Where can I find a landscape consultant? Does such a profession exist?
September 6, 2010 1:34 PM   Subscribe

My rather large yard needs help. More inside.

Background: My wife and I moved into a new house in April. The previous owners (the original owners) had some serious green thumbs, and while they owned the home, they put in what I estimate at over $20,000 in trees, shrubs, flowers, and a variety of other garden/outdoor items. It's mostly in the backyard, as it's over 80 yards long and 30 yards wide.

They had a great deal of foresight and planted a lot of perennials, and thus, without lifting a finger this summer, we've enjoyed tulips and lots of other flowers/plants I can't identify. It really is beautiful, but...

However, they also started to let it go a bit as they got old, meaning we inherited an interesting mix of lively spaces and patches of garden that are completely dead, unattractive, and useless to the ecosystem. There are a few dead trees and some parts of the lawn need replacing.

And I have no idea where to start with any of this. I don't always know what's a flower and what's a weed. Some of the overgrowth is daunting. There's a garden that clearly used to be a very nice area to walk through and pick berries from the plants, but that is completely overgrown and much of the greenery is dead.

Now that we've made it through the spring and summer and I have a better idea of what's what (what will bloom, what is truly dead and needs to go, what I want to do away with, etc.), and because winter is on the way, I want to hire someone who could be considered a landscape consultant...someone who can help me realize my vision for the space...and who doesn't mind getting dirty with me as we pull weeds and dead plants.

Many of the ads/books out there are for specific things - tree removal, deck/patio construction, lawn mowing/care, flower/veggie gardens, but I want to meet someone who can help me tie all of this together into what was once a great yard, still sort of is, but needs a bit of TLC.

Does this sort of person exist, and how do I find him/her?

Also, I'm in Michigan.
posted by st starseed to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You need garden maintenance. From a quick search this contractor came up - just for you to get an idea of what kind of services they'd offer.
posted by watercarrier at 1:43 PM on September 6, 2010

We were in a similar situation in a previous house- the prior owner had a serious green thumb and created a very interesting garden, but it had suffered a bit from lack of maintenance, and needed some TLC. We didn't even know what we had.

The first step, which was very useful, was to call up the local garden supply place (not a chain, but a local business- in our case, the Berkeley Hort- I'm linking it so you get a sense of what they offer, even though they are not going to be able to help you in MI.) We asked them to recommend someone, a local master gardener who could come out and identify what we had and what kind of care it needed, etc. She spent probably two or three hours in our yard, identified a lot of mystery plants, drew us a map of what plants were where, etc. It was well worth it. That allowed us to figure out what maintenance we needed to do and what the next steps were with fixing things up.

Googling "master gardener" may help you find what you need as well.

I'd recommend figuring out what you have before you talk to garden maintenance people, who may try to sell you services you don't really need or work you aren't ready to do yet.
posted by ambrosia at 1:52 PM on September 6, 2010

Who you hire depends on how you want your garden to 'be'. Are you interested in more of the same, more herbs or 'useful' plants, exotics, or perhaps going more 'native'? If the latter, I'd recommend contacting your local County Extension Agent - most states have a "Master Gardener" program, and those programs are in touch with such folks as certified arborists (be sure you use one when have trees removed/pruned!), and landscape designers/architects.
It's probably the latter that you want - a *good* landscape designer/architect (the 'architect' part means they're qualified to do 'hardscapes' - patios, decks, stairs, etc) will work to your abilities, needs, and (some) desires. To save money, you'll probably need to do most of the dirty work yourself, or hire a worker to help. The designer will figure out what can stay/go, and what new plants will work/where. Winter garden shows are a great place to get inspired - is there one in a city near you this winter?
Also, go to your local library and check out the landscape books/periodicals that focus on your area.
Sunset magazine is a treasure trove of information (although the focus is decidedly West Coast, there's nuggets that work for everyone).
Have fun - gardening can be a lifelong passion.
Lastly, I'm going to suggest you look into a vegetable garden, or some fruit trees/berry bushes. Growing your own food is (for me) infinitely more satisfying than flowers and landscape gardening! However, ymmv.
posted by dbmcd at 1:53 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Remember when you call the local expert that the previous owners spent, literally, years getting the space where it was when you moved in (both the good and the bad) and you aren't going to get everything where you want it in a season or two.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:02 PM on September 6, 2010

Some fruit trees and berry bushes are also very beautiful, in addition to the yumminess factor! especially in spring... and I'm in Cleveland (not too far from you), so I know many of them will do well.

Nthing 'call the county extension agent' and find a master gardener. Alternately, you might want to ask around at local non-chain gardening centers or nearby botanical garden (U Mich has one not too far away from you -- that might be another good place to ask about finding a consultant, or just to visit to see what other kinds of plants you might like).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:03 PM on September 6, 2010

You've never mentioned your level of commitment to maintenance. If you want your yard to be simple, just mow it all. If you want a seriously landscaped garden you'd better be committed to spending the money on upkeep or the time (all your free time) to maintaining it yourself.
posted by carlh at 2:10 PM on September 6, 2010

Check with a local garden club. You might find someone willing to give you some free advice, or someone who will barter for some plants. Also as carlh mentioned, you need to decide how much time you want to dedicate daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally to the garden.
posted by lobstah at 4:30 PM on September 6, 2010

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