Here’s a dirty little secret your landscaper would prefer you not to know: your annual application of shredded pine mulch is one of their highest mark-up activities of the entire growing year. Why? Because the process is highly labor intensive; the exact quantities of mulch applied are hard to determine unless you use an entire truckload, leading to up-charging (intentional or not), and the bloody stuff is expensive but barely lasts a season, requiring you to begin again next spring.
There’s a much simpler way: pine mini-nuggets in bags.
Now at first this may seem counter-intuitive. How can buying product in bags be cheaper than buying in bulk? The answer: it’s not. The difference however is that the mini-nuggets are made from bark (as opposed to shredded wood) and the bark — with its natural preservative properties — lasts from 2-4 seasons, not just one. Also, the bags are SO much easier to spread. Just rip them open and pour around your plantings, which is far less laborious than loading and dumping those wheel barrows full of mulch. And finally, the nuggets can be easily moved around delicate plantings with a fine kitchen broom. Trust me, it works like a charm, and keeps those clumsy workers from destroying all those emerging shoots. We started using these mini-nuggets in the perennial areas during my Victory Garden years, and I have slowly expanded their use to the entire property, eliminating shredded mulch entirely.
(As an aside, mulching, especially in perennial gardens, is really something you should do yourself, as I have never seen anyone be as careful with plants as the person who planted them. Mulching season is also the perfect time to feed new growth and prune winter damage, so if you’re physically able, this is one task you should do yourself.)
One caveat: it’s the MINI nuggets you want. Not the larger ones. I’m not sure what makes such a difference, but the large nuggets look entirely out of scale with smaller plantings and simply don’t form as nice of a covered surface. Also, you will find that after a season or two, the nuggets fade from UV exposure to a bleached wood color. This doesn’t affect their decay rate, but if you love that dark brown hue, you can lightly top-dress the beds in the spring to restore the color.