Diamond Certified Companies are Rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise.

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Diamond certified companies are top rated and guaranteed

Why Trust Diamond Certified Landscape Contractors Rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise®?

Photo: Gardens of the Wine Country ©2013

You are the customer. If your goal is to choose a landscape contractor that will deliver high customer satisfaction and quality, you’ll feel confident in choosing a Diamond Certified landscaper. Each has been rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise® in the most accurate ratings process anywhere. And you’re always backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. Here’s why the Diamond Certified ratings and certification process will help you find a top rated landscaping contractor and is unparalleled in its accuracy, rigor and usefulness:

1) Accuracy: All research is performed by live telephone interviews that verify only real customers are surveyed, so you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews.

2) Statistical Reliability: A large, random sample of past customers is surveyed on an ongoing basis so the research results you see truly reflect a Diamond Certified company’s top rated status.

3) Full Disclosure: By clicking the name of a company above, you’ll see the exact rating results in charts and read verbatim survey responses as well as researched articles on each qualified company.

4) Guaranteed: Your purchase is backed up with mediation and the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you can choose with confidence.

Click on the name of a Diamond Certified company above to read ratings results, researched articles and verbatim customer survey responses to help you make an informed decision.

More than 200,000 customers of local companies have been interviewed in live telephone calls, and only companies that score Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise®–a 90+ on a 100 scale–as well as pass all of the credential-based ratings earn Diamond Certified. By requiring such a high score to qualify, the Diamond Certified Resource eliminates mediocre and poorly performing companies. Read detailed information about the ratings and certification process.

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Alan Kostelnik is owner of Gardens of the Wine Country, a Diamond Certified company since 2003. He can be reached at (707) 925-2964 or by email.

Alan Kostelnik

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Alan Kostelnik: Wine Country Landscape Professional

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SANTA ROSA – Alan Kostelnik hasn’t always worked in the landscaping industry—in fact, he started his career as an educator, but it wasn’t long until he found himself at an impasse. “I had been working as a high school teacher for a few years when I realized it wasn’t for me,” he explains. In what was initially to be a temporary transition, Alan traded his ruler for a shovel, his blackboard for topsoil and the inside of the classroom for the fresh air of residential landscapes. As it turned out, this provisional detour eventually became a permanent direction. “I had some previous experience in landscape work during my college years, so I decided to put together a small gardening business as a temporary means of making a living until I figured out what to do next. In time, I found I had an aptitude for the landscaping business, and I really enjoyed it.” After he decided to make landscaping a career, Alan returned to school to receive a more formal education in important industry aspects like horticulture and landscape design and installation.

Prior to his watershed transition, Alan lived in Detroit, Michigan, where he was born and raised. A frequent visitor to the Bay Area during his college years, his growing affinity for the local weather and culture prompted him to relocate permanently. “The company I worked for in Michigan had an office in San Francisco, so I applied for a transfer,” he remembers. “Six months later, they called and offered me a job.” Later, when Alan’s teaching career dried up, he discovered that the Bay Area offered an ideal setting for landscape work. “The weather in Michigan simply didn’t compare to that of the Bay Area. Also, Sonoma County was in development stages at the time, so there was a lot of business to be had.” Nearly 40 years later, Gardens of the Wine Country’s business continues to thrive in its picturesque environment. “I still love the Bay Area vibe,” says Alan. “It’s a beautiful place and I feel blessed to live and work here.”

When describing one of the major aspects of his profession, Alan invokes the old adage of “you get what you pay for.” “Professional design and installation are crucial to landscaping, so if you’re only paying attention to saving money, you’ll be sorry down the road,” he says. “In my 40 years in business, I’ve seen customers make the same mistake over and over again: shopping for price rather than expertise and quality. The invariable result is a job that has to be redone in a few years because it wasn’t done right the first time.”

Outside of work, Alan enjoys golfing, hiking, wine tasting and photography. He also follows professional sports like basketball, baseball and football, rooting for both the local Bay Area teams and those in his hometown of Detroit. When asked about the first thing he would do if he could retire tomorrow, Alan has everything planned out. “I would take a long trip through Tibet, Burma, Bhutan and India. Then I would come home for a few weeks, visit Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, come home for a few more weeks, and take a trip to South Africa. After that, I’d take a few river cruises through Central America and Europe. And after thatI guess we’ll see!”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What are your favorite sports teams?
A: The Giants, the 49ers and the Warriors, as well as my hometown teams, the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Lions.

Q: What websites do you visit every day?
A: The Huffington Post, the New York Times and Facebook.

Q: Do you have a favorite tree?
A: I like the Burgundy-leafed Japanese Maple, the Mayten tree, the Oak and the olive tree.

Q: What’s your favorite local winery?
A: Kunde.

Q: What’s your favorite movie genre?
A: I like dramas that have twisted, complicated plotlines, but I also like comedies and films based on reality.

Read more

How to Protect Your Garden from Local Wildlife


SANTA ROSA — In addition to watering, one of the most important aspects of maintaining a garden is protecting it from the local wildlife. While this can be a challenging endeavor, there are several simple ways to deter harmful animals… Read more

Droughts and Drip Irrigation


SANTA ROSA — To be good citizens, Governor Jerry Brown has asked us to cut back on our water usage by 20 percent. It’s a fact that we won’t save that 20 percent by running our dishwashers, washing machines or… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Simple Remedies To Protect Your Plants

Complete Video Transcription:

SANTA ROSA — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you have a garden around your home, you’ll not only want to protect them from the elements but… Read more

Linda Gottuso-Guay is vice president of Manzanita Landscape Construction, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2004. She can be reached at (707) 602-7947 or by email.

Linda Gottuso-Guay

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Linda Gottuso-Guay: A Natural Gift

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SANTA ROSA — When asked how she got into landscaping, Linda Gottuso-Guay credits both an innate ability and an uncommon opportunity. “I really believe part of it is genetic,” she says. “I come from a family of farmers on my mother’s side, and my father was a great artist and musician, so I was gifted with a passion for both nature and art. Later, when I met my husband, James, he recognized the natural talent I had. He was a structural engineer, and after we got married, we decided to put our talents together and form a landscaping business. Between his knowledge of construction and my artistic eye, we make a great team. We’ve been working together for more than 40 years, and now our daughter and her husband have joined us in the business, so it has become a real family affair.”

Today, as vice president of Manzanita Landscape Construction, Inc., Linda says she enjoys the process of arranging plants to both practical and artistic effect. “With the sheer diversity of plants available, knowing how to arrange them is crucial. I enjoy taking all the different elements and making them work together to create beautiful and functional outdoor spaces.”

When she’s not remodeling landscapes, Linda can often be found working on her own home and property in Santa Rosa. “Over the years, James and I have made a lot of custom touches to our home,” she says. “I’m always redoing the interior or the landscape—that’s the designer in me, I can’t help it.” Linda also enjoys cooking at home and spending time with friends and family. “Many of our past clients have become good friends, so if we go out to dinner or host a party, it’s usually with them. We feel very blessed to have these long-term relationships.”

When asked what she’d do if she were to retire tomorrow, Linda says she’d divide her efforts between travel and philanthropy. “My husband and I have an RV, and we would love to take it out for a month at a time and tour the country. Assuming I had the money, I would also like to be involved in philanthropy. I love animals—I used to raise therapy dogs—and I would definitely be interested in supporting a cause like ending animal abuse.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite kind of food?
A: I’m Italian, so Italian food, of course.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Plants. I’m a plantaholic.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: It’s a tie between Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a child?
A: A cat.

Q: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
A: There are a few. One is the snow skis my parents bought for me when I was a child. They didn’t have a lot of money, so that was very special. As an adult, I’d have to say the best gift was my children. I’ll also include the love notes my husband has written me over the years—I’ve kept them all.

Read more

Cause for Hope: Understanding the Landscape Recovery Process Following the North Bay Fires


SANTA ROSA — In addition to the lost homes and businesses, large portions of the landscapes in Napa and Sonoma Counties were destroyed by the recent North Bay fires, including both private and public areas. However, despite the current desolate… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Landscaping After the North Bay Fires

Complete Video Transcription:

SANTA ROSA — Host, Sarah Rutan: If your landscape was damaged by the recent North Bay Fires, you’ll want to get a professional’s insight on what to do… Read more

Greg Baker is a 41-year veteran of the landscaping industry and owner of Valley Oak Landscaping, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (707) 207-6829 or by email.

Greg Baker

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Greg Baker: A Natural Inclination

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SANTA ROSA — Greg Baker’s first clue that he had a future as a landscaping professional was that he was the only kid he knew who actually enjoyed doing yard work. “When I was growing up, my parents had a three-quarter acre lot where I spent a good part of each weekend working on landscaping projects with my dad,” he recounts. “I remember my friends all complaining about how much they hated doing yard work, but I really didn’t mind it—in fact, I actually kind of liked it.”

By the time he was in middle school, Greg’s natural inclination for landscape work had led to an entrepreneurial opportunity. “When I was 12, I put an ad in the local newspaper advertising yard work services,” he says. “I would ride my bike over to customers’ houses to water their plants, mow their lawns and perform various sorts of gardening work. In the fall, I would grow pumpkins and sell them on the corner, which was something I really enjoyed as well.”

Following high school, Greg enrolled at his local community college as a nursery production major, with the hope of eventually opening his own nursery. However, it wasn’t long before his entrepreneurial penchant resulted in a slight change of direction. “About a year into college, I found myself in need of a job,” he says. “I never really liked working for other people, so I decided to hang up my proverbial shingle and began advertising my services as a gardener/landscaper. I was so successful that I ended up switching my major from nursery production to landscape construction.”

Today, as owner of Valley Oak Landscaping, Inc., Greg explains how his favorite things about his job have evolved over time. “In the early years, my favorite part was actually doing the work and seeing the product of my labor,” he says. “Today, I’d say it’s the residual gratification I get from long-term relationships, both with my employees and my customers. For instance, I have guys who’ve been with me so long that their kids are now starting to work for the company. Likewise, it’s neat when a customer tells me we landscaped their parents’ house because that means our good reputation has trickled down to a younger generation.”

A lifetime resident of Sonoma County, Greg expresses his appreciation for the region’s many desirable characteristics. “From the great weather to the wine country, Sonoma County has a lot to offer,” he affirms. “When you tell someone where you’re from and they respond that it’s their favorite vacation spot, it reminds you that you live in a special place.”

Outside of work, Greg enjoys a variety of activities, from exploring the outdoors to attending wine country events like concerts and barrel tastings. “I live near Annadel State Park, where I spend a fair amount of time hiking and mountain biking,” he says. “No matter what time of year it is, there are always beautiful scenic views.” Greg also enjoys spending time with his two grown children, Madeline and Justin. “My daughter and I enjoy going to the movies and taking cruises together, whereas my son is more outdoorsy, so we connect through activities like fishing and hunting.”

In regard to his professional career, Greg espouses the importance of personal integrity. “I think that if you’re honest and hardworking, your customers will respect and trust you,” he says. “My goal has always been to do things to the best of my ability and follow through with what I promise to deliver, and I think that’s something my customers really appreciate.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Greg says he’d take off for some extensive travel. “After my dad retired, he spent a lot of time traveling, taking as much as three or four months at any given destination. He said this approach allowed him to really get a feel for a place, because he wasn’t in a rush to see everything. I’d like to do the same thing after I retire.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Green tea.

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Fall. I like the way the air feels and all the beautiful colors.

Q: If you could travel to another country, where would you go?
A: Probably France. I almost went there a few years ago, but I ended up spending too much time in Italy.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Turn on the fire, cozy up under a blanket and watch a good movie.

Read more

Protecting Your Drip Irrigation System


SANTA ROSA — In response to the drought conditions that California is currently facing, many Bay Area residents are converting their existing water sprinkler systems to drip irrigation. While this is a great water-saving measure, a critical yet often overlooked… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Helpful Tips for your Drip System

Complete Video Transcription:

SANTA ROSA — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you have a drip irrigation system on your property, you may benefit from a few helpful tips. Today we’re in Santa… Read more




  • Dr. Earth

  • Lilly Miller

  • Rincon-Vitova Insectaries

  • Belgard

  • CalStone

  • Pacific Nurseries of California

  • Weathermatic

  • Basalite

  • Rain Bird

  • Keystone

Rain Bird Irrigation
Toro Landscape Equipment
Monrovia Plants
Unique Outdoor Lighting
Hunter Irrigation
Baselite Outdoor Lighting
Calstone Landscape Paving
FX Luminaire Lighting
Kichler Landscape Lighting
Intermatic Landscape Lighting
Jain Irrigation Systems
Orbit Irrigation Systems
Netafim Drip Irrigation
Irritrol Irrigation Systems
Hampton Bay Landscape Lighting
Hadco Lighting
McNear Brick & Block
Kim Lighting
Dixon Landscape Materials
Keystone Retaining Walls

small landscape gardens
privacy landscaping design
xeriscape design & installation
water-efficient landscaping
backyard landscaping services
front yard landscaping installation
landscape design
new landscape installation
landscape lighting installation
landscape supplies
commercial landscaping services
residential landscaping installations
patio landscaping
hillside landscaping plans
garden landscaping
landscaping rock installation
landscape maintenance
pool area landscaping
hardscaping / hardscape design
flower garden design & installation
landscape management
garden plant selection & installation
landscape edging design

Agua Caliente
Alexander Valley
Bodega Bay
Boyes Hot Springs
Camp Meeker
Duncans Mills
El Verano
Fetters Hot Springs
Fort Ross
Glen Ellen
Mark West
Monte Rio
Rio Nido
Rohnert Park
Russian River
Russian River Meadows
Salmon Creek
Santa Rosa
Stewarts Point Rancheria
the Geysers
Sea Ranch
Two Rock
Valley Ford
Villa Grande


Know What You Want
What to Ask Before Starting Your Search for a Sonoma County Landscape Contractor

The first step towards creating a professional landscape in your outdoor space is to clearly understand exactly why you are seeking professional help with your yard. You have to know why you want to change the look of your landscape before a professional landscaper can help.

Being honest with yourself about the state of your budget for any outdoor project will also be very helpful in starting a defined search for a Sonoma County landscape contractor. As with any home-improvement project, a budget must be tentative and allow for setbacks or complications, but you must have a number in mind before you begin.

To be ready to answer the question of “how much,” you will need to clarify what exactly needs to happen with your space, how much of your landscape you are going to tackle and the basic idea of what you want the transformation to look like. You don’t have to come up with a design (that is why you are hiring a professional), but you do need to have some small idea as to what you are looking for so that you know how to plan, especially when it comes to creating a budget.

In order to help you craft a tentative plan and budget, take a look at the questions below. If you answer them honestly for yourself, you will be well on your way to beginning the real process of hiring a good landscape contractor in Sonoma County, including from any of the cities of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Guerneville.

  • Do I want a Diamond Certified landscaping company that is rated best in quality and backed by the Diamond Certified Guarantee?
  • Am I looking for a landscape contractor to increase the value of my property?
  • Do I want to increase my enjoyment with my outdoor space? Am I attempting to create a safe environment for children and/or pets with a new landscape?
  • Do I have water and/or energy concerns that are prompting my need for a landscape contractor?
  • What outdoor activities does my current landscape allow for? What would I like a professional landscape to support?
  • Do I have any idea what style I am looking for (English garden, new age tranquility, etc.) or do I need professional help with that step as well?
  • What features am I interested in (water fountains, rock gardens, waterfalls, built-in barbecuing space, etc.)?
  • What landscaping materials do I like best (granite, stone, wood, etc.)?
  • How big of an area (in square feet) am I looking to relandscape?
  • What is the current state of my outdoor space (rough dirt and rock, basic grass, terraced, etc.)?
  • How much am I willing and/or able to spend on this landscaping project?
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What To Ask In Person
Questions to Ask Landscape Contractors in Person

Now that you have completed enough phone interviews to feel confident in narrowing down your choices for a suitable Sonoma County landscape contractor, invite some landscapers to visit the jobsite.

Use the following questions to help you hire the right landscape contractor for you.

  1. Do you specialize in the sort of landscaping design and/or new landscape installation I am looking for?
  2. Can you help me identify landscaping elements and plants that work well in our Sonoma County climate?
  3. How long do you think it will take to complete my proposed project?
  4. Is it your policy to provide a written contract for all new landscaping? If not, will you provide one when asked?
  5. Do you provide landscaping maintenance? Are there any discounts for customers who have you design and/or do the initial installation?
  6. If permits have to be obtained for my proposed project, who is responsible for securing those, are you or am I?
  7. Will I be assigned one designer and/or contractor to work with throughout my project, or does your company float designers and/or contractors?
  8. Can you provide me with ten new addresses and contacts for landscaping installations you have done recently and (if you provide maintenance) five new addresses for landscaping maintenance that you are working on currently?
  9. Can I see certified proof of your contractor’s license, liability insurance and workmen’s compensation?
  10. Do you hold any other professional credentials or belong to any associations?
  11. May I review your portfolio?
  12. How quickly after we solidify my landscaping plan can I expect a contract?
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  • What To Ask References
    Questions to Ask References of Landscape Contractors in Sonoma County

    It is difficult to be sure that the Sonoma County landscape contractor you end up choosing is the best fit for you.

    That’s why it’s best to choose a Diamond Certified landscape contractor, because all certified companies have passed an in-depth ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality from a landscape contractor in Sonoma County, you can have confidence choosing a Diamond Certified company.

    Diamond Certified reports are available online for all certified companies. And you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews. That’s because all research is performed in live telephone interviews of actual customers.

    If you can’t find a Diamond Certified landscape contractor in your area, especially if you live in the smaller cities of Agua Caliente, Duncans Mills, Monte Rio, Salmon Creek and Villa Grande, you’ll have to do some research on your own. If you do, it’s wise to call some references provided by your contractor.

    Keep in mind, though, that references provided to you by the landscaping firm are not equal in value to the large random sample of customers surveyed during the Diamond Certified ratings process. That’s because references given to customers from companies are cherry-picked instead of randomly selected from all their customers. So the contractors will likely give you a few customers to call that they know are satisfied.

    If you do call references on your own, specifically ask for a list of the company’s 10 most recent customers with projects similar to yours. This will help avoid them giving you the names of only customers they know were satisfied. Use the following questions to learn all you can you’re your Sonoma County-* landscape contractor references.

    1. Did this landscaping contractor provide open communication throughout your project?
    2. Did this contractor ensure that he/she left your outdoor space safe for your family and pets during the project’s completion?
    3. Did this landscape contractor tidy up the worksite each day?
    4. Did this landscape company keep ahead of delays as much as possible and give good warning if a delay was unavoidable?
    5. Was the project completed within the time frame and your agreed-upon budget?
    6. Did this landscaping contractor keep current with all building codes and permits?
    7. If this contractor is providing landscaping maintenance, are you happy with their response time and maintenance service?
    8. Were you satisfied with their service? Would you/have you recommended this contractor?
    9. Would you hire this landscaping contractor for another job?
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  • Review Your Options
    Hiring a Reliable Landscape Contractor in Sonoma County

    The Diamond Certified symbol has been awarded to companies that scored Highest in Quality in an accurate ratings process.

    Some contractors work on relatively small tasks like mulch delivery and installation, seasonal planting, sprinkler systems, etc. Larger landscaping firms help clients draft a plan for their outdoor space that will have the neighbors heads turning and fingers dialing a landscape professional of their own.

    Whether you live in the larger cities of Petaluma, Windsor, Sonoma, Sebastopol and Cotati or the smaller cities of Agua Caliente, Duncans Mills, Monte Rio, Salmon Creek and Villa Grande, you should be able to find both types of companies.

    You have to understand your needs before making a final decision on who to hire, because your needs often dictate the type of landscapers you need.

    Once you’ve decided on the kind of landscaping project you have and the type of company you want to hire, you’ll need to be aware that landscaping can get expensive. According to commercial data, the average cost to install landscaping for residential properties is $4,000. Your project may fall well under or well over the national norm, but there are ways to get good value for whatever monetary amount you decide to spend.

    Of course, your choice of a landscaping contractor is one of the leading factors in gaining value for the money you spend on your outdoor oasis. So before deciding on the best landscaping contractor in Sonoma County for you, it’s important to consider the following questions.

    1. Have I carefully assessed my needs, measured my property and done appropriate prior research to understand the type of landscaping firm I need to hire?
    2. Do I have an idea of the design I am looking to implement, or do I need help with that initial step?
    3. What is my budget for this project?
    Read moreRead less
  • How To Work With
    What to Expect when Working with a Landscape Contractor in Sonoma County

    Now that you’ve hired a Sonoma County landscape contractor, you will want to be prepared for the process. Although each contractor works in their own way, the following steps are a generalized plan for the process of working with your landscape contractor.

    1. Initial Interview: This will happen at your outdoor site. The contractor should ask to hear your version of the transformation that will take place, review the property, discuss initial design plans and discuss your options according to your budget and needs. From this interview, a tentative design and contract can be built.
    2. Questionnaire or Review Interview: Synthesis of every wish and option talked about during the first consultation. This can also include an actual questionnaire complete with pictures of other designs to review and give comments on. Your color palette for the project should be finalized at this step.
    3. In-depth site analysis: The contractor should take photos, completely measure the space, analyze your soil, look into any building codes or permits needed, note weather patterns and drainage issues as well as slate any existing plant material for relocation or removal.
    4. Concept and plan development: Once there is an agreed-upon base plan, your contractor should offer other ideas and options for your space. After these have been discussed, the final design can be approved. Final design needs to include everything from site elements to material specifications, irrigation system determination to plant installation.
    5. Ground-breaking: The start date for the project, usually beginning with the removal and rearrangement any existing landscape.
    6. Site surveillance: Your contractor should visit your project periodically to monitor installation and answer any questions or concerns that may have arisen. This is the time to bring up any changes to the design that you are considering.
    7. Plant installation: This is one of the final steps to completing your landscaping project and your contractor needs to ensure that you are an integral part of the process. You need to understand the plants that are going to be part of your outdoor life for years to come.
    8. Final on-site consultation: Your contractor should take a walk-through your project with you upon completion to review any last instructions and to answer any last questions you might have. This is the time to make sure your satisfaction is met in regards to any contractual elements.

    Remember that your Sonoma County landscape contractor may work a little differently through these steps, but the process should look comparable and the main details should still be included, even if they happen at differing times.

    Benefits of Working with Landscape Contractors in Sonoma County
    You may wonder if it is worth all the trouble to look for and hire a Sonoma County landscape contractor.

    At first glance, do-it-yourself landscaping can seem like an attractive way to save money.

    But consider these factors: do you have the knowledge of what plants work for your yard, your climate, your commitment to outdoor life? Do you understand how to irrigate so that you are not wasting money on the wrong plants? Do you have the expertise to install any high-end features you may be considering such as an outdoor kitchen or waterfall?

    Professional landscapers in Sonoma County can provide you with all the knowledge, expertise and experience it will take to turn your bland yard into an outdoor oasis. Benefits of working with a trustworthy landscape contractor include:

    1. Increase your property value (in some cases, by as much as 15 percent)
    2. Enhance your outdoor space with their specialized knowledge of the land and climate
    3. Bring focus to your vision for transforming your outdoor space and a design that incorporates energy (and therefore money) saving tips
    4. Installation of irrigation, sprinkler, lighting systems, etc. that take special know-how and improve your project to a new level

    Doing landscaping projects by yourself may seem to save you costs up front, but hiring a knowledgeable Sonoma County landscape contractor can save you a lot more time, money and headache in the long run.

    Understanding Bonds and Your Sonoma County Landscape Contractor
    Licensed bonds are mandated for Sonoma County landscape contractors, but this doesn’t necessarily mean your job will be completed in the way or in the timeframe that you want. Payment and performance bonds are the next best thing to helping you make sure you get the work you pay for.

    Although nothing can really ensure that your project will be completed, these bonds give a financial guarantee against mechanics’ liens. Be aware, though, that these liens can be filed against you if your landscape contractor does not pay subcontractors or the landscaping suppliers they use.

    Payment and performance bonds also provide a certain amount of money to finish a project if your contractor will not do it. Remember that this bond should include the total estimated cost, to fully cover any expenses you may be left with. You should know that these bonds can cost one to five percent over the total price, but you have to weigh how much it will gain you in the end if something goes wrong.

    Another reason to look for a Sonoma County landscape contractor with more experience, whether you live in the larger cities of Petaluma, Windsor, Sonoma, Sebastopol and Cotati or the smaller cities of Annapolis, Bodega, Roseland, Schellville and Vineburg, is because contractors who are new to the landscaping world may not be able to obtain these payment and performance bonds.

    There is one other option to give your project a sense of security, especially if your contractor is unable to obtain a bond. Joint control companies specialize in construction, both building and landscaping. These companies receive your payment and then distribute it to your contractor and its suppliers, subcontractors, etc.

    A joint control company should take a look at the final project before paying out your money and also provide a warranty against any mechanics’ liens. Your Sonoma County landscape contractor should be able to provide you with names of these type of companies.

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  • Be a Good Customer
    Ways to Be a Good Customer When Dealing with Landscape Contractors

    Here are a few modest steps you can take to be a good customer when hiring a Sonoma County landscape contractor.

    • Be clear and upfront with the contractor. Let them know what you want, the long-term outcome you’re expecting and specific ways they can satisfy your expectations.
    • Remember, a friendly smile goes a long way
    • Before you hire a landscape contractor in Sonoma County, restate your expectations and goals, and reiterate to the firm’s representative your understanding of the agreement. Most problems with local landscape contractors occur because of a breakdown in communication. By being clear about your expectations and theirs, you can avoid most conflicts.
    • Be sure your service representative has a phone number where they can reach you at all times while they’re working on your yard. The work will move along more smoothly if your contractor can reach you for any necessary updates, questions or work authorizations.
    • When your contractor contacts you, return calls and payments promptly to keep the landscaping project on schedule.

    Why would you want to be a good customer? Landscape contractors in Sonoma County appreciate customers who are straightforward, honest and easy to work with.

    Your good customer behavior sets the tone from your end and creates an environment conducive to a good relationship. Things may very well go smoother and any problems may be more easily resolved.

    Read moreRead less
Check The Work
Understanding How to Pay Your Sonoma County Landscape Contractor

You’ll want to be careful about how and when you make payments to your Sonoma County landscape contractor. If it is your first time working with the company, you want to make sure that the job will get done before you put money into it.

Most Sonoma County landscaping contractors do not require a down payment, although they may request their payment in installments over the length of the project. Others may require a down payment for the purchase of materials, including and especially in the case of special orders or large quantities.

If a down payment is expected, remember that the legal limit for home improvement projects is only 10 percent of the total estimated cost of the job or $1,000, whichever comes out to less. If you have requested a payment and performance bond or are using a joint control company, this down payment cap does not count.

You’ll need to make sure that any down payment or payment schedule is written in your contract and always make payments by money order or check, never cash.

Finally, do not pay your last installment until the project meets your expectations and the specifications outlined in your contract. Even small things, such as cleaning up any remaining trash in your yard should be the responsibility of your contractor, and to protect yourself, it is always best to withhold final payments until you are completely satisfied.

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Written Warranties
Understanding Written Contracts From Your Sonoma County Landscape Contractors

California law states that home improvement projects over $500 must be agreed-upon in writing. It is still in your best interest, even if your landscaping project is under that amount, that you request a written contract.

A contract should always include the following:

  • Name, address, contractor’s state license number and telephone number of the landscaping contractor
  • Registration number of any employee involved on the project
  • A detailed description of the work to be completed and materials list (including quantity and type of plants and irrigation equipment)
  • Any warrantees or guarantees (including verbal contracts) on work and equipment
  • Approximate start and end date of the landscaping installation
  • A statement holding the contractor to clean up and removal of all job-related detritus after the completion of the project
  • A statement explaining any building permits needed or codes to be followed and the ways to protect yourself and your property
  • A statement that the landscaping contractor will uphold his/her bond, if one exists

After signing the contract, changes that you and/or the contractor make in the work or materials to be use must be added in writing. The change must also include any increases or reductions in the total job price.

If you have carefully planned the job and selected a licensed Sonoma County landscape contractor, including those in the smaller cities of Agua Caliente, Duncans Mills, Monte Rio, Salmon Creek and Villa Grande, the job should progress without any major problems.

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Top 10 Requests
Popular Landscaping Services in Sonoma County

Landscaping ideas can be as different as the number of people who own homes and want to beautify their outdoor spaces. It is difficult to narrow down what clients of Sonoma County landscape contractors generally want when they hire a landscaping firm to help with their outdoor transformation. However, the following 10 features of landscaping design are some of the most commonly requested for outdoor installation.

Talk with your Sonoma County landscape contractor, including those that serve the cities of Petaluma, Windsor, Sonoma, Sebastopol and Cotati or your area, to see what they are willing and/or able to accomplish in your outdoor space.

Flower and/or plant garden
Most commonly thought of as landscaping, flowers and plants are just one of the many ways landscape contractors improve the beauty and value of your home. Their expertise can help you choose the right flowers and plants to flourish in your yard.

Outdoor lighting
Not often associated with the landscape, outdoor lighting is actually an integral part of providing beauty and safety to your outdoor space. Landscape contractors will either be trained to do this part themselves or hire a subcontractor who specializes in lighting to accomplish your design.

Stone walkways
The more natural choice for walkways in your outdoor space, stone can enhance the look of your yard without adding a lot of man-made material. Stone walkways also help display any spaces that have been landscaped without a lot of traffic to ruin planted areas.

Your Sonoma County landscape contractor can help you choose the material best suited to your outdoor space for installing a patio. Adding a patio can enhance not only the beauty of your yard, but also the usability.

Water features are a fantastic way to bring interest and depth to your landscape. Fountains help contain the water to a smaller, more manageable space and you can work with your Sonoma County landscape contractor to find one that fits your style and budget.

Outdoor kitchens and fire pits in Sonoma County Gardens
Like adding another room to your house, the outdoor kitchen and fire pit truly adds measureable value to your property. While this can be a costly element to landscaping, your contractor can work with you to find an outdoor kitchen and/or fire pit that scales to meet your needs.

Koi ponds
Fish add an instant sense of true nature to your outdoor space not accomplished by any other feature. Koi ponds are popular for those homeowners who are willing to keep up the effort it takes to maintain them. Discuss maintenance with your Sonoma County landscape contractor, as it can be extensive.

Natural streams and waterfalls
Another water feature with a little more natural credibility than a fountain, the stream and/or waterfall can instantly transform an outdoor space into a magical oasis. This feature also changes the types of plants that can be introduced into your yard, as it adds natural irrigation and watering capabilities.

Brick paver walkways
Similar to a stone walkway, the brick paver walkway enables you to direct outdoor traffic in your landscaped space and keep trampling to a minimum. Brick pavers are much more uniform and suited to a design that incorporates more rigid lines between naturally occurring landscapes and man-made features.

Helpful with erosion control and drainage issues, terracing can be a lovely way to address difficulties with your outdoor space. Your Sonoma County landscape contractor can provide many possibilities for accomplishing this look while incorporating your other design wants and needs.

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Glossary Of Terms
Glossary of Terms for Customers of Landscaping Companies in Sonoma County

Landscape contracting and the landscaping business in general have a specific language that may sometimes feel like a code that needs cracking. The following list of terms and definitions should help you determine your way when hiring and working with your Sonoma County landscape contractor.

American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)
A professional society that represents landscape architects betters their practice and understanding through education, research, state registration, etc.

base plan
A plan showing site boundaries and features, used as a basis for further development.

building codes
Regulations that specify the type of methods and materials allowed on a project.

building permit
An authorization dispensed by a government agency which permits construction of a project according to agreed-upon specifications.

built environment
A man-made creation or alterations to an outdoor space, including its natural resources.

The form of the land. Contour lines are map lines which are used to show and measure slope and drainage.

The safeguard, improvement and use of natural resources according to principles that will guarantee economic or social benefits for our environment now and in the future.

conservation plan
A plan for protecting natural or manufactured resources. Used as a tool in making decisions regarding soil, water, vegetation, manufactured objects and other resources.

The creative illustration, planning and specification of outdoor space for utility, value and beauty.

Where water escapes from a land surface or subsurface, through sewers or natural means.

The legal grant to use an area of designated property.

How the land slopes. Grading is the process of changing the degree of the slope in order to promote drainage and landscape design.

Things that are added to a landscape, such as paving stones, gravel, walkways, irrigation systems, roads, retaining walls, sculpture, street amenities, fountains, etc.

The amount of land that can be seen at a glance.

landscape architect
A professional who designs outdoor spaces from whole ecosystems to residential sites

Also known as: designer, planner, consultant

landscape architecture
The science and art of design of the land involving natural and built elements and concern for resource conservation to improve outdoor spaces. Effective landscape architecture makes the most of the land, adds value to a project and minimizes costs, all while minimizing negative effects to nature.

landscape contractor
A trained installer of landscapes who implements the plans of landscape architects.

manipulation of space
The organization of land for aesthetic or functional design. Refers to the building of small backyard patios to huge urban plazas.

master plan
An initial plan showing proposed development. Master plans show phases of work needing to be completed and are therefore subject to changes over time.

natural resources
Elements naturally occurring in an area that can be used to fulfill human needs, including air, soil, water, native vegetation, etc.

site plan
A drawing including dimensions that indicates the form and physical objects existing in an outdoor space and those still to be built.

The naturally occurring elements landscape architects work with, such as plant materials.

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Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs for Sonoma County Landscaping Companies

Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified landscape contractor?
A: Diamond Certified helps you choose a landscape contractor with confidence by offering a list of top rated local companies that have passed the country’s most in-depth rating process. Only landscape contractors valued Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise® earn the esteemed Diamond Certified award. Most companies can’t pass the ratings. American Ratings Corporation also monitors every Diamond Certified company with ongoing research and ratings. And your purchase is backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you’ll feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified landscape contractor.

Q: What services can a landscape contractor provide?
A: A good landscape contractor will be able to hear your vision and give insight on what can work with your space. They will start by crafting a plan that fits your specific needs and vision. Your contractor will manage the people, materials and equipment needed to produce the transformation to your outdoor space. They are also in charge of any building permits and your safety during the project’s completion. A really good landscape contractor will give you a final product that maintains itself as much as possible and performs as good as it looks.

Q: When should we hire a landscape contractor?
A: There is not a point too soon at which you should look for a licensed contractor. As soon as you are dedicated to landscaping your space, which means you need to know what you don’t like about your current yard and what you would want installed to make it more enjoyable, then you are ready to begin your search. Hiring a licensed contractor early in the process can help you keep from making costly mistakes and heightens the chances that you will be pleased with the final outcome.

Q: How can I make sure I am hiring the best possible landscape contractor?
A: Seeking out a Diamond Certified landscape contractor is always the best place to start. Beyond that you should ask around to see if any family, friends, neighbors or co-workers have hired contractors that they would recommend. It is essential to hire a contractor who is familiar with the type of project you are looking to complete. Pay attention to the services and experience of every company you interview.

Q: What is the best indicator that I have hired the right landscape contractor?
A: Research indicates that the number one way people can tell they will be satisfied with the final results of their landscaping project is whether or not they were able to communicate effectively with the landscape contractor from the beginning of their professional relationship. Your contractor should make you feel comfortable to bring up any questions or concerns that arise along the way. In addition, you should be confident that your landscape contractor understands from the outset what you believe your transformation should look like. Ask many clarifying questions as you work on a plan together to make sure that you are on the same wavelength as your contractor.

Q: Why should I look for a licensed landscape contractor?
A: Licensed contractors are bonded against negligent work and any breaches of contract. In addition, licensed contractors in the state of California are required to serve in the field for at least four years before applying for a license. Hiring a licensed contractor ensures that the company working on your outdoor space has professional experience and has passed an exam that tests their knowledge of the field broadly.

Q: How much expense will hiring a landscape contractor add to my project?
A: You will pay for the expertise of a landscape contractor, but hiring the right one can in fact save you a lot of money. The expertise you pay for will let you know exactly what features your outdoor space is suited for and what can be installed with ease and less expense. You won’t waste nearly as much money and they can also help you seriously reduce maintenance costs following the installation of a well-planned landscape. In addition, because of the man and machine power at their disposal, they can complete projects in much less time than it would take you to do the same thing.

Q: How do landscape contractors charge?
A: Landscape contractors can charge based on time it takes to complete a project, an agreed-upon project fee, a percentage of the cost of the total work done or by the square foot area of the project. You should be clear on how a contractor charges before you enter into a professional relationship with them, ask for a detailed estimate and always work under a specified contract.

Q: What is my role in the process of landscaping my space?
A: You will need to clearly share your design wants, decide on a workable budget and provide insight into how the design will affect the livability and enjoyment of your space. A trustworthy contractor will continue to communicate with you throughout the process and be available to lend advice and design suggestions. You need to feel like a partner in the process and informed along the way.

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