Indigenous landscaping & garden design
in Johannesburg & Pretoria, South Africa

Hiring a landscaper VS DIY

  • Hiring a landscaper VS DIY

    At some point this question will arise for homeowners: hire a professional, or do it yourself? Below is our advice on when to DIY, and when to hire a landscaper for your garden project

    There is one question every homeowner has probably asked themselves at some point: should we hire a professional to do this project, or should we do it ourselves? For the most part the answer depends on the skill/experience required to do the work, the amount of labour required, and the available budget. Changing lightbulbs, fixing cupboard fittings, or installing a new product from a DIY store are usually all DIY projects. But when it comes to larger projects like plastering or painting walls, installing windows, doors or cupboards, or tiling a floor, most homeowners will engage professional help. And for projects that involve electrical work it is of course best to hire a qualified electrician, since there might be multiple factors that are not obvious to the average homeowner, but which are important for safety and compliance.

    When it comes to hiring professional help, there are a number of ways to approach it. For painting a wall, one could find a reliable painter and hire that person directly, in which case the homeowner becomes the 'project manager'. For more complicated work, such as installing a security system, the homeowner might engage a small company specialising in that particular system, in which case the company will likely bring a small team and their own project manager (usually the owner) to run the project. Larger projects, such as major construction work - perhaps requiring civil engineering - might require a larger company.

    So, there will always be different skills/experience/labour requirements depending on the scope of the project. And when it comes to gardens and landscaping, the same is true. Projects such as creating a small vegetable garden, planting some shrubs or trees, or potting up plants, are usually DIY projects. Apart from the cost saving, it can be rewarding knowing your time and effort has gone into your new vegetable garden. And of course, there is the excitement of wandering through your local garden centre on a Saturday morning selecting your plants and materials from the endless options available - it's surely more exciting than wandering through a mall!

    Modular vertical gardens such as this are sold as DIY kits and can be fun DIY projects

    But when it comes to larger projects, such as renovating an entire garden, the homeowner may start wondering whether they should be hiring professional help. Like any project, landscaping comes with its own factors and nuances that are important to get right, so depending on the scale of the project, hiring a landscaper might be worth your while. Design, soil preparation, plant selection and placement, not to mention all the hardscaping decisions that need to be taken into account are important factors to consider, and shortcuts early on during a landscaping project can be costly later.

    It's also worth mentioning that unfortunately many people can attest to having hired professional help and it still went wrong, or at least wasn't done to their satisfaction. The best advice is to do your homework on the professional you intend to hire, speak to their references, have a look at their Facebook page or website, and read their reviews. And then, if possible, start small or split the project into manageable phases. A large garden doesn't need to be done in one go, and once a professional has started working you will get a sense of how they work and the quality of their work, before you spend any more money on them.

    Below is our opinion on when you should DIY and when you should consider engaging a landscaper.

    When to DIY:

    • Small vegetable garden

      Projects such as a small vegetable garden, are ideal DIY projects. The multitude of vegetable garden planters and accessories at a garden centre makes this a rewarding project, not just for you but also family and friends. You can select the styles and colours you want, and perhaps add some new/innovative DIY products - like a mini-irrigation system. And then of course there are all the vegetable varieties available in trays or in seed packs - the options here are almost limitless.

    • A small garden for fun or experimentation

      Designing your own small garden is fun and rewarding, and allows you to experiment without spending too much money. Start by gathering ideas from books, magazines or the internet, or even a show garden (*see our note below on this), and then design and install the garden yourself or with the help of your gardener. A small project such as this will also mean you will only have to make a small number of trips to nurseries or other outlets to gather the material you need. Small gardens can also be changed as and when required, perhaps seasonally if you are using annuals, without too much expense.
      *Note that if you are going to use a show garden as your reference keep in mind that show gardens are usually over-planted, often with the plants still in their bags. There is nothing wrong with this if a show garden is your goal, but for an established garden it is best to choose your plant material and quantities based on the plant's full-grown height and width.

    • Planting a few shrubs or trees

      We sometimes get asked by homeowners to assist with purchasing and planting a few shrubs or trees, and we usually refer homeowners to their local nursery. The reason is that some nurseries have their own planting teams, so the homeowner can save costs by going direct to the supplier. Alternatively, one could dig the holes yourself, or with the help of your gardener, ask the nursery to deliver, and plant the trees or shrubs yourself. Planting your own trees or shrubs is rewarding and will help you save costs. Placement, size of the hole, compost and perhaps fertiliser, are of course all important, but these are steps your nursery can help you with. Obviously though if you are planting trees with the intention of upgrading the garden, then hiring a landscaper first is beneficial, as they can plan the exact position of those trees in the context of the new garden.

    • A DIY water feature

      Water features add a new element to your garden, allowing you to add the sound of water to your home, as well as water plants, and perhaps even fish depending on the size of the feature and the quality of the water (circulation/aeration/filtration etc.). Water features in general are higher maintenance; keeping them topped up and clean, and keeping the pump in working order all take time and effort. But if installed and maintained correctly the benefits of a water feature usually outweigh the demands for most homeowners. Most garden centres have water features in different shapes and sizes, and in different materials (e.g. concrete/fibreglass), so again one can visit your local garden centre and choose one that works for you. A bit of labour to dig the hole (depending on the feature), and a bit of plumbing work for the pump, are often all that's needed to get a DIY water feature up and running. And if you are going to install your own water feature, try to choose one that fits the aesthetics of your home, as well as placing it in a location where you will get maximum benefit from it, such as next to a seating area.

    • Lighting

      We sometimes get asked to assist with lighting for a garden - usually with the placement of lights - but unless it is in conjunction with a garden makeover, a lighting upgrade can be managed by yourself and an electrician, or by yourself only if you are using solar lights. Placement of lights, number of lights, and type of lighting is obviously important, but it doesn't necessarily require professional landscaping help. Most landscapers will in any case hire an electrician to install garden lighting for their clients, so if it is only lighting you want you can save costs by working out the position of your lights and contacting an electrician directly. If you want to know how many lights you need for your garden, and where to put them, consider placing candles in glass jars and moving them around your garden at night to see how they look. For accent lighting, place torches beneath your focal trees and hardscaping features. Once you've found the right positions engage an electrician to put cabled lights in, or try DIY solar lights. We should mention that solar garden lights are a low cost option, but we still prefer cabled lights for our clients. Solar garden lights require adequate sunlight to work optimally, which might be fine if you have a very sunny garden, but for gardens that have shaded areas cabled lights are preferred.

      Placement of garden lights can be done with a little bit of practicality and creativity - here a bollard doubles as lighting for a bridge and a dry riverbed, whilst accent lights illuminate the Tree Aloes, enhancing their status as focal points
    • Tree felling

      Felling of large trees isn't a DIY project, but we're mentioning it here because as with lighting, if you're not going to be redoing your garden then tree felling doesn't necessarily require professional landscaping help. A large tree that it is damaging your property, or trees that have died, can be dealt with by going directly to a professional tree felling company, or a professional arborist. These professionals will assess the situation (health of the tree etc.) and advise accordingly. If you are going to be redoing your garden then yes, it would be worthwhile contacting a professional landscaper first and working with them to plan the removal of the tree and subsequent upgrade of the garden.

    When to hire a landscaper:

    • A new garden

      Landscaping a new garden is hard work, especially if the garden is large. How large is a difficult question to answer, and depends on a number of factors. Our smallest gardens are usually around 20-25sqm, whilst our large ones might be a hectare or more. Whatever the size, most clients agree that they couldn't have done it on their own, or at least didn't realise how much work was involved. Design, soil preparation, contouring and drainage, plant placement, plant species, type of lawn, type of edging for the lawn, irrigation (if required), and types of hardscaping materials such as gravel or rocks all play an important role in turning an ordinary garden into a beautiful one. Other factors also play a role: sourcing of plants in bulk at wholesale prices can save you costs, not only for the plants themselves, but driving around trying to find them. And what about the wildlife? As wildlife-friendly landscapers we aim to create wildlife-friendly gardens that attract birds and butterflies, and the multitude of other beneficial insects that might visit a highveld garden. Plant selection in this regard is important, so thinking these things through are important in the design phase.

    • A garden makeover

      As with landscaping a new garden, garden makeovers are just as difficult, and sometimes even more difficult - some existing plants might have sentimental value! Design is an important step for a new garden, but it isn't always possible for an existing garden where the design may already be existing and just needs to be adjusted. In makeovers where the design will remain the same, hiring a landscaper is useful because they will most likely apply their knowledge and experience on the job. Should an existing shrub be removed or cut back? Can existing plants be split and replanted? Is there a drainage problem, or problem with the soil, or a diseased plant - something that wasn't evident in the initial consultation? And what about training your gardener on how to maintain your garden? Not all gardeners know how to maintain an indigenous garden, so having a professional landscaper train them during a makeover can save you years of frustration and costly mistakes. If you are simply trimming shrubs and trees, or doing a general clean-up, then a garden maintenance company should be able to help you. But for a full garden makeover hiring a professional landscaper is worth your while.

    • Lots of hardscaping

      Hardscaping refers to paving, edging, rocks, gravel, water features, and any built structures that form part of your landscape. If you are wanting a lot of hardscaping in your garden - say a firepit/boma, decking, or paving, gravel or rocks, then hiring a professional landscaping team can save you costs. Most landscapers have relationships with hardscaping suppliers, and these relationships come with discounts that they can pass on to you. Additionally, hiring a landscaper to manage the hardscaping quantities will ensure that you are not left with extra materials at the end of a project, such as too many bricks or too much gravel. These items can be used by the landscaper for their next projects, but if you have purchased them, you might be stuck with extra/unwanted stock for years to come. As with plants though, a major benefit of using a landscaper for your hardscaping is their knowledge of the industry: the latest trends, latest products, which suppliers have quality products and materials. We often bring samples of our supplier products for our customers to choose, from suppliers we know and trust, and this saves the client time and money and results in a better outcome for the project.

    • A natural pond/water feature

      As with lighting and tree felling, this is one of those 'grey areas': do you need a landscaper for your new water feature, or should you contact a pond/water feature expert? The answer is 'it depends'. If the water feature is part of your new home construction - e.g. it adjoins the house, then most likely your architect can design it and engage the builder or a water feature professional to install it. If, however, you are planning a new pond/water feature to enhance your garden, then a landscaper can help integrate the design into the garden. A landscaper will look at the water feature in the context of the garden - its shape and size, how it integrates with existing pathways, seating areas and other features, how the water plants (if it is a natural pond) will complement the existing planting in the garden. So a landscaper in this instance will be worth your while. What's more, if it is a natural pond, it will add a new biodiversity hotspot to your garden, allowing you to experiment with a vast variety of water plants and attracting new creatures such as dragonflies, frogs and birds. This is something that should excite every wildlife-friendly landscaper!

    • Irrigation

      We have left this one for last, since - as we have mentioned before - we prefer not to install irrigation for our indigenous gardens. An indigenous garden should mimic nature, and as far as possible rely on rainwater for its water needs. But there are scenarios where irrigation is useful, or even vital, such as newly planted gardens, vegetable gardens, herb gardens and orchards, rose beds, or large lawn areas that you want to keep lush and green.

      If you do want irrigation for your garden, keep these important points in mind: Firstly, less is more; i.e. underwatering is better for your garden than overwatering. And secondly, it's worth paying that little bit extra to have your irrigation system installed correctly. There is nothing more annoying than an irrigation system that constantly leaks or the electrics give trouble, so quality materials and a well-planned installation are important.

      In terms of whether you should hire a landscaper for your irrigation system as opposed to an irrigation-only company, that would depend on where the irrigation is to be installed and what your plans are for the garden. If you are installing it for a vegetable garden, or for existing lawn areas that you are not going to change, then an irrigation-only company is fine. If, however, you are looking at upgrading your garden, and are therefore installing the irrigation to cater for the changes, then engaging a landscaper first is preferable. Your new garden - or existing one - might have different planting zones with different water requirements, so a landscaper can factor these areas into an irrigation design and install it accordingly.

    We hope this answers some of your questions regarding DIY vs professional help, but if it doesn't please leave your comments in the comments section below.

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  • Testimonials

    • Eric & Amelia Kleijn, ParktownEric & Amelia Kleijn, Parktown

      We would like to place on record our sincere thanks and gratitude for the outstanding service we received from Grounded Landscaping. The enthusiasm displayed by all your staff was a delight. It was so refreshing to work with knowledgeable people who clearly love what they do; and more importantly, are very good at what they do.

      We have no hesitation in recommending Grounded Landscaping. They genuinely care about their work and take great pride in it. And it shows! May they grow from strength to strength!

      All good wishes,

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    • Kathy & Peter Strehler, Wilro ParkKathy & Peter Strehler, Wilro Park

      Once again thanks so much for all your hard work last week on our garden makeover. Your layout, plant selection and advice are appreciated and especially thanks for just being the special person you are. We are thrilled with the result and can’t wait to watch everything grow up and grow tall and lush.

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    • Penny Allen, BroadacresPenny Allen, Broadacres

      Having had Glenice create a garden from scratch for my daughter to helping me with my garden on several occasions I cannot speak highly enough of her and her team. Glenice has a real understanding and love for the work she does and it SHOWS !! She has taught me a lot which adds to the overall appreciation of one’s unique space and opens one’s eyes to little aspects of nature that previously were not in one’s awareness. We need more of her in our world. She is an asset to nature.

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    • Julia Blitz, MooikloofJulia Blitz, Mooikloof

      It is no surprise that this is an award winning company. It has been an absolute pleasure doing business with them as well as watching them work on my garden landscaping and planting. This is a professional team that works together, is passionate about the work that they do, and understands indigenous ecology at a deep systems level. I look forward to watching my new bushveld garden establish itself - the birds and butterflies are already appreciating it!
      I highly recommend this company and look forward to their maintenance visits over the forthcoming years.

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    • Charmaine Lack, WendywoodCharmaine Lack, Wendywood

      Glenice, Ryan and the team are absolutely superb! They are professional, efficient and always provide excellent service! My garden is now a safe haven because of them! Thank you so much Glenice, Ryan and the team!

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    • Alex Dohm, FerndaleAlex Dohm, Ferndale

      Thank you to Ryan and his team for our garden makeover! From the word go, Ryan was professional, punctual and so easy to work with. He always made sure to take our ideas and requests on board while adding his knowledge, creativity and experience to ensure a superb end result. Our questions were always answered promptly and advice was always just an email away. Ryan constantly supervised his team during the project and delivered exactly what was promised. We would highly recommend Grounded Landscaping.

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    • Leila Akahloun, AthollLeila Akahloun, Atholl

      Ryan and Glenice are experts at indigenous gardens. They provide designs and costings up front and are great thought partners on garden design. They manage a highly professional crew and they were quick , cost effective and efficient. I highly recommend their services. Top notch professionals!

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    • Andrew & Melanie, WoodmeadAndrew & Melanie, Woodmead

      We have done extensive renovating and building in the past and I can honestly say that Grounded Landscaping provided us with by far the most professional and knowledgeable service yet. It’s easily apparent that Ryan and Glenice are passionate about what they do and this translates into a beautiful and considered final product. We love our garden renovation and the fire pit. The team working with Ryan was courteous, polite and hardworking. Ryan was on site all the time (unheard of with most jobs) and was always obliging and happy to help and give advice. This is a wonderful group of people who we couldn’t recommend more highly.

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    • Barbara Devine, BlairgowrieBarbara Devine, Blairgowrie

      I found Grounded Landscaping through Google and liked what they were offering. I called, and they were very professional and efficient. Ryan came to quote and sent the design within 24 hours and the I received the quote within a week. I thought the price quoted was very reasonable. The work on the garden commenced as per agreed date and I am very happy with the final garden. Ryan kept me updated daily and the work carried out was professional and efficient, whilst being friendly and helpful. Once the garden was completed, Ryan and Glenice came to take me through the care of the plants and presented me with a book on indigenous plants which was a really nice touch. The small things make all the difference. A thoroughly enjoyable experience and I am very happy with the outcome and would definitely recommend Grounded Landscaping.

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    • Janice Walker, FairlandJanice Walker, Fairland

      Working with Grounded Landscaping was just a wonderful experience all round. My beautiful indigenous garden is just over a year old and gives me daily joy. Ditching the lawn was the best decision I ever made! Grounded Landscaping still provides support, as and when I need it. Glenice is the consummate professional with oodles of knowledge and experience. I thoroughly recommend this company

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    • Mike & Irina, BryanstonMike & Irina, Bryanston

      We found Grounded Landscaping on the internet and we were really satisfied with service provided from the initial planning consultation, through to site work and after sale services. The whole team was professional, hard working and extremely reliable. Ryan Ebedes kept us informed of the progress and any difficulties were dealt with ensuring minimum delay to the project. The whole project was implemented in an efficient way, with outstanding quality, stuck to the budget and schedule outlined from the beginning. As we were away from home, the after sale services provided by the team were really appreciated. We can definitely recommend your services in future to our friends and wish you much success with the business!

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    • Gordon & Sue Morrison, The Bush House, Madikwe Game ReserveGordon & Sue Morrison, The Bush House, Madikwe Game Reserve

      Glenice, Ryan and the team from Grounded Landscaping have been an absolute pleasure to work with from start to finish. Bearing in mind we are in the middle of a game reserve and so far away from Johannesburg, the planning and execution has been exemplary. In the seven days they were with us Glenice and Ryan were completely hands on, always available and totally involved with this large project. Everyone on the team was completely professional and friendly and it was a wonderful way for our staff and ourselves to learn so much with this hands on approach. Nothing was too much trouble and it was a project that had a “feel good“ effect. Our guests have been delighted with the result and we are doubly thrilled that due to this project we are saving 22 500 litres of water a week. Sincere thanks.

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    • Candi Smith, LonehillCandi Smith, Lonehill

      It has been an honour to meet Glenice, Ryan and the Grounded Landscaping team who have completely transformed my garden into the most joyful and serene space with beauty and interest around every corner. Glenice has an inspirational passion and knowledge for gardens, wildlife and the environment and working with Ryan and the team, provided a very professional end to service from the garden design and installation of plants, hard landscaping, lights, veggie garden and a water feature. Glenice and Ryan share their vast knowledge and experience to educate people on the plants, animals and insects that share and enjoy the garden, with interesting and relevant advice on how to care for it. This was more than a project; it has been a fascinating and exciting experience. I highly recommend Grounded Landscaping to anyone looking to transform their home and environment.

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    • Keith Coyne, Property ConsultantKeith Coyne, Property Consultant

      I think this should be used as a show garden to other residents with practical use of space by planting mainly indigenous species that will not get too big for the space and the limited use of exotic species intermixed with good herbs and veggies.

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    • Derek Tedder, SandownDerek Tedder, Sandown

      I was very lucky to come across Grounded landscaping; it was an absolute pleasure to deal with people where the client comes first! From the first discussion to the finishing off, the service was great and nothing was too much. The knowledge and suggestions were first class and the results speak for themselves, very happy ????

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    • Christelle Dunn, Highlands NorthChristelle Dunn, Highlands North

      Glenice really listened to our specific needs for the garden. We wanted a simple, low-maintenance garden with indigenous plants and a French look. Glenice delivered on all our requirements! She carefully considered all aspects of the garden and gave us regular feedback during the installation process. She also left us with a maintenance plan. Very professional service!

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    • Vida Opperman, EdenburgVida Opperman, Edenburg

      Ryan, Glenice and team turned my messy overgrown hell scape into a grasslands oasis. Thank you for giving a bit of nature in the middle of Sandton...

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    • Kimon & Shernon Triantafillou, BedfordviewKimon & Shernon Triantafillou, Bedfordview

      The entire process from initial consultation through to installation and post sales was excellent! Very professional and would highly recommend Grounded Landscaping.

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    • Carel Robinson, RandburgCarel Robinson, Randburg

      Excellent client service. Glenice is focused to deliver a complete service to her clients. Attention to small details was done to the T.

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    • Natalie Skoutellas, BedfordviewNatalie Skoutellas, Bedfordview

      From the moment I contacted Grounded Landscaping I received professional yet personal service from Glenice. Upon our first meeting I knew I could trust Glenice to give me the look & feel I wanted & I was right. Glenice goes the extra mile to make sure you’re happy. When she saw I had small kids eager to play outside, she pushed her team to work faster. We ended up needing extra work done like piping, drainage & irrigation & yet the job was completed before the time she initially quoted us on.
      Thank you guys so much. You’re an amazing team. My garden looks awesome.

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    • Steven Green, GreenstoneSteven Green, Greenstone

      I was truly blown away by the service, in my experience there are very few companies now days that do as they say, not only was the job completed earlier than estimated but little things such as sourcing paint for the walling and replacing broken walkway steps from the original manufacturer were sourced and delivered within a few hours. I was expecting to have to do it myself. I can definitely recommend this company to anyone for all landscaping requirements, by far the best service provider I have dealt with in a very long time. Thank you Ryan and Glenice it was a pleasure working with you!

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    • Lindy-Ann & John CunhaLindy-Ann & John Cunha

      For anyone looking to redo their garden and entertainment area, I can’t recommend Grounded Landscaping enough. They are an award-winning Johannesburg based landscaping company, headed up by Glenice Ebedes. They specialise in indigenous gardens, and focus on quality and attention to detail.

      Glenice and her partner Ryan make the most amazing team. They are so kind and gentle but fiercely professional too. They are uber efficient and super talented. Last year we briefed Glenice to design a beautiful but low maintenance garden for us, and right off the bat, we were impressed.

      I have never had a garden before and my green thumb is more a consequence of painting than gardening, so I really didn’t know where to start. Our designs were presented as professional layout renderings with full descriptions and explanations for the flowers chosen and trees selected. So much thought went into what plants would go where and why.

      Fast forward 6 months and our little Eden has really begun to take hold and flourish. I am so very proud of our beautiful garden and spend as much time in it as humanly possible. It has been perfectly designed as low maintenance as requested and as Glenice put it so perfectly, “this garden has been created for the birds, bees and butterflies” and I couldn’t be happier.

      *excerpt from https://itsacolourfulworld.com/2019/03/18/grounded-landscaping-gauteng/

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    • Kamanie Moodley, MidrandKamanie Moodley, Midrand

      From day one..from the initial meeting with Glenice, to the design stage and finally the installation; the entire process was hassle free and smooth sailing. It's exactly what I wanted - a hands on person who took charge at every stage to ensure her team were on track and keeping to design needs.

      Glenice was on site the entire time, keeping to deadlines; and always on time which is so unusual in this line of work. Her hands on approach and eagle's eye for attention to detail gave me alot of confidence. I have learnt so much from Glenice, in terms of what works for a garden and she has challenged my thinking on a few topics. I love her passion for indigenous planting as well as creating a space that attracts wildlife. I put in my first sisal nesting log last week; and waiting patiently now for barbets to occupy the nest. Thanks to Glenice for that! Next is the bee hotel!

      Ryan, her husband helped us with advice on the irrigation system so we have more efficient watering.
      They are a perfect team, listening attentively to the client's needs and patiently giving advise.

      Phase 1 of my garden is done. Now I can't wait for Phase 2 to begin!

      I highly recommend Grounded Landscaping to transform your garden into a haven. God knows, we all need something to revive our spirits during this Lockdown.

      Read More
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  • About us

    Grounded Landscaping is an award-winning landscaping company specialising in indigenous, wildlife-friendly gardens. We are based in the Cradle of Humankind, a world heritage site and part of the grassland biome of Southern Africa. We service most areas of Gauteng, including Johannesburg, Centurion and Pretoria.
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