Wednesday, September 12, 2012

do it yourself or hire a landscaper?

Do you do it yourself or do you hire a landscaper? That was the question Albert and I have tussled back and forth with since the completion of our mid-century modern bathroom remodel back in May. Since the finish of the job we have been staring at this:

remodel addition mid-century modern
Strip of land at the back of the house created by the remodel
Worse yet, having the back of the house be a construction site for five months started a slippery slope of us treating the back of the house like a construction site.

yard mid-century modern
Lumbar and wine barrels left over from remodel. Shed, tools, blah blah blah.

Honestly, we debated endlessly what to do with this little strip of land. And how much to spend. I even wrote a post about different possibilities for our mid-century modern landscape problems. After much thought and internet searches, this particular look became my inspiration:

Pavers and a pot were definitely in. But, we were pretty dead set against anything as green as the above lush design. Drought tolerant plants are our mantra, since we
  1. Live in Southern California (a desert sustained by the Colorado River)
  2. Do not like have time to do yard work.
Something maybe like this below, with decomposed granite and less cactus, more succulents:

decomposed granite path
Decomposed granite path found on Pinterest
We had a general idea of what we wanted, including needing to repair the sprinklers and the lights; both were trashed by the construction. But now who does it? We did some quick calculations. Albert said he could bang this out in about one to two (Rebecca revision: three to five) weekends. And he would need Alex to help him. And maybe a few day laborers picked up in Costa Mesa. And a big trip to Larry's Building Materials. And Home Depot and Lowe's and Armstrong's, maybe Roger's. And I would probably have to help.


Both of us were exhausted just thinking about it. So I started to consider landscapers. Albert thought that it was a ridiculous waste of money. In his defense, he has done a lot of great things to the yard and is perfectly capable--so I saw his point. But I was still convinced we should investigate landscapers. I didn't want to use our usual gardener for reasons previously stated and began to ask around for referrals. After a search of about 2 hours (guy in office next to me has a brother who is a landscaper), I was in business. 

We met with said landscaper who, after a few weeks emailed me a design with custom poured pavers, decomposed granite wrapping around both sides of the house, lots of vegetation, my dream come true and $$$.

landscape design mid-century modern home 1
Original Landscape Design
Albert was basically in the "hell no we won't go" camp. So I talked to the landscaper again, gave him our real budget and asked what he could do.

This design came back:

landscape design mid-century modern home 2
Revised design to fit budget

And I talked to Albert again. He reluctantly agreed even though the price is about two times what Albert thinks he can do it for. The logic for using a landscaper:
  1. Landscaper gets discounts on all items including hardscape, rocks, plants, lighting and sprinklers which helps fund using the landscaper (complicated logic but undeniably sound)
  2. Landscaper has better resources (places to buy things other than Larry's and Home Depot)
  3. Landscaper has a broader knowledge of plant material than we do and see #2
  4. Landscaper is faster by like 7X and has trained labor 
  5. Professional design in one section of the yard can be copied for other sections of the yard.
Yay! Luckily the landscaper had a sudden business boom during the summer and we got pushed into September. Which gave me more time to save my pennies.

Finally this Monday was yard day! The landscaper is moving lightening fast, and the job may actually be done by Saturday. A tornado of yard happiness. I know there is much value in elbow grease and pain and suffering but instant gratification can be such fun. I promise we'll do the rest ourselves.

There is construction equipment and debris all over the yard. I am so happy.

construction equipment landscaping project
It takes a lot of stuff to do a  10 foot by 67 foot strip of land, apparently.

Gravel and rock removed from our yard. We are going to fill in the annoying planters with decomposed granite as a holding strategy until we can put in a new patio (someday maybe).

landscape equipment

Just a little tease. Expect the reveal post less than a week (woot).

The lights are from a local company, Corona Lighting Inc.

The giant pot, which will bubble away (things in this photo may appear bigger than than they are).
From West Coast Pottery (supplier to Roger's) trades only.

The landscaper sent me on my own to pick out the pot. He was a little shocked at the size selected. But, I am going to be looking down at it from the bathroom window. Impact baby.

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  1. And I thank you again for letting me be the recipient of the remnants of the previous iteration. Composter is already in use.

    1. Oh you are ever so welcome Mrs. Galarza. We plan to partake of your garden wares at harvest.

  2. For major landscaping jobs, I've used a professional and have always been glad I did. I think you made the wise choice, because there is much to be said for their having a better knowledge of plants than the rest of us do. I can't wait for the reveal. I know it will be gorgeous.

    1. Thank you Dana. I rest my case. Mid2Mod has spoken.

  3. Wow! What a great post and what a wonderful thing to be doing! I would love to use a landscaper - how fabulous! I can't wait to see the reveal!

    Funny what you said about the desert and the Colorado River. I went to Phoenix for the first time last month - VERY different terrain than what I am used to. So of course, the landscaping is very different than what we use here in the East - lots of rocks.

    1. Hi Stacey! We have never ever used a landscaper. They money is challenging. This time was different because we couldn't quite figure out what to do and nobody had time to take care of it. Plus we had set aside a small budget from the bathroom remodel project. -- Anyway, it is wrapping up in the next day or two. Everytime I go out and look at it I am thrilled. The lights came on last night. The back ten feet of our yard are now the most beautiful. Ironically. We hope to copycat the design throughout the yard. We'll see how we do. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Back yard looks like it is shaping up nicely. As to landscapers knowing what kind of plants to use, maybe yes, maybe no. Sometimes they go for instant impact without a thought about future problems. I'm thinking of three ficus benjaminas planted next to our driveway and years later redoing our driveway because the ficus roots created big cracks..

    1. Ah, the ficus trees. I didn't realize they were put in by a landscaper. You make a really good point. This time though, it is drought tolerant. Should be fine We will use our typical method of Darwin gardening and see who survives.

  5. Hi Rebecca...I just stumbled upon your blog looking for some landscaping ideas. I want to get rid of my lawn and have NO idea what to do with the space. I know this was a while back, but I am desperately seeking a landscaper in the socal area (I think you're really close to me because I know ALL the aforementioned retail). Is there ANY way you could share the name of the company who worked magic with you?


    1. Please email me and I can absolutely share! rebecca at


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