Landscaping estimates - what's "reasonable"?

We've got good grass in our back yard...our flower beds are all empty. We've done the majority of the clean up work. Now, we really just need a tree, some shrubs, some gravel brought in...maybe one flower bed put in, and a little rock garden for our sump area or shrubs, I think I'm leaning towards shrubs. We could do this ourselves, but I don't want to have to rent a truck..I know nothing about plants/trees, the ground is fairly damp in our neighbourhood, so we need the right types of plants for the soil. I also hate all the spiders in our backyard and am more than content to watch the work from afar. tongueold

The first quote we got was $4500, but he was making our yard look like a jungle. It was a little over the top. We scaled it back to about half...he scaled his quote to $3500.

I've got another two guys coming in and we're hoping to spend about $2500 - $3000 on the yard (no stone work)...really it's just filling what's there and tiding it up. Is that reasonable? I really have nothing to compare the quotes too as our job is sort of lower end of the spectrum. My uncle had his entire yard done, deck and stone work for $10K...but we don't need a deck and stone work done. I think the job should take 2, maybe 3 days to do really.

Thoughts?? I really have no idea if I'm out to lunch on this or not.
 27 Apr 2012 12:47 PM
 8 Aug 2008
Raving Lunatic
Personally I would NEVER pay someone to plant trees, shrubs or flower beds only because I can do it myself and its not as intimidating as one might think.

As far as a price out of the ballpark, no idea, but I can tell you I'd do it for half that price.

I'm not being conceited either, so I hope it doesn't sound like it. There's a woman who is probably at least in her mid 60's down the street from us who literally hand-picked and transported most of the boulders from our yard and I drive by her house very often and see her doing "man's work". What a little powerhouse she is. If she has a husband, son or brother or even neighbour friend, I never see anyone giving her a hand. She cleans up meticulously, digs up and transplants her stuff on her own.

Put it this way, if someone offered YOU $2-4,000 for a weekend's work of grunt work, would you do it? Keep in mind that any "tidying up" they do will have to be maintained all summer.

I'd save that 'planting' money for the bigger projects, JMO.
 27 Apr 2012 1:51 PM
 24 Jan 2005
Raving Lunatic
Not registering conceit with your post at all MH. smile I've seen the photos when you posted your yard...if you were here and we were friends, I'd be dragging you around with me to the greenhouses...well, you and a bunch of the girls on here, so many nice yards...very jealous of some of the gorgeous yards out there.

I'll be honest, this is our first house, our first yard. Growing up, my family always lived in rentals and I never did anything even remotely related to yard work...not much intimidates me, but our yard does. We spent the better part of a month, weekends only, cleaning up our yard (removing dead trees, removing ugly bark, pulling weeds, laying down some patio stones)...and it wasn't that bad, it's stripped to the bones. We've maintained what we've done, but it still needs more.

I don't have any friends that garden otherwise I'd be calling on them. I literally need step by step instructions if we were to do this ourselves. And the greenhouses have been giving us conflicting advice...when they actually take time to listen to what we're saying. I hate those dang towering aspens and that's what most of them are trying to push on us. I just have zero idea how to plant things, how often to water, what is proper spacing for anything. I need a plan and specific instructions on how to do it. And I'd hate to spend all that money, kill everything and have to start again next year.

And yup, I hear how I sound in my own head...ugh.
 27 Apr 2012 2:30 PM
 22 Mar 2012
New Member
I hear you. When we moved into our house 7 years ago, we had never maintained a yard. We moved things, planted things, put in flower beds, ripped things out, killed things, added rocks, very busy. Last summer we had a deck and patio built with adding a huge burm, and I was so tempted to leave the planting to us and not bother with the guy doing it, as we had done a decent job with what we had done.

But his expertise and attention to what was being planted where and the practicality as well as the asthetics, I'm so glad we had him do it. Yes, we could have saved some money, but I am very pleased with the end result (and that for the thousandth weekend we didn't have to spend planting and replanting.

I also hate towering aspens, weed trees we call them.
 27 Apr 2012 2:30 PM
 21 May 2008
You are not out to lunch, a lot of people (me included) are in the same boat with not knowing what to put in or how to care for it! I just go to the garden center, glean what I can from the little tags or if I find someone knowledgeable who works there (they often have really good staff) and hope for the best.

However, my girlfriend paid for someone to plan it out for her. They gave her a detailled drawing and labelled each plant so she knew exactly what went where, what needed what care, etc. They took care of all the planning - figuring out what plants needed to be in each location based on sun, drainage, etc. That would probably be a lot cheaper for you to get plans done and then go to a garden store and buy everything yourself.

I mean really, once that's done....anyone with a shovel can dig a hole.
 27 Apr 2012 2:43 PM
 10 Nov 2003
 Seattle, WA
I hate gardening, landscaping and anything of the sort. Detest it. Would rather pay a billion dollars than DIY it. (And we're pretty hands on people - we've renoed all of our houses ourselves hiring out next to nothing.)

We ridiculously thought we could maintain our yard at our current house...it's a disaster. Overgrown, I don't know how to maintain the dozens and dozens of different flowering plants and bushes, I don't know what's a weed and what'll become something amazing, I can't prune!

The gardener is coming Monday. Much to the relief of my yard. smile

So, I'd pay just about anything for some one to do it for me.

However, if you do want to tackle it, we almost DIY-ed it in one house we owned (we moved instead) with the help of a landscape designer. I get exactly how overwhelming it is, and we didn't even know where to start. I mean, how do you even begin to figure out what to plant where (shade, sun, amount of water, how big it will grow, when it will flower, how long will it take to reach full size, how much work will it take, what special requirements does it have to grow...so many variables that it's hard to even know what questions to ask!) let alone how to do it?

So, she came in, toured the yard, asked what we were looking for (any types of plants we wanted, the feeling we wanted to achieve in the end, what our trouble spots were, our intended maintenance level, etc. She measured out the yard and sketched up a plan. She knew what would grow where, when it would bloom so that the yard looked good all year, what everything would look like individually and together in the long term and how to make it look good while it was getting there, what species to use and what common ones to avoid for our area and soil type (regardless of what the garden store has on special), where to buy everything at the best price, and what time of year to buy it, what materials to use for the hardscaping from budget options to higher end ones and so on.

The sketch included exactly what plants went where (along with notes on each one) so we would know exactly what to do. She tailored the whole plan exactly to our skill level. And suggested what we could truly DIY (all of it if so inclined without much more than sweat with the great plans) and what we could hire out for the least amount of money.

Had we not sold the house, that plan would have saved us a TON of money. We wouldn't have killed at least the first round of plants, we would have utilized all of her budget tips, we NEVER would have come up with such an amazing, clever plan because we don't know a darned thing about plants and more importantly, we would have actually done it instead of doing a halfassed job and then getting frustrated.

So, that might be a really good option and then from there, you can figure out what you can capably DIY and what you should hire out.
 27 Apr 2012 3:05 PM
 8 Aug 2008
Raving Lunatic
I really hate to be argumentative at times but I have to, without quoting, really kabosh Tatania's comments.

NOOOO, good, expert, know-it-all gardener could EVERRRR keep that plan. Every yard, soil, eperience, season is different.

The "plan" would never have worked out to plan.

I've read, I've been involved with forums, I have my own experience and can share first hand experience of other gardens.

I ASSURE you, I promise you, I'll give you my word on my own children, NO plan ever works out to what it is intended to. With gardening - never ever ever - no matter what the garden centre says or what an elite planner says. Ask any "real" gardener - they'll say the same.

Gardening is like golf - there's never a perfect swing, there's always room for improvement and/or fine tuning. And there's always room for error.

Never be fooled into it being so black and white.
 27 Apr 2012 3:32 PM
 21 Oct 2009
My parents hired a landscape arcitect (sp?). They came in did measurements of the yard and what they wanted. They then drew up a plan which included which trees/plants to put where. In total it cost them $500.

I would look at doing something like this too. This way you can add the plants as you can afford them and save a lot of money on labour.
 27 Apr 2012 8:57 PM
 11 Feb 2008
Agree with Tatania

Easy to make broad sweeping statements , just plant it and hope for best.

You have to really plan out shrubs, plants to compliment each other. Unless you're trained or a natural at it, you can end up with a random mish mash . My DH and I are no strangers to hard work and renovating but landscaping is something neither of us understand and no amount of internet research was helpful IMO.

We splurged a bit and got a custom plan. It's been guiding us and keeping on track.

By the way, unless you're buying little trees and shrubs , you're better off leaving it to professionals for delivery. We bought 2 shrubs and 3 trees and the nursery centre brought a mack truck with crane to deliver. It was a PITA for DH and brother to plant the shrubs, the root balls weighed 300 lbs each (not exagerating!)

Back to your original question,
Last year, for the trees and shrubs alone we spent almost $1k , mulch $400, little extras all add up! So your original quote doesn't seem far off.
 28 Apr 2012 8:44 AM
 6 Apr 2012
Why not get 1-2 more quotes so that you can compare prices and what you get for their estimated cost. Then you will have a better idea of whether or not the first quote was reasonable or not.
 28 Apr 2012 9:04 AM
 8 Aug 2008
Raving Lunatic
Ho hum, I hate being accused of making broad sweeping statements.

Kato, without getting into details, what I mean is you can plan, draw everything to scale, visualize, research and it just never turns out exactly how envisioned. And often times the best looks or complimentary plantings turn out by "accident". Many gardeners will say the same thing.

I didn't think the OP was having 300 lb trees delivered. Leaving this "to the professionals" - I wasn't telling her to do a DIY root canal or change the transmission in her car. Speaking of cars, all my shrubs and perennials have been transported by car - I don't have a truck.

And as far as 'hoping for the best' - if a "professional" plants they're going to leave eventually and she'll still be hoping for the best.

And yes, google DOES have ALL the answers. Maybe some people cannot operate google properly and require a professional googler. People aren't born with this info or 'skill'.

I also don't think she's planning or planting a golf course. I thought I was trying to be encouraging, to not be so intimidated and maybe save a few thousand bucks.

Sorry, I could say more but the effort I'm putting into this response is practically nil.
 31 Oct 2012 11:59 PM
 30 Apr 2012
New Member

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