Thursday, April 12, 2012

Landscaping Woes

Rough week here at the new and improved de Jong Resort and Spa. The last few weeks have been rough on the checkbook, between the final closing check (to cover overages and oopses), welcome to the neighborhood HOA fee catching up, refinancing since the interest rates since we took our construction loan, and paying taxes. Ouch. Good bye, savings.

The last remaining big-ticket must-have item on our construction list is our landscaping.

While we may have some idea what we're doing when it comes to the inside of our house, we are really lost when it comes to the  outside. Our previous house was on an acre lot, without any community standards. We kept most of it  natural and our "lawn" was really a euphemism for "green weeds."  (In our defense, when we bought the house, it was February and we couldn't see that there wasn't really any landscaping). Between planning the wedding, miscarriages, bedrest, and then having a baby, it just never got done til we needed to get the house ready to sell. And then we relied heavily on the kindness of friends of family who took pity on us!
We did finally get our Dutch tulips planted!
Here's a tour outside the house today: 

Our three-year-old is no help. He likes the "Daniel-lions" growing wildly by the street.

All we have so far is this pile of rocks donated by our neighbor.

For the most part, we aren't planning anything elaborate, at least not for this summer. Our priorities are grading, in-fill, and putting in a lawn. Next summer, we'll plant some shrubs and plants (hello again, tulips!). And probably the next summer, we'll put in the sidewalk around the side of the house and anything else we want at that point. 

We knew that landscaping was not included in our build. In fact, the man who has done most of the landscaping Charis has overseen has some health issues (also brain-related) and is being forced to stop working. I can certainly relate, but it's fair to say we were disappointed in the timing, nonetheless.

Fortunately, we don't have any looming deadline, just a sizable deposit we'd really like to have returned to us by the HOA. That said, we still want to take advantage of the nice weather and get started. We know we could save a lot of money doing the work ourselves, but we are severely limited by lack of knowledge, and my health. So we know we need to hire someone. Which brings us to the painful part of the week.

Based on a recommendation, we set up an appointment with a landscape company for what we thought was a preliminary interview. We were interested in the company because they focused on earth-friendly lawn development. What we didn't learn until mid-way through the meeting is that they are landscape architect's first, with a specialty in organic lawn care. When she started talking about $4,000 for just the rendering, we know it wasn't a good fit. Let's just say that our lawn budget is nowhere near $20,000. But the final ouch was learning that--surprise!--her consult fee was almost $300. When the piggy bank is empty, it's not pleasant to have to come up with that much money when the person expecting it is staring at you. We're frustrated that we weren't aware that there was a consult fee, and we're frustrated at ourselves for not speaking up. So, chalk that one up to stupid tax.

I've since learned that for upper end architects, like this company, a consult fee is standard. But for most landscaping company, it's not. I guess that should have been first clue. So now we've lost 10% of our budget before we've even started, and we still don't know how to get started. 

Thankfully, the Facebook world has been generous with their wisdom and we have a few other companies to consider. For now, we'll take pride in having the biggest sandbox on the street.
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