Landscape maintenance, as the landscape gardener knows, is the service of maintaining the plantings on a property, whether it be condominium associations, apartment buildings, shopping centers, industrial parks, or owner occupied residences. The service usually includes mowing, edging and line trimming lawns; weeding flower beds and ground covers; pruning and shearing shrubs; trimming small trees; and keeping everything healthy, lush, and green with the right combination of labor, equipment, materials, and water.

The gardener is usually responsible for all plants or parts of plants within 15 feet of ground level. However, such plants as eucalyptus, sycamore, ficus, and other trees which can grow upwards to 40 feet and more need constant care and maintenance along with the rest of the landscape. Unfortunately taller trees seem to get overlooked until a limb splits off or a tree is blown over by the wind.

It is generally the landscape maintenance gardener’s responsibility to keep the property owner or association informed as to the condition of the trees on their property or to call in an expert in the field to evaluate the trees and make recommendations. If the property has a large number of trees, as in the case of most condominium communities, the expert would take a count of the trees, list them by species, and then list them by removals, trims, etc.

For example: 10 eucalyptus trees trimmed; 8 eucalyptus trees removed; 20 liquid amber trees trimmed; 8 ficus benjamina trees removed; and so on. Having this information prepares the property owner or association when soliciting for bids. Selecting a tree service contractor is the next step and the most important since the job of the tree service contractor will be to enhance the beauty of the property and at the same time create a safer environment.

What do you look for in selecting a tree service contractor? To begin with, a State Contractor’s License (check on your state’s regulations). The companies with a contractor’s license are telling you that they are serious about their occupation. They are professional arborists and experts in their field. They have passed a rigid state conducted test, have put up a bond with the State Contractor’s Board/ Department of Consumer Affairs, and are financially solvent.

Next you want to make sure the tree service contractor you hire is fully insured. This means a minimum of $500,000 single limit liability insurance and full Workers Compensation insurance specific for tree work above 15 feet. Ask for proof of insurance along with the bid.

When you decide to solicit bids, but don’t employ the services of a tree expert to prepare a list of specifications for all contractors to bid on, ask each of the tree service contractors for their recommendations. They are professionals and trees are their trade. They will be able to tell you what should be trimmed, thinned, laced, or removed. Remember, when you solicit bids from several contractors and don’t have a list of specifications for all to bid on there may be variations among the recommendations of the individual contractors.

Ask each tree service contractor to present a list of references so you can have the opportunity to look at some of the work they’ve already done. Make sure they have been in business for a while. Three years is a good standard. If a tree service contractor has been in business for a few years chances are they will be in business for several more. This is important because you may want to refer back to them with questions after the job has been completed or want someone to respond quickly if there is a future emergency.

When a quality company has been selected, contract signed and job completed properly it can be mutually satisfying for the landscape maintenance gardener, the property owner, and the tree service contractor. Everyone will sleep better knowing the trees and grounds are being well maintained, kept safe, and healthy.