Landscaping Issues

The following is a guide used by many board members in making a decision to hire from their current landscaper to a new one:

What’s the problem with your landscaper?
You meet with a landscaper and he seems to be the one you will choose. Up front he promises to be at your building every week, bi-weekly or monthly. You agree on a time frame. The first couple of times he is prompt and arrives as promised. After that he doesn’t show and doesn’t call to say he won’t be there. You call him but he never returns your call. Make sure your contract spells out everything he tells you. Many times the things that are verbally promised are not in the contract.

Therefore, the most important things to have in your landscaping contract are as follows: 
1.  Every specific thing you expect needs to be detailed in the contract.
2.  The number of times per month you expect service.
3.  The ability to cancel the contract with 15 or 30 days notice with no penalty.
Many landscapers accidentally damage the sprinkler heads and then try to charge your association for replacing them. You need to let your landscaper know that if they damage or break your sprinkler head, they will be responsible for the replacement. 

Investing in your Landscape
Landscaping your property is not something to take lightly. There are many factors involved in the process. The list of planting materials is endless and landscape contractors are plentiful. We will try to take you through the process step by step.

You will need to establish a budget for your landscape project. Make sure you budget some additional money for unexpected expenses that may come up along the way.
You may want to consult with your property manager for recommendations on hiring a landscape architect. The architect can be your most valuable asset in the planning phase and should be licensed and insured. Do your own research. Look at pictures of plants, trees, shrubs and even mulch materials. It may take weeks or months to decide, given all the choices out there; i.e. annuals, which are planted yearly or perennials, that come back every year, no need to replant, hedges, boarders, and colors.

Look at other properties in the area to get additional ideas. Make a list of what you like and don’t like.
You will need to decide on the look you want your property to have. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that this is Florida and you will need plants, shrubs and trees that can stand up to the heat, humidity, water restrictions and high winds of hurricane season, as well as being insect resistant. Have your architect create a drawing before you begin. It is easier to change things on paper then it is after you have dug up the ground.
Now that you have decided on what you want, you will need to decide where you want to plant. Establish a focal point, in front of an elevator column, stairwell, or the center of your building lawn and plan out from there. Have your landscaper draw up a contract and read it thoroughly and make sure you understand exactly what it says before signing. Show it to counsel to get his/her comments. Make sure that you have adequate irrigation to accommodate your new plantings, as they will need frequent watering until they are established.
Make sure you use mulch, to protect the soil from washing away, retaining water, and to protect the roots of your plants. There are several different types of mulch, wood and rubber. Rubber mulch can be more expensive initially, but pay for itself in the long run. Wood mulch can pose unforeseen problems such as being a breeding ground for termites and carpenter ants. Again, do your research.
Once your project is complete, do a walk around with your landscaper. Look at the plantings and make sure that you will have a guarantee in writing for replacement of plantings should they not take root. A guarantee can be anywhere from 30 -90 days after completion. Once you are satisfied with the results you can now make your final payment and enjoy your new landscape.