What goes into maintaining a top quality landscape? It's more than weeding, watering, and pruning. To understand the full scope of the job, we talked to Maria, our Purdue-educated horticulturist, about what she does on a weekly basis to keep our clients' gardens healthy and why care from an experienced professional can make all the difference in the development of a landscape as it moves from installation to maturity.
GoG - What is the personal gardener service?
Maria - We refer to our weekly and bi-weekly landscape care as the Personal Gardener service. We send a maintenance foreman to the client's house every week or every other week to act as a personal gardener and keep their landscape in tip-top shape. Our goal is to make sure that the landscape is as close to perfect as possible every time we leave, and we train our people in horticultural knowledge to make sure they are caring for the plants in the best way.
GoG - What kinds of tasks does that involve?
Maria - It's a pretty long list! I sat down once and came up with 35 different things that I do at these properties, depending on the garden and the time of year. We take care of some obvious jobs every week like pulling weeds, picking up sticks, and blowing off leaves and debris. If a client has containers, we water, fertilize, and deadhead those. Beyond these basics, some of the tasks we take care of are water feature maintenance, identifying and treating pest and disease problems, pruning trees and shrubs, deadheading flowers, training climbing plants, dividing perennials - the list could go on and on. You can check out our gardener's calendar page to see some of the things I work on throughout the year.
GoG - That sounds like a lot. Are there other tasks you don't cover?
Maria - The personal gardeners don't do any turf management like mowing and fertilizing, but we can adjust lawn and bed irrigation. We also don't do deep tree root fertilization, full clean-ups, or bigger building and planting projects. Of course the company has other crews to take care of all of that, it's just not part of the personal gardener service. Between us gardeners and the other crews at GoG, there's pretty much nothing in the landscape we won't do, so just ask, and we'll figure out how to get it done.
GoG - How does having an experienced gardener make a difference?
Maria - I think the most important thing clients gain from having an experienced person in their yard is that we know how to identify problems early on while it's still easy to fix them. This is especially true for insect and disease problems. Our gardeners have different levels of experience, but they all have easy access to me if they ever have questions about whether or not something is right in a client's garden. If there is something I don't know, I have the right resources to get the best answer quickly. A less experienced landscaper or a well-intentioned homeowner might notice the same problems, but it could be too late, or they may have to spend hours reading on the internet trying to get the right diagnosis - and sometimes they still might not get the best answer. For our clients specifically, it's also nice to have one of our employees deeply involved in your landscape because it gives easy access to the rest of our team and getting other requests handled quickly.
GoG - What are some of your landscaping pet peeves?
Maria - I guess what bothers me most is when someone makes a mistake that could seriously harm a plant simply out of lack of information. For example, piling mulch up against the bark of a tree. That can do so much damage, but most people simply don't know any better. Same with shearing shrubs (I even wrote a blog post about it). I also get upset when I see a tree pruned poorly. Proper pruning can be the difference between life and death for a tree. I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true. All three of these examples really go back to the value of having experienced, educated individuals taking care of landscapes. I love educating friends, family, and even competitors about these kinds of issue because it's more important to me that our communities are full of healthy landscapes than that our company is the one taking care of them.
GoG - How can a client make the most out of working with you?
Maria - Communication is key, and really a lot of that is on us. Our gardeners should be talking to clients or leaving a door hanger every time they visit to keep customers up to date on what they're working on or if there are any problems they have noticed. I would tell clients that if you ever want more information, don't hesitate to ask, and if you notice something we haven't brought up feel free to mention it. It may be that you notice a problem before we do (we try to spot issues first, but we're not perfect), or that we just forgot to mention it. If nobody is home when we visit, we expect that clients will read the door hangers we leave, because we could be writing down important information. Another good way to make use of the service is to talk to us gardeners if something else on the property needs to be done, like cleaning the gutters, or if the client wants a new fire pit or something. Of course customers can always talk to their account manager or call the office, but since the gardeners are there so often it's so helpful for us to know what is going beyond the scope of our work.
GoG - Thanks for talking with me! If someone is interested in this service, what should they do?
Maria - If they are already one of our clients, they should talk to their account manager about adding this service to their contract. If not, they can call the office at 317-251-GROW or fill out a contact form online.