By Glenn Curtis – Montreal, QC


Professional design/build landscapers dream of presenting a project budget for the perfect design and hearing,“Wow! at’s much less than I expected, when can you start?” Inevitably, we wake to find the real world holds a much more common reaction: unrealistic expectations. Homeowners want it all in this day and age, and few understand that their dream of having a permanent, 5-star luxury resort experience in their own backyard, often can cost more than going on an actual vacation.

In the landscaping industry we call this “sticker shock”, and fortunately, there is a way to immunize yourself against it.


STEP ONE: Understand the Top 5 reasons for the disconnect between perceived value and associated costs.


1 Lack of Context: As a homeowner, you may undertake a landscape transformation only once or twice in your lifetime. If your approach to budgeting is “just throwing a number out there” without really researching what landscaping entails or costs, then you’re a prime candidate to experience a deer in the headlights moment.


2 Unreality Shows: Popular home renovation and backyard makeover shows are certainly entertaining and a great source of inspiration, but generally promote unrealistic pricing and timeline expectations. Despite the starring role of hosts and their crews, reality shows can take weeks to shoot and local companies are often hired to do the grunt work. To offset very low pay, their names are included in the credits and they can often use “as seen on” promotions in their marketing. Sponsorships, product placement and promotional considerations further reduce the dollar value of the project.


3The Iceberg Principle: Redesigns. Excavation and foundation work. Solutions to address slope, drainage and difficult access. Meeting code requirements and construction standards. Project oversight. The costs of higher quality and custom materials. Though our eyes focus only on the elements that can be seen, the majority of costs involved with installing a new landscape are beneath the surface.


4Expertise and Experience: A contractor who grossly undercuts industry certified professionals will not deliver comparative services, equal craftsmanship, efficient timeline staging or expert judgment calls on the myriad of issues that arise on the fly throughout any complex project. Your landscaper’s degree of experience will inevitably define your experience with landscaping.


5 The Value of Peace of Mind: Satisfaction comes with knowing that your landscape is built right, made to last, and backed by a solid product, workmanship and satisfaction guarantees. However, its price should also reflect the value of having complete confidence during its development, including the knowledge that your professional is reliable and properly insured. If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you hire an amateur.

Simply put, do your homework before starting any outdoor renovation project. Ask questions. Check references. Hire for passion and credibility. And remember that the bitterness of poor quality will surely remain long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.


Glenn Curtis is the President of Plantenance Landscape Group, an award-winning team of landscape designers, craftsmen and horticulturists, who have been creating extraordinary outdoor spaces throughout the Montreal area for more than 35 years |