Sometimes you need help in the garden, whether it is for specialist work, such as tree surgery or laying a patio, other times you might just need a hand with general maintenance work. There are a wealth of people out there to help, but it can be difficult knowing who to choose. Follow our tips to help choose a contractor.
How to do find a reliable contractor
There are professional bodies to which contractors can choose to belong, which vet their members and provide opportunities for ongoing training. These organisations provide some degree of assurance that their members are up-to-scratch, and also have complaints procedures that you can access should you be dissatisfied with the quality of the work done.
However, belonging to these organisations costs money, so there may be satisfactory local contractors who do not belong to them.
Local head gardeners, horticultural colleges and garden centres or nurseries can often suggest suitable people.
The RHS is not able to visit members’ gardens, to act as an ‘expert witness’ or to provide specialist professional or commercial advice. We are also unable to monitor and assess the quality of all the individuals and companies who provide gardening services.
Professional organisations to contact
Tree surgery or tree assessment
Determine whether you need a consultant or contractor (a 'tree surgeon' may be either or both). A consultant will give professional advice on the health and safety of a tree, on the potential impact on any proposed or existing buildings or any other tree issue including Tree Preservation Orders and planning regulations. A contractor will typically carry out tree pruning, bracing, planting and felling operations and be able to identify and control (where feasible) tree pests and diseases.
The Arboricultural Association
Tel. 01242 522152
Maintains a directory of approved contractors and consultants.
Maintenance gardening services
There is unfortunately no professional organisation representing garden maintenance companies. Look for advertisements in your local paper or telephone directory. People recommended by word-of-mouth are more likely to provide a reliable service. It is worth asking for references and seeking proof of formal horticultural training.
Gardeners are encouraged to register with the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) to obtain a ROLO (Register of Landscape Operatives) ‘skills card’, which is issued to applicants who have achieved NVQ/SVQ 2 or 3 plus a health and safety awareness course. It also states additional relevant training such as chainsaw, pesticide or ride-on mower training. For more information about the skills card see: www.bali.co.uk/rolo.html
Full time professional gardeners
These can be advertised for via the Professional Gardeners Guild, a voluntary organisation representing full time estate gardeners, or via recruitment agencies and trade magazines.
The Professional Gardeners’ Guild
Tel. (01900) 824 377 (Secretary, home telephone number)
Horticulture Week: www.hortweek.co.uk
Consider contacting the Society of Garden Designers if you want a specialist designer to draw up expert plans for you.
Many landscaping companies also offer a design and build service, which is a cheaper option than getting a design done separately. See the section on landscapers below.
The Society of Garden Designers
Tel: (01989) 566 695
Try contacting the organisations below to find a reputable company.
The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL)
Tel: 01538 751976
British Association Of Landscape Industries (BALI)
Tel: 024 7669 0333