Control Freak Much?
One of the best ways to squelch the life out of a good design is to work with a client who can’t give up control to the process. You need to be open to suggestion, education, what is realistic and what isn’t. While there are many certain’s in landscape and gardening; More times in life, work and landscaping, you have to fly by the seat of your pants.
No matter how qualified a gardener/landscaper, sometimes that great plan for an elaborate space dies with your budget, that super spot for your new tree turns out to be a rock shelf, or you hit an irrigation head. In other words, Sh** happens… Much like life, you cannot control every little aspect of your garden design or installation. Things are going to affect your installation because we can’t see beneath the ground, you’ll only have so much to spend and yellow doesn’t grow in shade. Many times when a problem presents itself however, there is an equally clever solution if you are open minded. When you micro manage your landscape crew or design process, you are limiting yourself to your own ideas, and let’s face it…if they were so great, you probably wouldn’t have called me 😉
A design or installation is a collaboration, it’s about the designer or contractor bringing your vision to life; but you have to be confident that the professional can complete the concept, then trust them to do just that. A big part of the success of any landscape design or installation is a management of expectations on both parties. It is important to fully articulate your needs in as few words as possible. For example, as the client, “I like pink, I hate orange, I don’t want to see my neighbors when I’m in my hot tub, and I need shade for my kids”. The Designer might say, “Here is what you will get, here is how much it will cost and this is about how long it will take”,… for example. If there are particular plants you love or a style of gardening you are attracted to, have photos to share for samples. This way you can be sure the designer/ contractor has your vision and you’re not surprised by the finished product.
A good place to be very involved is in the bid, ask for details, then ask questions. Always ask for rock samples for river beds and patios. Never choose materials from a photo, much like cloth and painting material, stone comes in many shades depending on the mining. Make sure you know what plants are going in the ground. Never let any random plant go into your space without understanding its nature and water needs.
If you are the type of person who prefers typical business hours and a person who always answers the phone, use a big company. People like me who hustle every day don’t have time to take calls all day. Although, you should get a call back within a day or so at least. We are giving all of our attention to the clients we are working with just as you would prefer for yourself later. Conversation by email is one of the surest ways to communicate with continuity and it doesn’t hurt to have it in writing.
If you love cactus, you wouldn’t want to hire me. You need to find someone who specializes in that. So don’t expect landscape miracles when you defer to your lawnmower guy for plants and they all die because they didn’t belong here. Hire a professional Landscape Coach or Landscape Consultant to educate you on the plants in your local area, or visit your local nursery with your smart phone and start googling your hardiness zone for reference. If the plant you’re looking at isn’t for your zone, move on. If these are the types of plants your contractor is recommending…move on. For example, these (above and below) are a few of the plants, shrubs or trees we can enjoy in our Central Texas Xeriscape garden beds. Never ask for, or allow anyone to install plants or trees that aren’t native to here or acclimated already, if I have a client who doesn’t get that, I move on.
Clients don’t realize it, but in my industry there is such a thing as a PITA tax. That’s a “Pain In The A$$” penalty passed on to the client. You will be charged extra when you let your contractor know up front that you’re going to be difficult to work with. Have a cohesive concept for them to bid on, or be completely open to their ideas. Working with someone who has no idea, but doesn’t like any of yours is a sure sign to step away for both sides. Don’t force a relationship with a landscaper or designer. You should be finishing each others sentences if you’re on the same page, or at least be excited by their ideas. If a trusted professional tells you your idea is bad, listen. There is often a cheaper or more practical solution and/or your rate of return will not be worth it. In other words, your contractor could charge you for the difficulty/ impracticality, not just the work. Desperation is another trigger for a landscaper. The job takes as long as it does and rushing it won’t help, but it could cost you more. Ask for the “real time” for completion, expect them to show up every day or tell you why. Then add on extra time for weather, material issues and traffic delays. Don’t start off a good relationship on the wrong foot by mismanaging your own expectations.
These were collaborations of love with people who enjoyed the process. You not only get what you pay for, but you get what you envisioned and so much more. Hire great people for fair pay then let them get to work!
Lisa’s Landscape and Design
” Saving The Planet One Yard at a Time”