Advice: Using a qualified horticulturalist

It’s always just a little bit amusing when a client says that they want to have their “just planted out new garden” maintained, but they don’t see the value in paying for it. The same person would never invest money in, say, a new car, and then avoid booking that vehicle in to be regularly serviced.

We are in the business of garden maintenance, and we’ve maintained many hundreds of gardens over the years. We’ve also done a great deal of ‘remedial gardening’ – that is, fixing up the work of other so-called and unqualified gardeners.

Clients have less time and work harder. They also see their outdoor space as an extension of their home and enjoy their special space in their limited leisure time. As well as that, there is the added benefit of appreciating property value. According to the Global Garden Report 2011, a well-maintained garden has been identified as having helped home values bloom by as much as 18 per cent above those without a green space.

It is often assumed that gardeners all have a similar level of knowledge. That is simply not true.

There are labourers, unqualified individuals and franchise employees who offer different levels of service looking after gardens. Some people view these individuals as efficient outdoor cleaners. Whilst a good number of them are solid all-rounders, we would argue that only formally trained horticulturists can really add value to landscapes in the longer term.
The Bamboo Courtyard1
A qualified horticulturist does more than just garden. There’s a wonderful quote by French garden designer, Dominique Lafourcade that goes…

“A garden is first and foremost a work of art, with the garden playing the roles of architect, sculptor, musician and painter in turn. A garden should move visitors, setting all their senses aquiver”.

We would add that a talented qualified gardener is also a scientist, doctor and mechanic. After all, nature is capricious and unpredictable.

So many decisions must be made by a horticulturist in just one garden visit. For example, what to prune, how to prune it? What needs feeding? What trace element deficiency causes that? What is that disease? How do I best treat that fungus? How can I treat for snails whilst not endangering the client’s dog? Where to relocate pots for an artistic installation? Will that tree regenerate if I prune it back this far? What sort of mulch do I need for that bed? What is the insect causing damage on that plant and what should I use to treat it? What is causing those leaves to wilt? Why does that plant have abnormal growth? What is causing the discolouration in those leaves? What species do we need to fill in those gaps on our next visit? And all of this in a short maintenance visit.

The Midnight Garden 2

There are those clients who stumble across the benefit of qualified expertise. One chap came to us last year for a quote on the replacement of plants in a garden bed. The same man had been advised by a lawn mowing franchise that he needed to replace the irretrievably hail damaged plants in his garden. When our horticulturist identified vegetable weevils as being the culprits for the damage, and treated for this on the spot, the client was delighted and promptly booked in another visit.

Then there are those who benefit from horticulturists’ knowledge of design, something that is often learned from spending many hours in gardens that work (as well as those that perhaps don’t). Through the process of regular garden maintenance visits, a somewhat ordinary garden can be transformed, in small increments and over time, into something quite special. This is one of the great benefits of qualified horticultural support for a garden where greater design charges and not involved.

Let’s also consider the price issue. In our experience, hiring a franchise service gardener or equivalent will cost approximately 80-90% of having a professional do the same. Just as you wouldn’t trust an unqualified individual to cut your hair, decorate your house or service your car you shouldn’t get an unqualified horticulturist to touch your garden.

The reason we have garden maintenance is down to the very notion of chasing and creating beauty. And as Frank Lloyd Wright famously said…

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.”