First and foremost, from a business perspective, I like to be able to give clients what they want even if they are not able to describe it or are not sure of what they want. At the same time I have to feel good about it and be willing to claim it as a Zone4 piece of work. I would, of course, like to be able to do what I think is beautiful, cool, appropriate or even ground-breaking but I enjoy working with the property owner to come up with a plan that will make them very happy and have an outcome that I think works well within their parameters. I strongly encourage the client to get involved and make the whole design effort a collaborative process. This not only makes the project much more enjoyable but it makes it much more likely that he or she is going to be pleased the results and feel like the garden is theirs and not something that was done to them.
Secondly, from a business perspective, I try to give the client the most value for their money. Landscaping is expensive and there is just no way around that unless you do it yourself and are willing spend a huge amount time in the process and are prepared to wait many years to see the landscape you envision. There will be a tremendous learning curve and many mistakes along the way. A professional designer with some experience can actually save money in the long run and provide much better results much sooner. I like to work with clients to maximize their budget because I would like to get as far toward our goals as possible. Granted, I would like to have enough budget to do it all in one fell swoop and have a beautifully implemented plan in the first season. Unfortunately this is rarely the case requiring projects to be broken down into a staged approach, possibly deciding to start with smaller plants and/or filling in with plants that reseed and propagate easily while waiting for more costly specimens to grow. I simply cannot approach landscape design from a money-making point of view first and foremost; I consider each project as a challenge to create the most functional and beautiful landscape with the resources available. Oh well, I didn’t choose this to get rich.
Lastly, I believe that money spent on landscaping is money well spent and that we provide a very valuable service. The exterior of your property is what you and your guests see first when you arrive at your home. It is so compelling to have a good experience when first seeing the property, entering the driveway, moving toward the house, getting out of the car and walking to the entrance. It is more than just curb appeal; it is the whole experience of arriving and being there. Having the property work well for your lifestyle and provide a beautiful environment that makes you smile and feel good seems “priceless” to me. Having outdoor areas that are inviting for entertaining, relaxing and recreation make it much more likely that you will enjoy your investment and get the most out of your property.
There are a few things that are very important to me from a design point of view. I feel strongly that a project should start with a top down approach as is the case with any good design. This means that after a thorough site analysis where we determine what existing features should be saved and reused we measure the property, capture the existing state and then develop a big-picture design for the whole property or area under consideration. This approach insures that we address all of the “requirements” or wish list of features and desires and saves a lot of time in the long run. It produces much better results than creating a bed here and there and improvising our way to a design over time. It also provides the basis for staging various components and developing the most efficient long-term plan.
Secondly I am a huge advocate of the year-round garden. I want to enjoy my landscape throughout the year having components for the fall and winter as well as the expected spring and summer gardens. Creating paths, patios, garden structures and vertical interests are major contributors to the overall success of a garden space. Seasonal interest can be accomplished by planting conifers and broad-leafed evergreens, plants with interesting habits, barks and fruits, ornamental grasses and other plants with interesting winter carcasses for starters. Not all clients are interested in having an all season garden because they may be second home owners and primarily use the property in the summer. This is a valid reason to focus resources on a particular season and I will not try to bludgeon you out of it. There are those clients that I call “flower floosies” who are unabashedly only interested in flowers: blooms, blooms and more blooms. We love them too and do our best to please them and perhaps try to sneak in a little nutrition disguised as the foliage that supports the flowers.
I am a fan of using as many “native” or indigenous species in the garden as possible while achieving the desired affect. This is true for a number of reasons: native plants are well-suited to the environment and tend to do very well (duh!) and they also support the local ecosystem providing homes and food for insects which feed the birds which do their jobs of propagating plants and eating the “bad” bugs and so on and so on. I am not a fanatic about using native plants and employ a wide palette of material suitable to our region and am constantly searching for new useful species. I will not, however, plant invasive species.
As I began this pontification, I will try my best to give the client what they want but if I were given complete freedom I would lean toward the following. I like more flowing natural looking gardens with curvilinear lines and a feeling of informality but with a sense of order and clean lines. The line is very important to me and the success of a garden. I love to mix in blue, bronze/purple and chartreuse/yellow foliage as well as a variety of greens to create depth and texture. I like to use mass plantings, particularly to get a strong color impact but having a variety of heights and textures is a vital component in most cases.
I could continue endlessly on this subject but if you read this far I should give you a break and sign off for now. Thanks for your interest.