Hunt A Horticulturist On A Search-The-Postcode Website If Word Of Mouth Fails

Robin Powell - Sydney Morning Herald

In my letter box today was one of those flyers from an "odd-job man". "Tony" lists what he could do for me – gutter cleaning, rubbish removal, and, bottom of the list, gardening. When I read that I think I may have humphed. There is more to gardening than mowing and blowing, and as spring heats up and the garden takes off you might need to find someone with real skills to help out.

The best source is word of mouth, according to Wayne Van Balen, national president of the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH), a professional body that represents trained horticulturists. If friends, neighbours or the owners of the best garden in the suburb fail to elicit a contact, you could try the AIH website, which allows you to search by postcode for a horticulturist. At present, the search yields only names and numbers, not details about the professional interests of those listed, so you have to follow up with phone calls. Van Balen admits that the AIH could do more to connect consumers looking for gardeners with gardeners looking for work, and says they're working on it.

Silas Clifford-Smith now works exclusively as what he gleefully calls a "jobbing gardener".

The best source is word of mouth, according to Wayne Van Balen, National President of the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH), a professional body that represents trained horticulturists....

Gardeners looking to build a network of clients may advertise in the local paper. Check qualifications and references – look for a diploma in horticulture and/or a lot of hands-on experience. You should expect to pay about $60-$80 an hour for someone with the training to tell the difference between a weed and an emerging treasure, to know what to do about the yellow leaves on the cumquats, and who can propagate the garden's best performing plants.

Silas Clifford
Silas Clifford-Smith now works exclusively as what he gleefully calls a "jobbing gardener". Photo: Silas Clifford-Smith

Garden centres can also be a source of recommendations. Dan Preston's company, The Primary Tree, picks up a lot of work through Honeysuckle Nurseries. Much of Preston's work is linked to Sydney's hot property market. Sellers looking to increase the appeal of the property or new owners wanting an instant fix, arrange a backyard blitz, and Preston sends in a team for a day.

Silas Clifford-Smith prefers an ongoing relationship with a garden and its owners, rather than a quick fix. He's a horticulturist with 30 years' experience who now works exclusively as what he gleefully calls a "jobbing gardener", finding work through word of mouth. His clients love their gardens but don't have the time or the physical strength to tackle them; he visits some weekly, others fortnightly, a few less often.

No matter how you find someone – word of mouth, garden centre, local paper – make sure you see eye to eye about what you want from the garden.

"You need to check each other out," Clifford-Smith says. "There's no point finding a gardener who is into meandering native gardens if you like a formal style with sharp edges."

And if you're keen, look now. The gardening rush hour is approaching.

This article originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 6 2017.


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