Frequently Asked Questions

A list of frequently asked questions from our clients:

DESIGN QUESTIONS

 

PRICING QUESTIONS

 

INSTALLATION QUESTIONS

 

PLANT QUESTIONS

 

POST-INSTALLATION QUESTIONS

 

Design Questions

 

Why do I need a design?

A design allows you to conceptualise what your garden will look like before installation and helps to ensure that the hard and soft (plant) landscaping materials have been calculated correctly. A design also provides us with an accurate template to work from, so we are all on the ‘same page’ when it comes to your garden.

Here are some benefits of designing your garden before installation: 

  • Avoiding overplanting
    • Overplanting is a common problem in gardens that have not been planned. It often occurs when home owners try to fill their garden spaces without taking into account the full-grown height and width of their plants. Sometimes this problem is exacerbated by visiting a show garden and trying to replicate it. Many show gardens use plants that are still in their bags, and if these plants were to be planted out in the home, they would quickly outgrow the available space.
  • Avoiding too many different species / or a garden that lacks a theme
    • Designs help to avoid the creation of a ‘fruit-salad’ garden – a garden with a bit of everything but lacking a cohesive theme. Without a plan and a theme, it can be tempting to incorporate many different plant species, especially if they are all in flower at your local nursery! By planning your garden and taking into account a preferred theme we can choose and group your plant species accordingly.
  • Avoiding poor plant growth & damage to property
    • Perhaps the most important reason to have a design is to ensure that the selected plants are placed appropriately in your home. We frequently encounter homes where shrubs and trees have been planted too close to boundary walls, resulting in squashed plants, poor growth habits, or damage to property.

But I have an existing garden, do I still need a design?

No, not necessarily. It depends on how much work you want us to do. If you only want us to plug new plants into your garden, or move existing plants around, then we do not need to do a design. If, however, we will be changing an area entirely, or working on a new area of your garden, then it’s best to do a design so that we can structure the planting correctly and provide you with a conceptual view of what your refurbished garden will look like.

I only want lawn, can you quote me for this?

Yes. Prior to planting lawn, we carry out essential soil preparation – removing hidden rocks and debris; composting and fertilising, and levelling the area. We supply sods (instant lawn) or plugs, depending on your requirements.

I want lots of lawn, can you design accordingly?

Yes we can. However we specialise in indigenous gardens and try to include a variety of plants that not only attract wildlife, but also add to the biodiversity of our country. Our preferred gardens are those with a balance between lawn and plants.

You do lawn-free gardens, are these really usable spaces?

Yes! Lawn-free gardens are some of our favourite gardens to design and install, and home owners with these gardens benefit from increased birdlife, butterflies and insects, as well as lower maintenance costs (no mowing) and lower watering costs. When we design a lawn-free garden we incorporate pathways and seating areas, and use lawn-replacement groundcovers, some of which you can walk on. We also carefully select the plant species – full-grown size and growth-habit – and their placement, so that your garden does not become unmanageable and overgrown in future. All of this means that you will have a beautiful garden without the high maintenance costs of managing a lawn. Arguably though the most worthwhile reason to go lawn-free is that you will immediately have more plants to appreciate in your garden, with each plant providing you with something new every week, month or year.

I have a very shady garden where nothing grows, can you really help?

Yes! Along with lawn-free gardens shade gardens have become some of our most requested gardens. Johannesburg has many established trees, but because of this the areas where people once had a flourishing lawn – like on their verge – have now shaded over and become bare. To correct this homeowners have either tried to use shade lawn, or have resorted to cutting their trees back to let more light in. But you don’t have to cut back trees or live with a struggling lawn or bare soil. South Africa is home to a rich variety of indigenous forest plants that work beautifully on the highveld – so contact us for a consultation, or visit plantbook.co.za to view some of these species.

I want to save water, can you design the garden accordingly?

Yes, helping to save water in people’s gardens is what we do. There are a number of design factors that help reduce water usage in a garden. These include using indigenous, waterwise plants, reducing the size of your lawn, and checking and/or making changes to your irrigation system to ensure it runs efficiently. Additionally we can install new irrigation technologies such as low-precipitation nozzles, rain/weather sensors, or rain water tanks to harvest rain water.

I have an existing garden, will you remove all my plants?

No. If you want specific plants to remain in place we’ll incorporate them into your new design. It’s also worth keeping large trees and shrubs as these provide an already established structural element to the garden – provided they are not weeds, invader species, and are not damaging your property. Some perennials such as clivias and agapanthus can also be split and replanted if they are overgrown, so if you have such species we will do this for you.

Can we use our existing pavers/pebbles?

Yes, provided they are of a quality that is enhancing your garden and not taking away from it. Pavers and pebbles can sometimes be used in a different part of the garden, and if we can incorporate them we’ll do so. Sometimes though, pavers can be so old and broken that changing them to a new and modern style will transform your garden.

Can I get a design and install the garden myself?

Yes, you’re welcome to. And if you require assistance during the project you can call on us on a consultative basis.

I already have a design from another landscaper, can you use this to quote/install the garden?

Generally it’s best to let the other landscaper install the garden for you, as it is their creative design and they will therefore fully understand the garden and the spec you have provided to them. If you’d like us to quote for your garden then let us provide you with our own design and costing, and you can then compare the two. An exception to this is when you have used a designer or landscape architect who does not have an installation team, in which case we’ll evaluate the design and advise or quote accordingly.

I have a bill of quantities, can you quote me on this?

Yes, but only if the BOQ comes with a professional design.

I live in another province/country, can you travel to do our garden?

Yes we can. To ensure a successful project we would make a trip prior to installation – for which we would charge a travel and consultation fee. Thereafter, for the installation, we would bring some of our team members or manage the project using local labour.

What do you mean by ‘wildlife-friendly garden’?

A wildlife-friendly garden is one which is in harmony with the natural surroundings and attracts the local wildlife, be it birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, or mammals. It is a healthy and thriving eco-system. Some of our favourite gardens are those that mimic nearby nature reserves, specifically with regards to the plants that are found in those areas. By creating a wildlife-friendly garden you are helping to extend the greenbelt of your area, and in a small way helping to protect the wonderful biodiversity of our country.

My dogs use a particular path/route to run through the garden, can you incorporate this into your design?

We can, but it is usually better to let us design a new garden for everyone. Trying to incorporate the original ‘pet paths’ into a design forces us to change the plant selection and/or plant positioning that we would otherwise use. Instead of tying yourself – and your pets – down to their old pathways, rather let us design a new garden for everyone and your pets will soon create new pathways on their own.

 

Pricing Questions

 


Do I need to give you a budget?

No, not necessarily. Sometimes it’s better to let us design the garden without the restriction of a budget, as this allows us to create the most beautiful garden we can based on your existing space and our discussions with you. Once we have created the initial design you can request changes based on your budget and preferences, and we’ll then adjust the design and costing accordingly.

I don’t have the budget to do the full garden now, can we do it in phases?

Yes, we can do your garden in phases. The design we have created then becomes the ‘blueprint’ for future phases of the project.

Is your quotation fixed, or will there be pricing changes during the project?

In most cases there will be pricing changes due to the availability of quality plants at the time of installation. In all cases however we endeavour to remain at or below the price quoted. An example of a price change would be: We quote for a 20 litre Duvernoia aconitiflora (shrub), but find during sourcing that the healthiest looking shrubs are either 40 litre specimens or 10 litre specimens. We’ll then choose the 10 litre specimens and return the cost saving to you in the recon. Conversely, if you request additional elements during the project, or if we find something unforeseen that we feel should be corrected – like an old wall foundation that needs to be jackhammered out – then we’ll discuss these additional costs with you prior to going ahead with them.

Your quotation is higher than we expected, can it be reduced?

Yes, we can reduce quotations by changing the size of the plants, e.g. 10 litre plants to 4 litre plants, or by changing the hardscaping materials, e.g. using gravel for a firepit floor instead of paving the area, which would reduce our labour charges. When quoting we initially choose the best quality materials and plants, and then adjust these as your budget allows.

Can we purchase the plants ourselves?

You’re welcome to purchase the plants yourself, but for most projects we use between 3-9 different nurseries, which helps ensure that the quality of the plants is high. On occasions when clients have purchased their own plants or materials there have often been delays to the start of the project, or the quality of the plants or materials is below what we would be happy with.

Can we save costs by managing parts of the project ourselves?

You’re welcome to manage some aspects of the project, such as purchasing planters or water features etc., but for quality reasons it’s best to let us manage most if not all other aspects. If you would like to manage staff or handle transport and deliveries then rather use us on a consultative basis.

 

Installation Questions

 


When is the best time to install the garden?

Anytime, but in our view the best months are autumn and winter as this gives your plants time to establish themselves before the onset of spring. These months are also quiet times for the green industry, which means less of a waiting period to do your garden, and lower costs, since most suppliers increase their pricing in spring. We use hardy, indigenous plant material, so there is little chance of losing your plants to the cold.

How many projects do you run at one time?

Usually only one. We have a small team whom we dedicate to one project at a time. If we do have a secondary project it is usually a maintenance job.

How long will it take to install my garden?

This depends on the size and complexity of the project. Most gardens can be completed in 2-4 weeks, whilst very small gardens may take only a day or two. Larger projects which require the use of earth moving equipment may take up to 6 weeks or more.

Do you just drop off your team, or will you be on site all the time?

We manage all aspects of your project, but this means we may be out at times selecting your plants or collecting materials. We also meet with new clients during the day. When not on site we have a team leader who leads the team under our instruction, otherwise we will be on site managing your project.

What happens if you hit my main water line/irrigation/pool pipes/electrics/gas?

We are irrigation specialists and are equipped to repair your water mains, irrigation pipes and pool pipes if we hit these during the installation. Having said this, it is helpful if a client is able to mark these pipes out for us prior to installation, but in most cases, clients are not sure exactly where their underground pipes are, so we will repair them if we accidentally hit them. For electrical cables we use a qualified electrician, but for gas lines we recommend that your gas technician be on standby, or that he/she comes to mark these out for us prior to installation.

Do you offer tree felling services?

No. Tree felling is a specialised field so if you require tree-felling we will either sub-contract the work or recommend a reputable service provider.


Are there ways I can help to make this a successful project?

Yes, there are a few things that make our lives easier, so if you’re able to assist us with these it would be appreciated:

  • Dogs: If your think your dogs might interfere with us please keep them in a separate area. In most cases we get along fine with dogs, but we are working with picks, spades and forks in your garden and do not want any accidents.
  • Access: We will be in and out frequently during the project, so ease of access is important. If you have a remote-controlled gate please provide us with a remote, or have someone available during the day to open for us. Alternatively, if you are in an estate that uses pin codes, please provide us with a code that is valid for 5 entries per day. If registration for our team is required to your estate (card/fingerprint access) then we will apply for these, and will require your signature on the forms.
  • Toilet/changing facilities: If you have toilet/changing facilities for us on site that would be appreciated – we endeavour to keep them clean – otherwise we will hire a portable toilet for the project.

 

Plant Questions

 


Is this all the plants I get?

One question we often get asked when the plants arrive is: ‘is this all the plants I get?’. When we plan your garden, we take into account the full-grown height and width of each plant, and budget your plant quantities accordingly. It’s tempting to overfill a new garden with lots of plants but this soon leads to an overgrown garden and is a waste of plant material. Planning your garden with its future growth in mind is very important, so although your garden may look sparse to begin with it will soon fill out as your plants grow.

Do you only use plants from one nursery?

No, we usually use between 3-9 different nurseries for our projects.

Will my plants be in flower?

Some of them may be in flower, but for most gardens we choose plants that have different flowering times, to ensure that the garden has something of interest all year round. Additionally – if it is flowering season for a particular species – we try to choose plants with buds rather than flowers, so that a few days or weeks after we have installed the garden, the flowers appear!

How big will my plants be initially?

This depends on your requirements, and the species and sizes we have chosen, but in most cases your plants will be small to begin with. Rather than focussing on size though we take care in choosing the appropriate species and their positions, so even though most of the plants will be small initially, they will soon fill out into their spaces as they grow.

How long will the plants take to mature?

This depends on the plant species, watering, and after-care given to them. Most groundcovers will fill out after two years, whilst some shrubs may take 2-5 years. Most trees spend the first few years of their life establishing their root systems before they show signs of growth above ground, so expect your trees to start growing significantly only after 2-3 years.

Do you personally choose the trees for my garden?

Yes. Trees form the backbone to the structure of the garden, so choosing a tree with the correct shape is important. Additionally, we also take care in positioning the tree during planting, so that its structure – such as the way it forks – is positioned correctly.

I have existing cycads, can you incorporate them in the new design?

Yes. Please note however that we cannot, by law, move cycads without the necessary permits. To obtain permits for your cycads please contact the Cycad Society:
http://www.cycadsociety.org/

I need an instant garden for a wedding/function, can you help?

Yes, but expect the costs to be significantly higher than normal. Installing an instant garden requires purchasing the most established plants available, and/or overplanting them for effect. If they are overplanted then they will have to be thinned out at a later date, which is a waste of plant material. Instant gardens are possible but are best done on a small scale where we can use annuals, perennials, and instant hedges. Otherwise we recommend planting your garden with a long-term goal in mind.

I have small children/pets, can you avoid using poisonous plants?

Yes, we will take this into account and choose non-toxic plants.

I do not want plants that drop thorns.

That is fine, there are a few species (most notably some of the Acacias), that have a tendency to drop thorns. Keep in mind though that some species produce many thorns initially – as a protective barrier against browsing animals – but then lose some of their ‘thorniness’ as they mature.

I do not like spiky-looking plants, can you design accordingly?

Yes, we can choose species that have softer foliage. We do however try to create wildlife-friendly spaces, and some spiky-looking plants are much loved by insects and birds for their food and nesting sites. With every garden we try to find a happy medium for both you and the local wildlife!

I prefer plants with white/purple/pink flowers, can you design accordingly?

Yes, we can. In fact, South Africa is home to a vast variety of indigenous plants that fit this colour scheme.

I do not want plants with messy fruit?

That is fine, we’ll choose species or specimens that do not drop fruit, e.g. we’ll use a male Harpephyllum caffrum (Wild Plum) instead of a female, which bears the fruit.

I want an evergreen tree for screening, can you design accordingly?

Yes, we can, and we’ll go through the tree options with you. Keep in mind though that all trees lose their leaves, and some evergreen species are some of the messiest trees of all! Additionally, some semi-deciduous or even fully deciduous species provide excellent screening throughout the year, because whilst they may lose their leaves in winter, they may also be laden with seeds pods at this time – Vachellia (Acacia) galpinii (Monkey Thorn) is a good example of this. We’ll go through the pros and cons of each species with you.

 

Post-installation questions

 


Will my garden be difficult to maintain?

Most indigenous gardens require minimal care, as the plants are hardy and waterwise, and resistant to disease. Initially though you will need to ensure that your new garden is watered regularly (at least 2-4 weeks after installation), that weeds are removed, and that your trees are staked correctly. After installation we’ll provide you with instructions on how to maintain your garden, including weeding, pruning, and watering cycles, and for high-maintenance areas such as lawns, water features and ponds we’ll provide further details on how to maintain these. We also provide a seasonal maintenance service to help ensure your garden remains healthy and continues to flourish.

Can you train my gardener to maintain the garden?

Yes, it is always a pleasure to have gardeners who are willing to learn how to maintain our gardens. We can either get your gardener involved during the installation process, or train them on the last days of the project.

Will I have to remove weeds after installation?

Yes. Because we are enriching your soil with compost and fertiliser, and creating new beds or altering old ones, you will find additional weed growth after your garden has been completed. This is especially common where we have removed lawn, as the lawn seeds remain in the soil and germinate after installation. Over time your ground covers will crowd out the weeds, but initially you will need to spend time weeding your garden.

Must I turn my soil?

No. We use mulch to cover the open surface areas of your new garden, which helps protect the soil and keep it moist. By keeping your soil moist (but not water-logged), you increase the growth of micro-organisms, which help break down dead plant material which in turn feeds your plants. Turning the soil interferes with this process by exposing these micro-organisms to heat, which kills them and slowly degrades the quality of your soil.

Will my garden be pest-free?

We use indigenous plant material which attracts natural predators which keep the pest numbers under control. In exceptional cases where intervention is required, we will recommend appropriate methods, with a preference for organic products which will not have a negative impact on the environment.

How often will I need to water my garden?

This depends on the plant zones and micro-climate(s) within your garden, which we’ll advise on after installation. Initially you will need to water your garden every day for 2-4 weeks, and thereafter we’ll provide a detailed watering schedule. As a rough guide though you will require 25mm per week in summer for lawn areas, and 5-15mm per week for established indigenous plants. If we have installed an irrigation system, we will set up the watering cycle accordingly.

 

 

 

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