How to Hire a Landscape Professional

The services of a landscaper can mean the difference between enjoying the pleasures of your outdoor space or dealing with a frustrating field of screams. Here are a few pointers to help you ease the process.

The services of a competent, qualified landscape professional can mean the difference between enjoying the pleasures of your outdoor space or dealing with a frustrating field of screams. Here are a few pointers to help you define your needs and refine your search. An initial consultation fee should be expected and will be a worthwhile investment in beginning the design process.



Look for these designations

When interviewing landscape contractors, ask about their certification: A Certified Horticultural Technician (CHT) has a minimum 2,000 hours of industry experience and has passed a practical exam on specialized maintenance, installation or retail garden centre tasks. A Certified Landscape Designer (CLD) has a minimum seven years of combined academic and practical experience, has passed an exam and has had his or her portfolio evaluated. A Certified Landscape Professional (CLP) has a minimum of five years of combined academic and practice experience and has passed an exam proving his or her management skills. A member of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) has a minimum of three years of experience in tree care and has passed an exam that covers every aspect of tree care. Accredited PlanetHealthBC companies must pass an exam, submit yearly use of alternative practices and product, prepare an improvement plan, take training and meet a code of ethics.

  • What are your areas of expertise?
  • Do you have a portfolio of your work? (One may be available online; if not, ask for photos and brochures.)
  • Will you provide references? (Gather client contact names and numbers, and ask for their impression of this company’s work.)
  • How many years have you been in business? What experience do you have?
  • What qualifications do you and your staff have? Individuals may have earned a certificate, diploma, degree or journeyperson status from a recognized horticultural training institution; or they may have achieved an industry designation such as Certified Horticultural Technician (CHT), Certified Landscape Designer (CLD); Certified Landscape Professional (CLP); Certified Irrigation Technician, Designer or Auditor; Certified Arborist or PlantHealthBC Management Accreditation.
  • What are your environmental practices? (Consider equipment use, landscape design, pest control and ecological sensitivity.)
  • Do you belong to any trade associations such as the BC Landscape & Nursery Association?
  • Will you provide adequate liability insurance? Ask, for proof. Homeowners can be responsible in the event of an accident if the contractor has insufficient insurance.)
  • Will you provide a copy of your WorkSafeBC clearance letter? (This shows that the landscaper is currently registered and their assessments have been paid.)
  • Will you provide names of three key suppliers for a credit check?
  • Are you aware of the BC Landscape Standard and will you adhere to it where possible?
  • What are your payment terms and reporting practices?
  • What process do you use for changes to the original plan/contract or for resolving disputes?

Basic questions to ask when checking references:

  • Were you happy with the work done?
  • Was it finished on time?
  • Did the contractor keep you informed and discuss problems along the way?
  • What were the extra charges?
  • Did workers arrive when expected?
  • Did they clean up after finishing the job?
  • Would you recommend this contractor?
  • Would you use this contractor again?

Establish these points before the project begins:

  • What is the estimated project length and the estimated start and end dates?
  • Could weather or your other projects interrupt this schedule?
  • What should I expect from your crew?
  • What are your work hours?
  • Will you need access to my house?
  • What noise should I expect? Will work impact my neighbours? (Homeowners should advise neighbours of anticipated disruptions.)
  • Are all necessary permits in order i.e., electrical, plumbing, sewer, tree removal, structural building such as decks, walls?
  • Will you adhere to bylaws regulating planting, pesticides, noise, refuse, street access and safety procedures for above and underground utilities?
  • Who will be available on-site, while the work is in progress, to guide the project and answer any questions?

Get it in writing:

Do not start a project without a signed contract in place. A contract should include:

  • Scope of work to be done;
  • Type and quality of materials;
  • Fees, expenses and schedule of work;
  • Subcontractors that will be used;
  • Schedule of payments (deposits, progress payments, final payments);
  • Standard of work expected according to BC Landscape Standards (7th edition) guidelines;
  • Communication and reporting process;
  • May include a drawing and plant list with cultural requirements, fertilization and irrigation schedule;
  • Warranties on work and materials.

Project in progress:

Regularly check on the work being performed. Use this checklist as a guideline for your installation inspection:

  • Are the materials as specified?
  • Are defined work standards being met?
  • Are installers, helpers, and subcontractors performing well?
  • Obtain proof that subcontractors are being paid? (Unpaid subcontractors could place a lien on your property.)
  • Is the work on schedule, weather permitting?
  • Have you received the specified progress reports?
  • Changes to original plans may necessitate a “Change Order” to the contract. (This can potentially impact your costs and outcomes.)
  • Has your contract been updated with any changes? (Ensure you understand the implications of any changes and subsequent adjustments to payment schedules, costs and results.)


Need a pest management professional? Four important questions to ask before you hire.

Before final payment:

  • Do a project walk-through with the contractor and check off each item.
  • Ensure materials and subcontractors are paid.
  • Obtain the detailed plant list.
  • Get equipment instructions: learn how to work your irrigation, lighting timer and transformer, pond pumps, etc.
  • Reconfirm the process to be used if problems arise.
  • Determine any future service needs such as regular inspections, maintenance requirements to ensure the landscape establishes well, and whether you or the landscaper will fulfill these requirements.