Gardener Quest (Part 2)

It was half way through autumn and I still had not found a jardinier or a gardener. For the past few months, I had been looking after the garden myself–weeding and pruning—I didn’t mind doing that. In the recent weeks, thanks to the frequent rains, I was actually spending more time uprooting dying plants and plants that I did not like, Hollyhocks in particular. The rainfall facilitated my work by softening up the soil and making it easier for me to dig out Hollyhocks’ entrenched sturdy roots. 

I can do the simple gardening maintenance work myself. However, I would still like to engage a jardinier or a gardener who is knowledgeable on the caring of plants, and also who can help us with the harder physical work such as the uprooting of trees, planting a hedge and trimming our tall hazelnut tree. As mentioned in Gardener Quest (Part 1), it seems impossible to find such a person. 

The ideal situation for a garden newbie like me is to have a specialist to advise me on the caring of plants. Unfortunately, since I can’t find one at this moment, I would have to continue with self-learning by crawling through online information on the world of gardening. It would be very time consuming, but do-able for me (that might mean some poor plants will be neglected while I am learning the ropes!).

As for the task of uprooting of two peach trees, it is more urgent in terms of timeline, and it is something neither Silviu nor I can handle ourselves. We are already in mid-autumn and the winter will arrive in no time. Any new planting will have to be done now before the deep cold sets in. Besides, a new young fruit tree will generally take at least three years before it starts bearing fruits. Hence, the faster we plant new trees, the sooner we can enjoy our harvest.

To find the urgently needed the élagueur or tree-trimmer (including uprooting services), I decided to try listing my request online again. This time round, I asked specifically for someone who could cut down and uproot the peach trees, instead of treating them. Based on my conversation with Mr. LT (a paysagiste/landscapist that came to our house to give a quote last month) and seeing the state of the trees, I know that there was little hope in saving the two peach trees.

This round of online request for someone to help us had a different result. I almost received an immediate response to my online request which I made late at night. A tree-trimmer was interested in offering his services to me. Two thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the almost immediate response: (1) It was a pleasant surprise to have a French service provider who was enthusiastic in offering his services. It was indeed a nice change after the experience we went through while looking for real estate agents, renovation contractors, and my recent search for a gardener. I replied to his email almost immediately asking him for a quote. Not more than a quarter of an hour had passed, I saw on my phone that I had a missed call; it was from the proactive élagueur, Mr LF! (2) The second one being that, since his response was so prompt, did it mean he has no customers and that his services were not good? Since I was becoming desperate in getting the dead trees removed, I decided to respond to his bid.

The following morning, Mr LF followed up promptly with a call and we fixed an appointment for the week after, the first Thursday morning of November. I expected that our appointment would be quick; the visit was mainly for him to know the dimensions of the trees so that he could estimate how much work would be needed, and thus providing a quote.

Mr LF was punctual, another surprising trait for a French person. After a quick look at the trees, he immediately offered to cut down the trees the same day, right then, for €200 as he had the tools with him. I was slightly taken aback as I was expecting him to say he would send me quote in … light years. I was definitely not expecting a quote and him offering to start right away.

Apart from being surprised by his offer, I was secretly delighted with the quote as it was lower than the average cost I found from the Internet. It seemed that for a tree of 2 to 5m tall (size of our peach trees),  the cost of trimming ranged from €150 to €250, and uprooting ranged from €150 and €1,000. To remove our two peach trees, it would cost a minimum of €600. 

So, when I heard that Mr. LF could do everything for €200, I was taken aback. For me, ‘everything’ meant trimming followed by uprooting. When I first contacted him through email, I had clearly stated that I wanted trimming followed by uprooting. So, when Mr. LF quoted €200 for two trees, I assumed that it was based on my initial request. After a quick discussion with Silviu on the phone, I told Mr. LF to go ahead. 

Peach Tree 1: After trimming

Ten minutes after I gave the go-ahead, disquietude crept up to me. Why was it so cheap? To put my mind at ease, I asked him to confirm that the price was for trimming and uprooting for both trees. Mr. LF looked at me, gave me this incredulous look and exclaimed, “Of course not. For this price, it’s just for trimming.”

I was aghast at my stupidity, thinking I should have reconfirmed right at the beginning, not after he had started the work. I reminded him that my initial request was for both services. He replied confidently that it was not what I initially requested. My certainty about my initial request wavered under his confidence and I was not willing to pursue the argument under this condition. 

Peach Tree 2: After trimming.

Since it was too late to stop the work, I simply asked him how much it was to uproot the trees. He quoted €400 for both trees, thus amounting to €600 for just removal of the trees. €600! That was more than our initial gardening budget of €500, and that budget was intended for cleaning up the whole garden, not just the eradication of two sick trees. Indeed, how naive we were with the gardening budget. 

The house is becoming a bottomless pit. The house renovation, which is only half done and its costs are escalating, and now the garden…

Regardless, the trees had to be removed and his quote seemed reasonable, based on the prices found on Internet. I told Mr. LF that the additional €400 would be very hard for us to fork out, and we could only afford to trim and uproot a tree. That was, instead of trimming two trees for €200, could he just trim one tree, the tree that he had already started on, and uproot it too? That would cost us €300. We would just have to remove the second tree some time in the future

Adieu! Peach Tree 2.

Being the daughter of a businessman, I could not help not bargaining with him. Or perhaps he could trim and uproot both trees, but at a discounted price of €500? After just a few seconds of consideration, the deal on both trees was struck. 

Still feeling a tad slighted at Mr LF’s incredulous look and his slightly condescending tone when I asked him whether €200 was an all-in-one package, I decided to check my correspondances with him. I was almost pretty sure that I wrote clearly that both trimming and uprooting services were needed in my first correspond with Mr. LF.

Uprooting of Peach Tree 1. We have to now buy a new tree to plant it in the hole.

Voila! The proof! I decided to confront Mr. LF with the email. It was weird but I felt embarrassed when I went up to him—why should I be the one feeling uncomfortable? Keeping my tone mild, I told him simply that I just wanted to correct the version of the story. He took it in stride and he apologised immediately. My dignity was restored and I went back to observing the departure of my newly acquired sick peach trees.

Part of the trunk of Peach Tree 2. Mr. LF pointed out the cavity within the trunk which indicated that the tree was really sick.

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