Recent Review: I had seen some pictures in the SNWA calendar of a yard that I really liked. Later I saw one of the same pictures in the zip code magazine and it identified it as Schilling Horticulture group. I was sold. I called and when I first set up the appointment they said I should do a “field design” since I was really only looking for plants to use. We set an appointment and when Norm came out he sold me on doing a full design as he indicated the entire yard could be done for our budget of 10,000. I will say Norm was excellent. Very personable and really knew what he was talking about. We really liked dealing with him and were fine with the up sell. We had to make another appointment with the designer to do a walk through and relay our ideas. From the beginning, I let everyone know that we already had spent over a year researching what we wanted, how we wanted the yard to look, gathering a list of plants, compiling pictures of example of other yards we liked and had a specific design in mind. The reason we called a landscaper in the first place was that it got overwhelming with all the choices available and I wanted some help on the plants – what would work best where. When we did the design “meet and greet” we walked through the yard and went over what we wanted. Some things we were open to suggestions, others were pretty firm. What I did not like was the designer being negative about our desire to have the fake grass. I don’t care if you don’t like it, it’s my yard and fits in with my lifestyle. I live here – you don’t so keep your negativity to yourself. We continued and gave her pictures of everything we wanted and spent a long time trying to convey the aesthetic we wanted – Desert jungle. The next week they came out to measure the yard. As we had already started on some things and had a good idea on other areas, everything was laid out to account for future items (grass, pergola). It took over an hour and a half so it seemed like they were getting all the true measurements. Four weeks later we met for the design proposal. I was a little surprised by how long the whole process took. We made the initial call in February and did not see the design until the second week of April. When we did our front yard, we got three quotes/designs from three companies (all from Angie’s list) and that whole process took less time. I was really hoping for a lot as I loved the SNWA yard (which turned out to be Norm’s yard) and expressed how we wanted that. What we got was not at all what we wanted. The designer totally discounted all the things we had already put in and the areas we laid out. She then did not give us items we specifically asked for, like an evergreen hedgerow in the back raised beds, instead it was grasses. My husband and I were not happy. And when we expressed this to the designer she was snippy. We were not rude but did say we were disappointed as we were expecting more plants and the fact that she didn’t seem to listen to what we wanted. I knew we were specific in our vision which is why we had dozens of pictures that we went over before the design and walked through the yard with everything we wanted. And it seemed like none of it mattered. Norm was running late but when he arrived, he was able to rectify the situation and make suggestions. The designer pretty much shut down and didn’t even want to come up with alternatives because we didn’t like her design. This collaboration on what plants is what I really wanted in the first place so I liked this. Again, I cannot say enough good things about Norm, I just wish he had a different designer. In a week we had the revised plan which was much closer to our original intent. We still had not seen the prices for any of this. Two weeks later (a total of 2 months from the first on site visit) we finally get the proposal. Yes it made it under our budget but included nothing. We had from the beginning said we would do a lot of work to keep the cost down, but not once did I expect the entire budget to be used for plants, drip and mulch. I’m not paying anyone 10,000 to lay some drip line, plant 40 plants, and shovel mulch. For that much I expected the elevation berms to be included as well as all boulders. I am willing to pay more for quality work as I firmly believe you get what you pay for, however I won’t pay more than I think is fair. And this did not seem reasonable to us. We spent less on our front yard and it included a hand stacked slate wall, decomposed granite path, cedar mulch and nearly as many plants. This was also the highest bid at the time but we felt the cost was justified. To make sure it was just not that we had unrealistic expectations, we looked into true costs. We had purchased 8 cubic yards of cedar mulch before and knew that cost. We had installed drip lines and checked the cost for all the items included. We went to STAR nursery and looked at plant cost. We also asked for a line item break down so we could see better where the money was going but we were told they could not do that. The previous landscaper did a line item breakdown, including profit. I’m ok if you list out $2500 for overhead and profit. I get that you have to make money – it’s your job. I don’t expect to pay the exact same as if I did it myself. But I do want to see where my money is going. In the end we could not justify the cost. Even $2,000 less and we would probably have done it – and that still would have been more than we had spent on the front yard (which had more things to it). We did spend the $750 for the design. If I ever have any plant issues, their company will be the first I call to take care of them as we do trust Norm’s knowledge of plants. Anything that requires the designer I’ll stay away from. As for the backyard, we will be installing all of it ourselves and while using some aspects of the design we paid for, we’ll make it even more like we initially wanted. I think we would have been better off with the initial field design we originally requested and saved everybody some time.