Portland Oregon Design and Tree Expert in the Forest

Designers can save or bust garden budgets

Copyright 2006 - 2011 - Mario D. Vaden

Does the difference between $2,500 and $10,000 matter to you for just one plant on a design plan? People at every financial level often care. It is very possible for designers to tax your yard budget with merely one kind of plant, because plans come with a list including names and sizes and quantities of plant material. There can be a large difference in prices when comparing sizes. Take Emerald Arborvitae for example. In 2005, one nursery listed those 6' tall @ $25 per plant. The same nursery sold the 7' tall @ $38. Then 8' @ $84 per plant. And 10' tall @ $157. Finally 12' size @ $225 each.

If you can get by with a 6 foot hedge @ only $25 per plant and if that hedge will have 100 arborvitae, it will cost $2500 to pay for all 100 plants. But suppose a designer writes 8' in the plant list. Now how much will that 100 plant row cost? Roughly $100 per plant, the average between the 8' and 12' size. The final row cost would be $10,000. An increase of $7500'. If a designer writes 12', the cost could reach $22,500.

That is just the plant material cost: not installation and delivery. There is more. One worker can handle a 6 ft. tall arborvitae, and the planting hole is not large. But an 8 ft. tall arborvitae requires 2 or 3 workers and each hole is a small crater. Labor can triple. A bigger ball displaces more soil and can increase fees to haul away excess fill.

Many homeowners have no awareness of this. If 3 contractors bid on a design plan with excessively large plants specified, they may not comment. That's not what they are expected to do. That was the designer's job. Installers provide estimates, and one will be hired. The homeowner will see 3 bids that resemble one another, and may not suspect anything unusual.

This does not imply that designers are typically ignorant. Many designers and architects handle this aspect of design very well. And the better design professionals should welcome your questions to test the water regarding this aspect.