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How to choose professional advice or services in a garden?

We've moved into our first house with a garden. It's a decent sized one with mature trees in. We have cut down three trees that were a mess or blocked light too much. However we can't safely cut a couple more so are looking for a tree surgeon. What qualifications or trade bodies or other things do you look for to get a responsible, quality professional?

There's other gardening professionals too. There's a lot of potential in our garden but we're not going to change the landscaping just add to the planting. However we're not knowledgeable in plants selection, soil type, etc. We were wondering if a professional could be hired to advise. How do you find a good one? We're not thinking of using them for the work or full design just to give plant ideas after speaking to us and seeing the garden. The alternative might be trial and error with greater expense in lost or wasted plants because they didn't work out. We're not afraid of hard work but we probably need expert direction towards the plants selection options. if that makes sense.

Anyway, any advice on selecting which professional to use, especially with tree surgeons?


  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,131
    I would ask for recommendations from your neighbours on
    Rutland, England
  • nick615nick615 Posts: 1,291
    My instinct, NorthernJoe, is that any contractor seeing your £s will be an 'expert', so I recommend you look round for a local gardening association whose members will be only too glad to give you impartial advice, based on their group experience.  The local library could be a good place to start.
  • As much as it pains me.. try Facebook.
    Unfortunately the horticultural industry is choc full of people with a van, mower & a pressure washer who call themselves gardeners.
    You could try the local allotment society or even sometimes the people in the garden centres can be quite helpful.
    With tree surgeons - search the internet and read many reviews. To give you a rough idea - crown reduction/thinning (say) will cost about £250 - £350 & felling will start at about £500. Thats for maybe a 40 - 50ft tree - Prices will vary around the country. 
  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    I would check really carefully, yourself, what the trees are before cutting down or cutting back. Get good confirmation.
  • herbaceousherbaceous Posts: 2,314
    I understand your concern NorthernJoe, been there, had that problem. Worth checking to see if they are approved by a trade body like the Arboricultural Association

    Also make sure when you get a quote that they confirm in writing they have appropriate insurance - specially important if the work is carried out near your boundary.

    I was very pleased with the people I used and I hope you have similar success  :)
    "The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it."  Sir Terry Pratchett
  • NorthernJoeNorthernJoe Posts: 660
    Why? The ones we want rid of, three gone already, have issues.

     One is an ornamental conifer maybe 3 to 4 metres high and less than a metre wide. It's uphill from the house and easily further away than the height. It's younger than the house and very unlikely roots are an issue. It's also not in a good state. Green and growing for about 2 inches of its branches then brown and moss covered.

    The other tree might not be cut down but it's a mature holy. We're not fully decided whether to keep or cut that one. We need to check with expert how it's doing.

    There's a large camelia in tree form that splits into two large branches about a metre up. One branch is heavily split with a series of cracks on the inside/upper face of the branch. The other branch could be the same I've not checked since I first noticed the first branch was like that.

    Then I need advice on the state of most of the trees in the wildlife section. That's basically the upper garden which is kept as a more naturalistic wood. Albeit with not completely native of woodland species. There's a decent sized beech, leylandii type of tree that's big but topped off, Holly trees, yew or two and a few fruit trees. Probably more I've not really counted and identified them all. It's a hillside garden and overlooks a wide valley near the coast, but sheltered from the coast directly. I think wind can be an issue higher up but it's more sheltered lower down.

    We moved in a few weeks back and there's a lot of tidying up in the garden. Part of that means some damaged and ugly conifers must go. The smaller ones we can manage, and have. Still in clear up mode for them. Overall there's enough trees to warrant getting advice and at least one needs to go. Better to sort it out early so we can possibly replace the tree and see it establish itself. Be whether with another tree or a shrub.
  • BrockmanBrockman Posts: 28
    edited March 2021
    Look to see if there is a Trusted Trader scheme in your area. Like this one run by the local council’s Trading Standards. They are excellent.

  • Thanks for the advice! I am just a beginner and I would love to find a mentor.
  • Most tree "surgeons" are anything but - wood butchers more like and you'd be well advised to keep all your valuables and yer missus locked up while you have any on site - unless you are absolutely certain as to their bona fides!
    In my experience - 55 years professional large scale landscape and horticulturist training - none of them have the correct insurance, Public Liability is what it says and no more, you as their employer, are not "the public" and in many circumstances, neither are your neighbours. Contractors All Risks policies are expensive and not so available to flybynight firms, five minutes on the phone will confirm this as fact.
    Now, forgive me but I'm also going to put my critics hat on for you too.  You say you've merrily gone about chipchopping trees and laid waste to your property and yet now you come on to a Gardening site to ask for advice?
    And did I read you correctly??? You want some "expert" opinion to cast an eye - over what? A fresh bit of desert? 
    A word of warning - this Camelia "tree" with splits and cracks? Does it have big white and pink tulip shaped flowers on it by any chance? It's probably a Magnolia. 
    It makes me wonder why you bought the place.  
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 82,773
    edited April 2021
    This is who we use

    Look for someone with similar skills and qualifications etc and check out the recommendations with folk in your area. That’s what we did and we weren’t disappointed. 

    Not cheap, but the price was fair for a difficult job, our neighbours were happy as their gardens were respected too and everything was cleared away carefully. That’s what you should expect from a professional set up. 

    Do not employ door knockers touting for work with ‘while I’m in the area I can do you a special rate’. They’re likely to be trouble on two legs. 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

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