In the midst of issues about the move that consumed me for weeks, I forgot to post about the front patch job.
After the first quote of $270 that I thought was reasonable for the job--that J thought was too much money for a 1.5x4m patch--I decided to try the traditional way of looking for ads: the paper. I called a gardening services company and got a quote for $114 after a site visit. $114!!! That was $156 less than the first. Of course I accepted it immediately.
The job was even done a day before the agreed date. I was so pleasantly surprised to come home to a very clean front patch. No huge bush tree (apparently made up of 5 bush plants) and weeds and different plants that I don't even know. Well, I'm not that kind of person anyway.
What's great was that the guy even asked what my plans were for the patch. He gave free advice! So I paid him $120. I would've given $140 if the budget allowed for it. I think some people just really do a great job and know when to charge fairly. The first quote was a rip off! I'm definitely going to recommend him and will probably get his service again to sort out an area in our backyard before we sell the house.