Coffee heat rising

A$k and Re¢eive, Revisited

If you ever need a reminder to get bids for every…single…project of any kind, here’s a tale with that a moral to it:

Richard the Landscaper proposed to remove the dying ash in front for for $1,000, down from the original $1,500 he thought the market would bear. When I asked if he would please also remove the moribund plantings around the tree’s base, cover the stump with a mound of dirt, spread some more gravel there and arrange the existing rocks decoratively, and then plant one of the baby vitex trees I’ve cultivated in pots, he added $200 to his bid. So, as I’m facing unemployment I’m looking at a total of $1,200 to take down the tree and repair the landscaping.


I called the Desert Botanical Garden, which has a master gardener training program, and asked if they could refer any of their graduates. Forthwith came in the e-mail a list of a dozen certified arborists. So I called one—let’s call him Mike the Arborist. He just came by to view the jungle that is my yard and give me some estimates on the large amounts of pruning that need doing.

He said he would take out the dead ash tree for $500!!!!!

More ordinary tree trimming comes in the vicinity of $40 to $100, depending on the complexity and size of the job.

Covered with sharp thorns the size of tiger claws
Sharp thorns the size of tiger claws...trimmed back from the sidewalk less than a month ago!

For $225, he’ll also remove the ferocious palo brea on the south side, which has become a dangerous menace—passersby risk facial scratches and eye-gouges if they have the temerity to use the sidewalk in front of my house. For about $40 apiece, he’ll trim up the two trees the palo brea is crushing to help them fill out properly. For a few dollars more, he’ll trim the olive inside the front courtyard, restoring it to its former graceful splendor. With the job in the front yard, he’ll clean up the desert willow and restore the passageway between it and the Texas ebony free of charge.

In the back yard, he proposed some judicious trimming of the exuberant emerald paloverde—not enough to infringe on its shade-giving properties but a little pruning to keep it off the roof and discourage crossed limbs. And though he disapproved of  Satan‘s westside weeping acacia (yes—he and Proserpine actually planted two devil-pod trees in back, one where it would drop plaster-staining junk into the pool and the other where its limbs could snap off and fall on the house—or on the neighbor’s house), he recommended against removing it and suggested simply cleaning up the lower limbs, which are dying off  because they’re not getting enough light.

So, instantly the guy drove away, Richard got a call canceling the job he had yet to do. I think he’d forgotten about it, to tell the truth. Thank goodness! It looks to me like I can get ALL the pruning and tree removal—take out the dead ash and the nuisance palo brea, prune the palo verde, the olive, the vitex, the desert willow, and one of the hideous willow acacias in back, plus build the mound and move the stones onto it—for not a helluva lot more than Richard proposed for the ash and the mound (all told, R. wanted $1,200 for those jobs).

Wow! I was braced for an $800 to $1,000 bid just to do the basic trimming, to say nothing of removing the palo brea. Can you imagine?

Asked him what his background is and how he came to start a business. He said he and his wife had moved back to the US from Germany, where they’d started their family (she’s German), because they wanted more space and Arizona was where they could afford it. He started working for a large landscaping firm that was doing all the maintenance for the huge new developments out on the west and east sides. There he learned how to climb and prune trees, ended up as a manager, and started studying landscaping seriously. He became a certified arborist, and then after the economic collapse he and a partner bought an existing landscaping company that had about 35 accounts. He said their plan is to target small to medium-sized developments that are too small for the huge landscape maintenance firms to bother with. So…it sounds like he knows what he’s doing and he has some experience. He’s very clean-cut, well-spoken, and even though he’s a gringo he doesn’t look like an escaped convict.

My yard is desperately overgrown. It not only needs to have a huge, mature (dead!) ash tree removed, it needs serious work that verges on relandscaping. Some of that work really should be done by an expert. Unless I miss my guess, this single call to just one other contractor is going to save about $1,000 on the total job.