visited and did a cursory examination of the roof, took some quick measurements and quoted a price in under an hour.

Next, they presented a canned sales presentation describing their roofing process and explaining the warranty on the bottom of the proposal.

The warranty was nice to see.  It gave me piece of mind that they would stand behind their work.

Thing growing on roof
Since this blog is about landscaping I thought I’d share some of the cool flora on the roof.

I had a couple canned questions ready.

“Do you hire subcontractors?”

Some companies bid jobs and then hire a subcontractor to do the work.  This can work out well if you have the right match.  Unfortunately, some subcontractors goal is to complete a job as quickly as possible and get to the next.  Speed becomes more important than quality.

“Will I ever see you again?”

I’m old school on this one.  I want a single contact person through the process.  I don’t want a polished salesperson to turn into a gruff foreman when the job begins.

What happens if lines of communication fail between the salesperson and the foreman?  Details discussed during the sales process could be missing on the Forman’s paperwork.

So who did we hire for our roofing job?

The only contractor who climbed on the roof.  The only contractor who looked at my chimney and mentioned I need a new cap.  The only contractor who went in my attic to see what type sheathing the roof had.

The only craftsman.

We hired the general carpenter who started in roofing.  I’ll see him on the roof doing the work.  I’ll see him installing copper flashing because he doesn’t bother with the cheap alternatives.

Only time will tell if I made the right decision.

I can’t wait to see the new roof!

Why Should You Hire a Landscape Designer?

What are the benefits of hiring a landscape designer?  Why should you hire a landscape designer?

There are at least three situations where you should hire a landscape designer:

  1. The most obvious reason, you don’t know about garden design.  A good landscape designer can help you get the results that best meet your needs.
  2. You know about gardening but have a limited knowledge of plants or design.  There’s a world of plants out there that you are not familiar with.  A landscape designer can introduce you to those plants and show you how to make the best use of them in your landscape.
  3. You don’t know about gardening but you do have an idea of what you want. If you call me and say, “I want a patio” there are some questions I’ll ask you are, “What is the patio for?  Do you want a quiet place to relax?  A stimulating place to entertain?  A place where young children can play? Are you looking to combine different design needs?”  A landscape designer can hone your ideas into a beautiful landscape.

Make sure your landscape designer puts your needs first.  Your landscape design is about meeting your needs.  If you suspect a landscape designer isn’t looking out for your best interests trust your gut.

When I design a landscape I act as a filter translating my clients needs into a finished landscape design.

How I Got My Groove – The Stages of a Landscape Design Career

landscape design careerUnlike now, when I graduated UCONN I didn’t have real world landscape design experience.

I designed landscapes by the book and my designs incorporated the latest cool plants at the nursery.  If the book said a plant grows in the shade to 10 feet tall I put it in shade where it could grow to 10 feet tall.

I talked with associates and read magazine articles about new plants.  I still do because there’s always room for improvement.  The palette of plants to choose from is constantly changing.

After designing, installing and watching my landscapes grow in for over 20 years I have more experience than most in my field.

Sometimes, even though the book says a plant grows in the shade it just sits there neither living nor dying.  Arborvitae planted in late fall are going to suffer from winter’s drying winds.  Over-planted landscapes fill in quickly and are a ton of work to keep up.  Landscape construction never goes exactly according to plan and small changes are a natural part of the process.

My design style is “Form follows function.”  I abhor complexity for simpler is always better.  I like focal points but don’t overdo it.  Viewers get headaches from bedazzled landscapes.

Landscape design and installation is an art and subject to interpretation by the designer and installer.  Seemingly small differences, like those above, make a big difference in your project.  You can talk to five landscape designers and get five completely different landscape designs.  You can then give that design to five different landscape contractors and get five different landscapes.

I hope you choose wisely when hiring your landscape designer or landscape contractor.

By John Holden

What’s the Difference Between a Landscape Designer and a Landscaper?

It happened again last week.  A client was trying to decide between my company and the company that mows their lawn.  The client hired the landscapers because my quote was a little higher.  Ugh!

This week I drove through the neighborhood and felt disappointment. The gardens had cheap wood mulch and it was not deep enough to suppress weeds.  Two great ways to keep a quote low.  As a landscape designer, I recommended bark mulch two to three inches deep to make sure most weeds will not germinate.

How do You Choose Between a Landscape Designer and a landscapers?

The answer depends on your needs.

If you want a creative landscape design and the proper horticultural methods followed, hire a landscape designer to design and carry out your project. Most landscape designers have an eye and passion for landscape design.  They have learned the right way to design, install and maintain landscapes because they couldn’t do it any other way.

Many landscape designers start out as landscapers and graduate to design because of their love of plants and design. That is how I started after college.  I began by mowing lawns while building my landscape design experience and knowledge.

Often landscapers don’t have extensive landscape design and horticultural knowledge. This spring I met a couple who asked me, “Do you pick out the plants?” I explained that, “The benefit of hiring me as your landscape designer is that I select the best plants to meet your needs and the site’s conditions.”  Landscapers they had talked to said, “Tell us what you want planted and we’ll plant it.”

Landscapers are masters at getting the job done quickly. If you have a routine project, hire a reputable landscaper.  Projects that landscapers excel at include mowing lawns, spring and fall cleanups and clearing brush.

If you are looking for someone to mow your lawn and clean up your yard in the spring and fall, hire a landscaper. However, if you are looking for a creative eye to recommend the best plants,  design the best landscape for your home and use the best methods to plant your garden, seek out a landscape designer.

The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. – John Ruskin