11:15 Friday 10 May 2013

Cowboy gardeners use photoshop to create portfolio

Written byReporter

It’s not just models who are airbrushed to perfection.

The Malvern Spring Gardening Show has discovered that rogue gardeners are turning to Photo Shop these days too.

“We’ve heard of people being shown computer-enhanced images of gardens that a tradesmen claims to be his.

"Some were completely reworked, bearing no resemblance to the original job whilst others were the work of professional landscape architects downloaded from the internet and nothing to do with them” said Sharon Gilbert, communications manager for the Show.

Cowboy gardeners are taking people up the garden path
Cowboy gardeners are taking people up the garden path


The internet and the recession are seen as the main culprits for the increase in door-to-door gardeners.

But, as well as the potential to be bogus, more worryingly is that many can employ aggressive tactics.

According to Trading Standards Officer Mark Strain of Worcestershire Regulatory Services, the number of complaints they receive about gardening services and home improvement work is escalating and they received over 1K such complaints in the last year alone.

One Worcestershire resident received a number of unsolicited calls about garden maintenance and, despite being clearly told that his services were not required, the tradesman became aggressive and continued to call in an attempt to badger the householder into submitting to his demands for work.

Mark makes these recommendations before hiring someone: "Make sure you have the person’s name, address and contact details before they start so you can track them down if anything goes wrong.

"Ascertain that they have insurance and, once you’ve agreed to a job, it’s a legal requirement to include a cancellation notice allowing a 7 day cooling off period.

"This stops more vulnerable people being bullied into agreeing to work they don’t want or need.”

Professional gardener of 35 years, James Hyde, will be offering people advice as part of the Malvern Spring Gardening Show’s ‘Landscaping Live’ workshops, especially on what to look out for when hiring a landscaper.

Commenting on the problem, he said: “The internet and mobile phones have impacted on the speed people can advertise to spread the word about their work, and have also made it easier for customers to get hold of ‘gardeners’.

"I’ve seen examples of shoddy workmanship throughout the UK which, to the professionally-trained eye, is obvious.

"And, whilst appearance is important, poor workmanship can damage plants and lawns, ending up costing people more in the long term”.

Some advice on how to spot rogue gardeners:

Where possible, find a professional via personal recommendation.

Visit gardens they have worked on and talk to the owner.

Get three separate, written quotes – these should not be charged for nor imply any obligation to commit to work.

Be specific in your remit for the work – does it require specialist knowledge e.g. tree cutting or more general maintenance.

Write a written brief if necessary so that your gardener does not add jobs along the way, increasing the cost.

Know your garden and what lies beneath – no gardener, however well qualified, has x-ray eyes.

Water pipes, mains supplies and even rubble can all cause delays and add to costs.

Consider using someone with professional qualifications – this does not necessarily mean more expense.

The Association of Professional Landscapers which concentrates on private gardens (landscaper.org.uk), has a Government-endorsed Trust Mark.

The British Association of Landscape Industries deals with more commercial work (www.bali.co.uk). Both vet contractors by checking referees and will arbitrate in the event of a dispute.

However, many smaller contractors are not members because of the time and cost involved in becoming a member.

The Arboricultural Association (trees.org.uk) is the governing body of tree surgeons.

Again, the contractors pay an annual fee (having been rigorously vetted) and the Association has a disputes resolution service.

Cheapest does not always mean the best - landscaping can increase the value of your home, over-and-above the cost of the landscaping itself.

Check out websites – those that are professional looking and better designed usually reflect someone who’s in the business long term and takes a pride in their work.

Factor in the British weather to add delays to a project.

Be on the watch for inconsiderate landscapers who disturb the neighbours by working unsocial hours.

Be wary of landscapers who use contracts with all sorts of clauses that involve additional charges. Your costs will just keep growing.

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