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What’s the Difference Between an Arborist and a Landscaper?

Arborist vs Landscaper: Are Arborists Landscapers?

As a homeowner, you may wonder what the difference is between a landscaper and an arborist. Do they do the same thing? Can you call one person to manage all of your outdoor plant-related work?

Though there is crossover, arborists are your tree doctors: the people to look to when your trees, shrubs and woody plants need some TLC. Landscapers focus on your garden: smaller plants and flowers, aesthetics, and lawns.

What Do Landscapers Do?

Landscaped garden what do landscapers do garden with rocks and plants

Landscape companies’ work can include gardening, garden and landscape design, lawn care, lawn treatments, mulching, and watering.

When it comes to soil and fertilizer, you may find the most overlap. Both arborists and landscapers may do soil tests and fertilizing, but the end goal should give you a clue where to focus. If it’s your rose bushes you’re looking to fertilize, call a landscaper; if it’s your maple tree, call an arborist.

What Do Arborists Do?

Arborists are tree care professionals. When it’s a tree you need help with, an arborist is the right person to choose. Arborists specialize in tree pruning, tree removals, emergency tree maintenance, stump removal, fertilizing, planting, and other tree and shrub care. We assess tree conditions and make a recommendation for the tree’s care. If you need an arborist report for a municipal permit, whether to remove a tree or initiate construction work, you’ll need a certified arborist. We also make reports for other reasons, including landscaping and for prospective homebuyers or property buyers.

As urban arborists, our goal is to manage tree health. That means making the best choices to care for trees, whether it’s removing a branch, cabling a shaky limb, fertilizing, or treating an infestation.

Certified Arborists vs Tree Trimmers

Landscapers can be certified (see here for a list of landscape industry designations), but often are not. Likewise, some people call themselves arborists (or tree trimmers or a tree service) without industry training or certification, but it’s safest to work with a certified arborist or company with certified arborists on staff.

Certified arborists have training in tree identification, planting, health and diseases, along with pruning and cutting practices. A certified landscaper may have expertise in garden, lawn and small plant health, planting and types. Many will have familiarity with common Ontario trees and popular garden trees, and may have a passing knowledge of common issues and pests, but arborists are the real experts when it comes to trees. That’s why you want them to be diagnosing your tree issues properly.

The Ontario chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture has more advice for customers on why to hire a certified arborist and you don’t need to take your arborist’s word for it: you can also look up whether an arborist is a member in good standing.

Technical Knowledge

Haze from wildfire smoke over trees in Toronto July 2021

Anyone can hack a branch off a tree with a trimmer or saw, but it takes training and skills to know how to remove or prune branches in the best manner for a tree or shrub’s growth. An arborist will recommend pruning methods that can not only remove a dead or dying branch or open up an overgrown view, but will create the healthiest future growth for the tree. Proper pruning not only removes excess branches, but helps a tree’s branches grow to maximize healthy growth patterns and sunlight to the tree.

Similarly, planting recommendations from arborists focus on how a tree will thrive in the environment it’s planted in and support other surrounding trees and features. Arborists are mindful of native species, soil conditions, sunlight, growth height and distance from buildings.

Safety Training

Certified arborists are trained to safely conduct tree work using industry best practices. When you use an arborist, you know you’re getting someone who can handle climbing and cuts on trees safely. This may not be the case for landscapers and gardeners [internal link to chain saw safety article]. We know how to safely rig a rope on a tree to climb it and to lower branches and cut pieces to the ground without risk of injury to people or property. We have the proper equipment to safely conduct tree removals, hazard removals and pruning jobs.

At Vista Tree, in addition to ISA certification, one owner is a licensed tree safety technician and our team includes Ontario licensed pesticide application technicians, so you can be assured we’re using any pesticides and plant treatments safely as well.

We Can Work Together

Just because landscapers and arborists have different roles, that doesn’t mean you need to pick one or the other now that you know the difference between an arborist and a landscaper. Our work often complements one another. If we know part of a job is outside our knowledge and scope, arborists often refer work to landscapers, and vice versa.

For instance, arborists may handle tree planting or stump removal for a landscaping job, or we may refer planting jobs for smaller plants to a landscape company.

Have you determined that an arborist is the right person for the job? Contact Vista Tree for your free quote.



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