Hiring a Landscape Contractor? Here’s What to Look For
August 20, 2023
Text by Kaitlin Madden
If you’re about to undertake a big landscaping project, you have done your research – looked up websites, testimonials, and photos of contractor’s work. You probably have a few major goals. You’ll want the project to look good, you’ll want it to improve how you use your outdoor space, and you’ll want your landscape to thrive for years to come. There’s also a good chance you’ll want the whole thing done before summer.
Outstanding Project Management is a Must
“Typically, clients have a timeline when they come to us. Whether it’s a move-in date, a graduation party, or the 4th of July, the project comes with a target date for completion,” says Julie Bergeron, landscape general manager at Onyx Corp, a residential landscape construction firm in Acton, Massachusetts, that has specialized in managing and maintaining complex, high-end landscaping projects for more than thirty years. “Because we’re able to manage projects start-to-finish, there are a lot of delays in coordination that we can prevent in order to meet timelines.”
While the company’s efficient workflow helps the team stay on track, it also helps them manage intricate details, like sourcing reclaimed cobblestone for the driveway of a historic home or building a pool with a spa that looks like it was built into a rock outcropping.
And though complexity may be its specialty, every facet of the Onyx business is designed to simplify the landscape design experience for its clients.
Here’s how the company uses its full-service approach to create beautiful, thriving landscapes that last a lifetime.
A Diverse Team of Landscape Design and Build Experts on Staff
A typical landscape project can require dozens of specialists, from a civil engineer to an excavator to a mason to a certified arborist.
Instead of relying on subcontractors to complete various jobs, Onyx has a range of these specialists on staff. In addition to landscape construction, the company has three other divisions: Excavation, Landscape Maintenance and Sand+Gravel that strengthen their abilities in the industry.
Employing such a broad staff in-house means that Onyx doesn’t have to wait months for booked-up surveyors or busy excavation companies.
“We know the sequence of the work, and we have the team to do it,” says Bergeron. “We know everyone’s schedule and the lead times, so we can queue up the next stage of the project, which keeps things moving.”
Aside from speeding up timelines, having such a range of staff also helps with troubleshooting and creative problem-solving, says Bergeron.
“One of the things that our company strives for is finding people with complementary backgrounds. I may be good at one thing but weaker somewhere else, while another member of the team has the opposite strengths and weaknesses,” says Bergeron. “We’ve tried to build a team that is very strong as a whole.”
The Onyx staff’s education and professional backgrounds include everything from landscape architecture to biology to engineering and construction management.
“We’re all relevant to the field, but we’re able to build off one another,” Bergeron explains.
Strong Industry Relationships
Despite its diverse staff, certain projects still require outside specialists.
For these cases, Onyx’s dedicated project management team oversees subcontractors, like pool installers and electricians, and works hand in hand with the project’s landscape architect. (While many at the Onyx team have a background in landscape architecture, Bergeron says the company stopped handling the design aspect of the business years ago in order to fully focus on execution and management.)
Having solid relationships with subcontractors and other industry pros is a big benefit to clients. For one, it ensures that work is being done by reliable, qualified professionals who share the same standards. It also allows for the type of collaboration that’s often required for large, complex landscaping jobs.
“Our relationships are a big part of our team approach,” says Bergeron. “We work with some of the most talented and skilled landscape architects in the industry. But even with the best-laid plans, hurdles still arise that require collaboration with the architects and engineers to ensure the project outcome still meets the design intent.”
Finally, leveraging industry relationships helps Onyx adhere to the all-important timeline.
“For example, a lot of the pool companies are working a year or two out. But we can call the pool company, and say, ‘Hey, if we dig the hole, can we fast-track this’ And because we have such a close relationship, we can work together to make it happen.”
Hire a Landscape Contractor that will Maintain your Landscape
The relationship continues…
When it comes to landscape projects, reaching the finish line is just the first step. The landscape then needs to be maintained so it can thrive.
While some landscape contractors only focus on installation or maintenance, Onyx offers both. “There’s a gray area if another company comes in, and they’re maintaining the yard, and the plants start to struggle or the landscaping isn’t doing well, because then who owns it?” Bergeron says. “If we’re maintaining it and a stair starts to deteriorate, we know how it was built, and we know how to repair it. We stand behind our work.”
Once the landscape installation is complete, a member of the Onyx maintenance team does a walk-through with the client to assess the property and then puts together a proposal for care. Generally, the team is doing everything from weekly mowing and weeding to spring and fall cleanups to ornamental pruning, fine gardening, and seasonal décor.
Such regular contact with the property ensures the team can spot and treat any signs of trouble, too. “We keep an eye out for things like disease and insects or critter damage and then treat those things. We are more than just a maintenance company. We’re the eyes keeping watch over your property” Bergeron says.
Having a team that’s invested in and familiar with the property also offers clients peace of mind. “We had a big storm, and a client had a huge tree fall from a lightning strike on the fence we had just installed,” Bergeron remembers. “At the same time, the lightning strike took out their whole lighting and irrigation system. So rather than the client trying to figure out how to handle everything, they called us. We called the tree company to remove the tree and the fence company to repair the fence. We brought out an electrician and our guys to fix the lighting, and we had the irrigation company repair the irrigation system. We handled it all and, in the end, the client had to make just one call.”
It’s the perfect example of the type of simplicity and ease that has put Onyx on the map.