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This old story is appropriate to the client topic at hand. Seems it came up before here.

http://tropicalembellishments.blogspot.com/2006/03/puddles.html

You are more patient folks than I because surely I'd have told someone off at some point. Some people just need a reality check.

Alas, I'm not a professional garden designer, but I have dabbled enough as an amateur (both my current & former residences, the neighbors when they'll let me) to know that I want to go into the biz. I love these stories, and though they make me think twice, I am still thinking about it. Have no design tales to tell, so I'll have to purchase the book outright.

People come in to my garden and fall in love with all of my succulents. I have them covering mounds as drifts of color. Inevitably, I will offer them some cuttings. I love to share my plants with people who will love them. Then there is always the moment when they ask, "So, this will be fine in my living room, right?" No matter how patiently I try to explain that these plants need air, light and water, people want to grow them in a dark room. I'm still hopeful though!

I had a client who absolutely could not understand why her 'hydrangea' did not bloom last year. It was such a pretty purple she said. I looked at the shrub and realized it was a lilac. Oops! She needed lots of help and it was fun but I get a chuckle from this mistaken identity each time.

Enjoyed your client's stories. Especially the townhouse garden.

There used to be an old TV show called "This is Your Life". Your post made me feel like I was in it.

Clients can be so strange sometimes -like the one who had dozens of trees cut down and trucked in hundreds of cubic yards to level her backyard, then proudly showed me the couple of Trilliums she had dug up before the bulldozers arrived. Or the one who wanted the Het Loo Palace gardens on a 45 degree slope.

Besides wholesale trashing of the natural landscape that breaks my heart, what makes me want to cry is stopping by the site a few years later to find that the perfect cultivar that I sweated over was planted with something totally inappropriate - just because the garden center said it was "just as good".

Still, I've had some wonderful clients over the years. For them I am truly grateful.

I'm entering my 28th year in the biz and have some wonderful stories of the bad, the good and the very very ugly.
Just a day ago I had someone who isn't even a signed client yet ( and probably won't be) request my license number so that they could start purchasing their pots and garden furniture wholesale. .... sure, as soon as pigs fly out of my butt.

One of the funniest moments was when a woman was in my office and their little snot nosed kid started playing with my electric eraser. The mother freaked out , thinking that it was a dildo and screamed to the kid " Don't touch that thing, you don't know where's it been !".
Yeah, right, like us landscape duhsigners all hang our dildo's off of a hook on our drafting boards .. ..in our offices. ( eyes rolling )

And then you have the interior duhsigners asking us to plant flowers to match the sofa or the wall paper.
Or the high end trophy wife giving you her nail polish collection so you can match the shrubberies to her pointy paws.

I could write a book as thick as War and Peace , but reliving it might make me rethink the career that I chose.
Though I do get a good laugh sometimes when using my electric eraser.

I actually had a client that was such a micro manager she went to the nursery and picked out all of the plants herself. When we finished arranging and planting said plants she turned to me and said she thought there was too much green!!! If she would have let me do my job it wouldn't have been, Oh never mind, it wouldn't have been right anyway. I went back and planted some purple palace coral bells. The next spring she was "somewhat" delighted. If it's not right the first time, just keep trying.

A few years ago, I retired from the accounting profession and took landscape design classes. It didn't take long to find out that both professions have the good, bad and clueless clients!

Here in Boise (zone 6/7, 12" precip/year), people not only want no maintenance, they don't want to water anything, either. Even xeric plants need a little water to keep them looking good all summer when it's this dry.

We have many nurseries here that have knowledgeable staff - some even look to hire Master Gardeners. But the guy who opened the nursery selling only palm trees stayed in business until the first hard winter. There are still a few palms around - frozen in time!

I have your book on hold at the library, but would love to have it on my shelves for reference.

One of my fav clients ever was a sweet little old lady for whom I planted some clematis. I stopped by to check in, and right in front of her husband and friends she said "Oh David, I have to thank you for the chlamydia you gave me!" As we all burst out laughing, she said "Oh dear- that's not the right name, is it?"

Aha! another corporate marketing refugee like me, imagining that there would be something pleasant and soulful about working with people to help them steward their little plot of Earth. Welllllll...

Give me an hour OUTSIDE a house with a couple, and I will know more about that relationship than I ever wanted to know. No need to peek inside. Problem is, I am not a therapist and if I was, I would: a. work on a 50 minute hour and
b. make more per hour (or per 50 minutes) than I make now. :)

As one of my landscape contractors is fond of saying: "Never be surprised when people behave like humans."

WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN'T ACCEPT MY DATA? DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG I JUST SPENT WRITING A RESPONSE SO I CAN GET THAT BOOK:? THE WORST STORY EVER, NO CUSS WORDS INVOLVED? I AM GOING TO BED, GARDENRANT, AND FORGET YOU DISSED ME LIKE THIS! DANG!

I'm still laughing at those marvelous stories and can't wait to read your book. The lady who circled the tropical plant photos for her Massachusetts garden is my favorite. I've worked in the industry for years and have learned that sometimes a customer's lack of plant knowledge can teach us to see from a new perspective. Sort of. My story:
One day the wife of a local builder pulled into the wholesale tree and shrub nursery where I worked. This was her first visit to the nursery and judging by her clothes she had not counted on the dirt parking lot and muddy walkways. I asked her what I could help her find. She said "I need some air-conditioner plants."

"Hmmm, I'm not sure what you mean" I replied unwittingly.

"A-I-R C-0-N-D-I-T-I-O-N-E-R P-L-A-N-T-S!" She yelled back at me. I expected her to follow with "You stupid moron!" Still stumped, I offered to take her for a spin around the nursery to see if she might spot these mysterious plants, but she refused to get into my golf cart because it was too filthy. Next she asked if there was anyone there who knew anything about plants. I told her I was supposed to be that person. Then I took off in my filthy cart (muttering some pretty awful things under my breath) and returned loaded with several different types of shrubs, pulled up next to her Cadillac and asked if any of them looked familiar.
"Noooo, those aren't right. How can you not know what I'm talking about? I need those plants that you put in front of air conditioner units to hide them from view." I thought back to the last Parade of Homes tour I had been on and got a hunch. I pulled back up with several variegated red-twig dogwoods in the cart, and bulls-eye! She pulled out her checkbook and gave me a delivery address.
That woman treated me like crap but at least I got a plant I.D. lesson out of the encounter.

I love the clients who don't flinch about spending thousands ripping out 30 y/o rhodies, ilex and ivy - but don't want to spend a few bucks to amend the soil before they install the next garden!! They ask, "but do I really need it??" No plant guarantees on that installation....

I've just started working with clients and it's been quite an education. My next job is for a client who wants a tropical look. No problem there, but the only color that I'm allowed is purple. Should be interesting!

Sounds like I need this book and actually excited that something like this exists. School does not prepare you for clients. My worst client was a horribly angry person 95% of the time. She treated me like one of her many personal assistants, which was bad. I still wanted to do the job well despite her actions. She was incredibly indecisive and forgetful, not a good combination for me or anybody working for her. She would scream and yell over something she forgot she had requested prior. She would demand things that would not work even after many long meetings of explaining why it wouldn't work. For example, most of her plants were diseased or dead because the garden was way overgrown and shady. She demanded that they be reused and transplanted. Providing staging and shade for the plants during construction alone was enough of a cost to say get rid of them (and I really try to reuse everything under normal circumstances). What a challenge I accepted! Incorporating at least 40 dead plants into a new lovely design! The design had made it to construction with most of it's integrity intact, mine...I don't know. Then the transplants went in. Next to the new green plants, they looked even worse. She screamed and yelled at me, the crew, everyone on how we could give her dead plants! After frantically procuring new plants and installing them, the garden looked as it originally should have. Lovely. The client then tells me she shouldn't have to tell me how to do my job. She had to tell me to remove the dead plants to get the garden that she wanted! Wow. That is all I could say every time I left a meeting with her. I am still glad it is a gorgeous garden even if she doesn't deserve it. Hopefully, the personal assistants get a minute of peace out there.

I would like to be a garden designer! I like to be outside and I love plants-flower, foliage and form. So many plants and so many garden possibilities and not enough room in just my garden alone. Plus, I am a recovered plant pruner.

I am not a designer, but I was subcontracted for a summer to work for an inn, in a pinch, when their illegal migrant workers got deported. I was the only member of my company's crew that was willing to deal with the client, so I had to go by myself three days a week to do a job that the boss had estimated would take TWO people three days per week to maintain.

The property had extensive formal gardens (was used for high dollar weddings), the picture-perfect magazine type, with tons of roses, peonys, and other high maintenance perennials, plus annuals. The client's strict job requirements for me... no deadheads on the plants, no petals or fallen leaves in the BUCKWHEAT hull mulch (very thin, light, and expensive), keep all plantings individualized, pruned to perfection, obviously no weeds, put new gardens here and here...

Acres and acres to do in half the man hours because the client with the multi-million dollar property was dirt cheap. The client was nasty, managed to bring me to tears once (I was 19 at the time) by telling me what an awful job I was doing and how stupid and incompetent I was because there were A FEW two inch tall weeds in TWO of the beds I hadn't gotten to yet that week when I was first starting.

The client loved to have me plant petunias under a permanent tent (deep shade) and impatiens (not new guineas) in bright sun. And proceeded to act like a know-it-all DIY-er when it came to gardening.

The client had me prune some suckers and low branches off a birch tree (without an arbor's license) and then had me strip all the leaves off BY HAND (for two hours) so the wood could be used in fireplaces. Totally not in the job description. Totally a waste of time because THEY WOULD HAVE FALLEN OFF IN DAYS!

Many more stories from that summer...

But my job was to smile and say "yes ma'am" to the client. I loved the work and the company I worked for, I just hated being a subcontractor!

Well, it did me much good to read of your experiences; sort of made me feel better about my own problems.
I work as a gardener, and I have a client who recently told me we would have to cut back my hours because she could not pay me to do whatever needed to be done to maintain the garden, and that I would have to work when she could work with me so she could learn to do what I do (this should have been a warning of what was to come - I have been working for 20 years to learn what I do!).
Right away that was a problem because now I had to work on her day off, not when I had time.

But I said o.k. let's try it.

When I worked in the garden today, only one hour as I promised, she got mad at me because I hadn't told her I was coming, which of course I forgot, but the clean-up I had explained how to do wasn't done so the border was already messy as we've have had three days of summer heat and I knew the grasses had to be cut now! But did she care? No, she was upset because I hadn't told her I was coming today!

I need the book because I have work to do in my own garden, and now will probably have plenty of time to do it, and I will need all the help I can get.

i would love love love to have your book--i purchased a property many months back that has *never* been touched and is in desperate need of some love/Love.

i worked with a professional garden designer at my previous house in new mexico. she was wonderfully intuitive about the plants that would and would not work in our completely sunny (i.e. new mexico sun every moment the sun was up) yet almost completely dry area...and she managed to give me a yard that looked gorgeous without pruning, feeding, ridiculous amounts of watering, etc. she totally helped make our space complete.

Perhaps we were problem clients, but our LA was no Fredrick Law Olmstead. She didn't seem to know anything at all about any plants beyond standard privit/rapheolepis/agapanthus.

She wanted to plant shrubs along the street that had a mature size of 8-10', and have us keep them trimmed down to 1'. I told her that didn't make sense, why not plant something that stayed 1', and she was offended.

She had no clue about paying attention to the surrounding views: the gateways exactly frame things like the neighbor's ugly roof, or another neighbor's teenage son's bedroom window. How about screening out stuff like that, not framing them?

She wanted to plant azaleas in full sun because I didn't want privit/rapheolepis/agapanthus I asked, aren't azaleas for shade? and she said if you water them a lot every day they are fine. I said won't that take a lot of water? (our climate is semi-arid). It went on and on. The fountain is a maintenance nightmare because she didn't consider maintenance for one second.

She was the builder's LA and came highly recommended. The builder did a great job on the house so we trusted his recommendation, but he didn't have high standards for landscape.

Maybe it was a blessing in disguise. I've learned so much fixing or trying to fix all the problems.

As we began the final walk through of the completed installation (8 months of work that included custom arbors, sculpture, hose holders, etc.) the smiling client turned to me and said, "Will I ever have to water any of these plants?"

Great dialogue from clients and de-zine-ahs, garden coaches, horticulturalists, and gardeners. When I ran a garden center for over a dozen years, the first prerequisite for hiring was "Must like Plants AND People." When contact with The Human Condition is required, it is absolutely necessary to like, be entertained by, and fascinated by, people. (After all that's the part that makes us want to share stories and buy this book, no?)

And, to recognize that the clients' needs change over time, sometimes radically.

Apologies on behalf of all of us who ply our trade to the client (Hoover) above who had a problem with an LA who disregarded the most pressing issue of #sustainability: #LANDSCAPE #MAINTENANCE.

You may have been better off working with a landscape designer or a design/install/maintain firm who has real #'hands-in-dirt' experience that helps guide the design programme at the outset. While I have great respect for LA's and the education, testing, practice hoops they must jump through to get registered (I researched and rejected that path, consciously, twice), real-world experience with a garden over time is not part of the requirement to become an LA.

In fact in my state, to become registered, an LA must work for a period for an LA, architecture, surveying or planning firm, but get no credit for time served with (lowly) 'trades' such as landscape design, design/build, arboristry, forestry, horticulturalist, grounds management firms. Thus: LA's must get hired onto large scale (commercial, usually) projects early in their careers. In the boom times for development, this means working with what my mother would call the 'more money than sense' crowd...mostly - as the LA who taught my Master Gardener class in GA said - "to grade parking lots so they drain".

Intimacy with a site over time (even if just different times of day, not just times of year), rather than time on the drawing board or computer, is what helps a designer NOTICE and screen out the offending 'off-premises' issues. This has unfortunately become seen as a luxury by clients and firms alike, rather than a necessity.


This is such a great post, especially as my season is starting here along the Jersey Shore. All of the stories shared made me smile and realize that all of us in the profession see all kinds.

My quick stories are:

The client who called me on a Friday night saying I had to come over and plant more flowers because she was having a party...yep, the hired help, on my hands and knees planting impatiens while the guests looked on from the porch above commenting on what I was doing and how I was doing it like I wasn't even there!

Another story, just the other day, delivering a square foot garden to my client with the 3x3 box strapped to the back of my Honda Accord..hopefully this season I can upgrade to a truck! The picture is priceless..whatever it takes, right?

And lastly, after 3 days of unseasonably hot weather, the number of people in the last week who asked me if it is OK to plant their tomatoes, because they saw them at the big box stores..telling me they wouldn't be there if they couldn't plant them, right? (PS we are in Zone 7, frost free May 15th)

I am still learning the best ways to run my business and differentiate myself from the many, many other landscapers in our area. I count on hearing how other people have been successful, which is why this blog is so great. Going into my second season (yay!) and looking forward to reading your book, thank you for sharing here!

For years I worked in the accounting field and fantasized about escaping the flourescent lighting for a job in plantdom. When we relocated to a different part of the country I made the leap to what I thought would be a stress-free job as a live-nursery specialist at a big-box store. I know - how naive of me!

This may be surprising to some of you (not!) but many people who shop at the big box garden centers have no clue about gardening, or maybe anything else. I had a client point to a bench of plants and ask "how much are those pink flowers?" Those are impatiens, they like shade, and they are xx per six pack. "How many plants are in a six pack?" REALLY?!! Uh, six. "How much are the white ones?" Those are white impatiens and they are xx per six pack as well. All of our annuals are xx per six pack. "What about the purple ones?" If it's in a six-pack it's xx. "So even if its not an impatient its still xx?" AGH!
I had to escape before I committed hari-kari right among the petunias.

Now I sit in my flourescent office weekdays and freelance in my spare time as a garden consultant where I'm able to pick and choose clients. All my work is by word of mouth, and I like it that way. I'm a little nervous to try this full-time (what if I fail?), but with the encouragement of your book, Love, I think I could at least give it a try.

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