Greenwashed Landscaping

So last Friday I was really looking forward to a reunion with my garden after being away almost all week. A local landscaping company called Greenwise was supposed to have done the spring cleanup while I was gone, and I was eager to see everything nice and neat, along with whatever might be newly sprouting or in bloom.


I do all my own gardening, except when it comes to spring cleanup, which has gotten to be too much for me. One reason I chose this company is that instead of hauling away all the leaves and plant debris, they promise to mulch and reapply it to the beds and borders. Here’s what it says in the company website:

We return the leaves, grass clippings, twigs, and sticks to your soil in the form of compost and mulch. This adds valuable nutrition to your gardens and improves the structure of your soil.

Last year, their crew arrived when Judy was at home. However, instead of mulching the plant debris, they blew it out of the beds with a high power leafblowers, then loaded it onto a truck and took it away. This is standard mow and blow landscaping, and Judy was pretty upset.

I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were overwhelmed and gave the work to a subcontractor. However, this year I sent them a message just to ensure there was no misunderstanding. I asked them not to remove the plant debris, but instead to grind it and return it to the beds. If there was too much, leave it by the garage. I was notified that my message had been received and forwarded to the appropriate person.


Fast forward to last Friday. What I saw when I got home was not what I expected. Every scrap of organic matter had been blown off the beds and there was no sign of it anywhere. When I called the company to complain, the person I talked acted like he had no idea what I was talking about.

Of course, the Greenwise website makes clear that after I pay them to remove all the surface organic matter, I can also pay them to return it in the form of their mulch and compost.

What’s depressing is that most likely the overwhelming majority of their customers are perfectly happy with this type of service. The fact that plant debris is important for both soil and wildlife has most likely not sunk in very deep. Meantime, people who hire a landscaper that touts its “green” credentials feel like they are doing the right thing.


Greenwise claims to be an organic landscaper, which is certainly a good thing if true. But now I’ll have to buy extra compost for our beds and borders (not from them, and I’ll apply it myself). And for next spring, I’ll be looking for another company to do the cleanup.


62 Comments on “Greenwashed Landscaping”

  1. Lack of communication within companies seems to be a common problem. An individual gardener seems to be a good way to go. Check out the Tangly Cottage blog. There are up in Washington on the coast, but it should give you an idea of the kind of service you can get from individual gardeners. God luck! Sorry this happened to you.

  2. How very annoying that this company does not seem to do what it says it will. It sounds like last year they never came back with compost to mulch the garden and I doubt they will this year either. I wish I knew someone whose judgement I trusted to help me with spring cleanup.

  3. So sorry to hear of your experience. Unfortunately I’ve found that nobody does the work in my garden exactly as I want it done, I have to do as much as I can myself, which isn’t easy any more. I think a private person would br brest.

  4. Well, that’s a bummer to have them take all of your organic matter!

    It is a job to do to the spring clean-up yourself — I was helped this year because clean-up was spurred by an early December snow last year that flattened everything in my pocket meadow — so it was “cleaned up” early, with all of the stems saved below the house.

    And in our Quebec garden for the second year, happily my hubbie will be there a month ahead of me (with our almost 11 yr-old Golden Retriever) – ha! He’ll have the heavy clean-up work to do….

  5. Yes, it would be annoying to think your mulch is being used by someone else, who has paid for it! We have our apple tree trimmed/pruned by a guy with a huge truck, and the leaves are mulched and given back immediately (he is a rarity)…however, the mulching makes an incredible noise, and I don’t think the neighbours are thrilled about it.

  6. How infuriating. Particularly since you went to the trouble of making a phone call specifically to ask them to return the ground up leaf/organic material.
    Maybe if you utter the words “breach of contract” it might make them sit up and take notice. (I doubt it, given what you’ve described).

  7. Yes, disappointing! A uestion, though, for my own gardening practices. You wanted them to mulch what they removed and return the material to your beds? With some kind of chipper or shredder? Usually, when I clean my beds in the spring, I remove everything and dump it into the nearby woods. Now you’ve got me thinking. I wonder how the home gardener who doesn’t have a chipper could do it. With a lawn mower?

  8. Well that is beyond annoying and I would probably have insisted that come back to mulch your garden at their own expense, even if it wasn’t from your garden. In this time of social media where us common folk can really impact a company’s reputation, I’m surprised they didn’t bend over backwards to remedy the situation. I would definitely leave a review on google with your comments.

  9. How sad. For not just you, but all the gardeners who think this is what beds are supposed to look like.
    It sounds like their website information is a bit misleading, and hard to understand just what they will do.

  10. I can’t believe any company would even offer such a service. It would add so much time to each job I don’t see how it could be profitable. Better to take all the debris away from all yards and compost it and then return fresh compost to them in the spring. It wouldn’t necessarily be “your” compost but I doubt many would care.

  11. There is a broad spectrum of what you get when you hire a “landscaper”. I have had to define it many times to people. There is the guy with the truck that doesn’t pay taxes or have insurance, usually. To the landscape architectural firms that have maintenance services. In them all real gardeners are few and far between. I recommendations that people get 3 bids and get recommendations from past clients. We offer proposals that are well defined as to the services people are buying so everyone has the same expectations. We only do maintenance on landscaping we have designed and installed. Your beds do need compost and mulch. I never heard about grinding up the old leaves and plant matter and putting it back before actually letting it compost somewhere else first. We do recommend continuing to enrich your soil profile. Plants like well drained evenly moist soil. We use an all organic fertilizer, shredded hardwood mulch and compost at various times throughout the year. I hope you find a better company next time! Happy Gardening

  12. Just adding our experience over here at Elm Tree Village. What they touted was not what they delivered. I have the name of the person who has helped me with sundry clean-up and difficult (for me) tasks. Can provide info if you’re interested.

  13. Hello Jason, it’s annoying when this kind of thing happens. After similar experiences like this in other trades, I find it best to either be there supervising, or if there are requirements that need the “message to be passed on”, then it’s just not going to happen. I leave the custom ordering for restaurants and take-outs and even then it’s not always guaranteed.

  14. What is this ‘spring clean-up’ you speak of?! 🙂 We do all ours ourselves but in stages over several weekends, not all in one go. We use secateurs, shears, loppers and a rake and compost as much as we can. Everything else goes to the municipal tip green waste where it’s composted. Leaves are often left where they are for the worms to use and we’ll mulch with our own compost on top. Our neighbour uses a leaf blower (generally early on a Sunday morning) and it’s flipping annoying! As others have suggested, I’d look for a local teenager who’s happy to do a few weekends of hard graft under your instruction and forget these landscapers.

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