Whether you would like to create or update a garden, sculpting a garden in a huge undertaking that requires vision and insight. Landscaping could be described as both an art and a science. There is a very practical side in designing a garden where the inputs can be quantified, but there is also the intangibles; the long term investment and the emotional cost of taking on a large project.
Here is Zambia the landscaping industry has not quite evolved the way that it has done in the West or even in other African countries, so finding a landscaper who can create a design that will stand the test of time can be a challenge.
It can be daunting having to trust the vision of your future garden to someone and hope that they can make it a reality. You should hope for the best, but plan for the worst. To manage some of the risks there a few factors to consider before starting your garden project.
It has been said that Lusaka only has one qualified landscaper, although we have yet to find out the name of this reclusive man. The rest of the people who provide these services are self-taught enthusiasts, so their abilities may vary.
You have a vision of what you would like done in your garden and it's important that the landscaper is able to translate this for you, so working with you, they should be able to clarify basic concepts of your idea, such as themes, layout colour, hard-scaping as this shows that they will have done some self study. What they lack in qualifications, they may make up for in experience.
It goes without saying that you should find out more about the history of the landscaper. You should ask for pictures of past projects and even verify with the people that they claim to have done work for. A good place to start may be to check out Zambian gardening groups on Facebook and and ask the group for recommendations. However, being on this group does not necessarily mean one is qualified, so invest a lot of time in verifying the previous work of potential candidates.
Landscaping can be stressful, so it is important that you find someone who you can communicate easily with, who can explain things clearly at every stage. You may need to be explicit about how, when and what they need to share with you and find out what they need from you. It sounds petty, but the landscape installation process can be very disruptive to your daily life, and with a group of workers coming onto your property for an extended period, so it's a good idea to be clear about expectations upfront.
Design Sketch and Notes
A picture says a thousand words. It is essential that they provide you with a design, or a few design options, whether it is a pencil sketch or a computer generated design. In discussing this you can both clarify elements of the design and reduce any potential misunderstandings.
The Project Plan
Once you know what it might look like the landscaper should be able to come up with a project plan this would include:
Timeline - what activities will take place and by when?
Costings for plants - at this point they should be able to specify the details of everything they will put in the beds
Cost of labour - they should be able to give an estimate of the amount of time they will need
Plan for equipment and other supplies - We can assume they will provide tools but they should state if other additional consumable supplies will have be purchased by you
It may be hard to enforce but ensure that you both sign a contract which shows both your obligations.
Know where to find them, if things go wrong
Needless to say, there are a lot of bad actors out there. Criminal gangs can act as a landscaping crew to be able to gain access to your plot. Similarly, contractors may take a deposit and disappear without completing the work, or just work at their own schedule. It is a good idea to have a business or home address for them and a copy of their ID if there are any issues that may need to be reported to the police.
Remember that the landscaper will charge for their time, so even if you are asking for a consultation or a design, they will attach fees for this. They will have to drive around looking for quotes for plants so they will have invested a lot of time before you even undertake the project.
All in all, planning the job thoroughly can save you a lot of stress at the end so make sure that you are satisfied before committing to the project