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I love gardens that look a bit "messy" kind of like impressionist paintings that evolve depending on the time of day, month and season. There's a certain beauty to the miracle of being a partner in creating beauty in partnership with Mother Nature. But - I realize more and more that not everyone sees the world like this! Ahhhh-when you do find like-minded folks - how lovely it is to share insights, tips, challenges and beautiful successes.

I no longer have perennial beds, so my creativity is in containers. And it is amazing how plants and soil call to me beckoning to again be a steward of a bit of land. So, I'm volunteering with an urban garden initiative that works with kids.

To each his or her own. And, of course, laughing about the absurdities in life surely helps everything become more interesting and fun.

Great blog - love the examples of your clients. Isn't working with people "colorful" We can never cease to be amazed and entertained AND challenged.

The book sounds like a fun read.

I've been dipping my toe in this work, doing a few jobs for family, friends, and neighbors. Biggest downside? I'm neglecting my own garden.

If only I could figure out how to explain to people that lawn is not low-maintenance.

I was the client and have a story about my designer. A couple of years ago I asked a designer who had done some work for me before to help me with some plantings on the edge of my yard. I had some pretty specific requirements - needed to be evergreen, good in shade, and deer resistant. I also wanted to use a native plant if at all possible. Using natives as much as possible was very important to me, and she knew it. She suggested a viburnum. "Sounds great. Let's do it."

A couple years later I discovered that the particular viburnum she planted in my yard is not a native - at least not of this continent. I am not sure if she realized this or not. But if she didn't she should have, so she was either ignorant or purposely deceiving me. In either case, I won't be hiring her again.

Always good to run across a kindred spirit. Although I always try to keep in mind that helping someone is our highest vocation, one can't help but be amused at how hard some people work against their best interest. If everyone would take the time to just glean a basic bit of plant information maybe we wouldn't have to deal with people who want those bushy things that have flowers year round without any messy stuff, and none of those birds and bees flying about. And of course, they won't need any water will they? And they won't die will they? And on and on and on.

I'm a garden designer eavesdropper. Actually, I'm a neighbor of someone who hired a garden designer. When these neighbors moved in, the front garden they inherited was basically a weed patch. They hired a designer who created a nice, natural design with (relatively) low maintainance plants. The neighbor was was the neighborhood. But as time went by, we began to notice the lack of care for the plants. Eventually, the weeds began to take over...even though the designer had installed weedblock. (We have some incredibly tough weeds!) Homeowners need to realize that there is no garden that is maintainance-free!

I have been doing this for over 18 years - In general most of my business is maintenance for all the mixed borders I've designed and inherited from designers.

One of my more unusual tasks is cemetary plots because I'll do anything for money. Yes, that's right garden design for the deceeased. I take it pretty seriously as I want the relatives to be happy when they visit their loved ones. Catholic cemetaries are the worst as they have height and maintenance restrictions on everything because the mower decks have to be able to pass over the tops. One lady likes to have silks instead of real flowers so I try to come up with a new design every year for her son. This year we're going to try to a create an image of a violin using the silks. And over the years (while doing the installations and the maintenance) it's amazing how you get to meet and chat at length with many of the relatives of all the other nearby occupants many of them quite nice and charming. Although, sometimes they get a little ornery about people stealing stuff and at times need someone to lend an ear.

Working part-time in a nursery and part-time as a garden designer for the past couple of years, I have been amused, irritated, and truly delighted by my clients. They do come in all types and one marvels at their attitudes towards nature. Fear of bees, allergies, fear of trees falling on the house, insecurity in the presence of people who know something they don't know about plants all contribute to clients' problems with the outside world. I feel it is my job to calm the fears, keep things amusing, and gently introduce them to the wonderful world outdoors.

In the nursery all day I am forced to think on my feet, coming up with design ideas from iphone photographs of the front yard. My first question is usually, "what kind of sun do you get?" Hot afternoon vs. dappled early morning sun, etc. One client answered earnestly, "I get northern sun."

I volunteered to design the backyard garden of my elderly neighbor. I wanted to keep the process casual, so instead of a list of plants and a site map, I strolled around the yard with her, chatting about soil amendments, plant selections, succession of color, blah, blah, blah.

When I was finished she turned to me and asked,, "Do you know what you're doing, or do you just think you do? "

I think the answer to both questions is yes.

Ah...the hand that feeds me.

In my former life I was a corporate drone, employed in accounts payable. It could be a thankless drudge job, even in not-so-flush times the bills need to get paid!

My gardens gave me solace, and a creative outlet. When I had the opportunity to change careers, I jumped to it.

I now work part-time at a small family-owned greenhouse. I have past experience in design/install, and have been encouraged to supplement my hours in the greenhouse with more of these jobs. The neighborhood clientele is older, wealthier than some of the surrounding areas.

The reason I could use your book is to get a clearer picture of what sort of services to offer as a "standard" package. I will be competing for jobs with other employees, so the hourly rate is already fairly established. I could use some professional advice!

Thanks and Happy Gardening!

What a wonderful blog post, and I especially loved all of the comments. As a landscape designer and contractor, it rang true on many accounts. I especially loved the term 'mullet' for a way of pruning. I have seen boxed and balled, but not yet the mulleted shrub.

I loved your article! Being a designer for the last 17 years I can relate! I've had a client who brought me their pool towels so I could match the colour, gardens that have to be all white against a pale grey house or a moonlight garden on the edge of cliff so that the client's partiers wouldn't fall down. The client who couldn't understand you couldn't install a 1/2 acre landscape herself in one weekend. Or the boys from the city who wanted to garden in the country and didn't even own a shovel! Thank you for the chuckles! I'm so looking forward to you book!!! Thank you!

I would love to learn more about your trade! Since buying our first house three years ago this summer, I've become quite obsessed with gardening and have been tweaking my plots since, and developing my style and tastes. As an artist and graphic designer who is trying, bit by bit, to free herself of a 9 to 5 cube job, one of my fantasies is to become a garden designer -- but I don't really know the first thing about how to do that. To say that I would be really grateful for a copy of your book is an understatement. It could be life-changing, indeed!

I do not think I could make it as a professional garden designer. One of my uncles works at a nursery and knows his trade inside and out, but the people who frequent the place are there because they saw Martha Stewart do something, or P. Allan Smith plant something, or they saw a Really Bad Idea exemplified on Victory Garden and want the same thing in their patio even though it's the wrong climate, wrong time of year, and wrong planting zone.

Karmic Retribution for H. Tardiva's Slaughter

H. Tardiva may never forgive me. When I was tall enough to climb the Hydrangea tree I amputated both branches just to see if they would sprout. Rounder than I was wide, those branches didn't come back.

Karma is a bitch.

Growing things possess me. I witness the flowers seed. I cherish the diminutive daisy weed that greens up in the winter, blooms in March and blows away brown two weeks after. The Sun and I know how awesome this flower is.

I would never know this flower except for the last three years I have pulled this single wire stem flower with its single wire stem root out of each juncture of brick that courses the length of this oversized Cape. And someone pays me for it. A miniscule weed which looks like a haze over the walk is my occupation. How did the weed and I meet?

Someone's roses need pruning. My aunt suggests I prune the roses because of the lovely blossoms she gets every year since pruning hers. I pruned them once. "Cut off the dead stuff, open the interior, cut back to first bud." I am a bonsai enthusiast, you sure you want me to prune your roses? Bonsai: the Buddhist art of torturing a plant into expressing its inherent nature. If it doesn't live, it wasn't meant to...

I get the look of concern when the owner sees the roses.

Yet, she invites me to assess the garden...

The Rhodes aren't doing well because there is no mulch and the irrigation is on during the hottest part of every day. They probably want some fertilizer, too... which is going to turn the Pink hydrangea down slope Blue. She doesn't like Blue. She likes Pink. I'll see what I can do...

And summons me the following Spring: The bulbs are a little much.

What do 500 tulips bulbs reap in 500 square feet?...A flagrantly obscene Vernal Welcome. I harvest a bouquet for the Rose Bowl.

A third Spring, I am sacrificing daisies, beheading roses and harvesting tulips...with helpers, from under several years' of rumpled sketches scattered amongst the browning discards of previous design professionals. Someone is a patient masochist. And yet,

Consults and installations are blossoming word of mouth.

Whether or not it's true, someone thinks I can do this. Real designers, educated garden people voice their concerns; they know what I don't know. But, I know. Patience pays. When those crocus start pushing the phone rings...

This hasn't died, yet; I guess it's not meant to...Not until I atone for the Hydrangea Tree. If you want to kick into the Karma hat, it's passing and the book is just the thing.

Esperanza Escondido

I'm soon to be leaving a career in politics and just started my first class towards my new career as a garden designer. Politicians and garden customers have quite a bit in common, which is quite entertaining and simultaneously frightening--they are both always right! Would love to have a copy of this book to help me on my way.

I have to add my two cents from my designer days:
The cute gay couple who rejected Japanese Umbrella Pine because it looked "too plastic, like it's from the 1960's."

The overbearing Stockbroker type who demanded to buy a climbing lilac,and when I told him no such plant existed, said "I know they do, I saw one climbing up an old brick house." He was still skeptical when I discerned that he saw a wisteria, so I didn't bother to tell him that it probably wouldn't bloom for several years and not to plant it next to a wooden structure.

And the design client who took a piece of rhododendron branch to his local nursery, after I told him that it died from being overwatered, and they said it had been underwatered. "Did you bother to tell them that there was a sprinkler head in the middle of the shrub?" I asked.

I have more, but that will do for now

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