Beware of low-cost, low-service landscaping companies

At first glance landscaping might seem simplistic. But, as anyone who has tried their hand at it knows, it’s a lot more complicated than just picking up a shovel. Unfortunately, unqualified amateurs are luring clients in with rock bottom prices, over promising and then under delivering – all at the expense of one of your property’s most valuable assets – your green space.

Race to the bottom

Amateur landscapers can offer low estimates because they don’t have to pay for the expertise, tools, or education that the pros have. This has created a ‘race to the bottom’ with some companies competing with each other to offer the lowest prices at all costs – sacrificing craftsmanship, customer satisfaction, and even health and safety standards.

This race to the bottom means that if you want a great price on your landscaping, then it is easy to find. But finding the quality you want at that price is a lot harder. When engaging a landscaper, remember the old adage: you get what you pay for.

Gresham’s Law

Another way to view the landscaping market is through Gresham’s law – a monetary principle used by economists. In short, Gresham’s law is usually summed up as “bad money drives out good”. What this refers to is the fact that if there are two forms of money circulating with the same face value, but different commodity values, then the higher value will go out of circulation as people hoard it, while the low value currency will remain in circulation and spread.

For example, in the US and Canada silver coins were in circulation until the 1960s but as the price of silver inflated faster than the coins face value, the government began switching to cheaper metals. For a time, silver coins and non-precious metal coins were both circulating at the same face value. Wise to the switch, the public began hoarding the silver coins, while coins with less ‘real’ value became the norm. The government quickly pulled the silver coins from circulation. Why would the government continue to circulate silver coins, when cheaper metals were worth the same?

What does this have to do with landscaping?

Today there are high quality and low quality landscaping companies out there. They both claim to perform the same service, but have radically different ‘true’ values. Like coins, they are ostensibly similar; they both have the same ‘denominations’ but in reality they have very different true values.

One coin is made of cheap metal, just like amateur landscapers who are inexpensive, uneducated and inexperienced, and the other coin is high quality silver, like the highly educated, experienced and qualified landscapers. Both have the same ‘denomination’ in the sense that they both perform the same service, but the latter has a much higher true value.

How can you tell the difference?

Landscaping isn’t your area of expertise, so how can you differentiate a low-quality landscaping company from a high-quality one? Here are three tell-tale signs:

  1. Experience
    Look for landscaping companies who have been in business for a long time and have retained their customers over this time period. Loyal customers are a sign of a good landscaping company.
  2. Ask for more than a referral
    A list of notable landscape jobs or properties that the landscape company manages may be impressive, but you should drive by and see for yourself how these properties look. Specifically, look at the landscape’s design and the overall health of the green space.
  3. Design services
    An important element to landscaping is the planning phase. Ensure that the landscape company you’re dealing with offers landscape design services.

Unfortunately, more and more landscaping companies are cutting costs, and cut-price landscaping services are spreading. It is more difficult to find an experienced, well-trained landscaper as a result. Low quality knock offs are forcing the real deal out.

Hiring the best may be more expensive when first compared to other companies offering a similar service, but don’t be fooled. The value of the service you get is not the same.


Written by David Lammers

David Lammers is the president of Garden Grove Landscaping. Garden Grove provides Commercial Landscape Management Services across the Golden Horseshoe, GTA and Southwestern Ontario. David may be contacted at or 1-866-996-1099.