Monday, January 23, 2012

Garden Designers' Round Table: Reality Check!

I've had Georgia on my mind . . .
. . . Georgia O'Keefe, that is!  Georgia O'Keefe was an important American Modernist who created lush, colorful paintings of flowers, landscapes, and found objects. Her large canvases are often an ode to just one small detail of the subject matter - which is fine for a piece of art - but doesn't work at all in the garden.  The reality is that a successful landscape is the sum of its parts.  It's easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of creating a new landscape or garden - the colors! the textures! the fragrance! - and get distracted by these "shiny things" without enough thought or planning given to the big picture. A successful landscape depends on a logical series of steps that are important in and of themselves, and that build upon one another to create a cohesive whole.  How does one achieve that perfect whole, that successful landscape that complements your lifestyle and expresses your personal aesthetic?  The reality is that gardens take time and money.  

Spend the time and money necessary to create a comprehensive plan for your landscape:
  • Know your budget - what are you willing and able to spend now and in the future?
  • Know your site - what are the opportunities and challenges presented?
  • Know your lifestyle - how will you use your outdoor space?
  • Know your capabilities - what are you willing and able to physically do - or pay others to do - to implement and maintain your landscape?
  • Pay for the professional services necessary to make your dream an action oriented goal.  A plat survey, landscape design, soil or water testing, etc.

Spend the time and money necessary to implement the design for your landscape:
  • Know the correct sequence of events that is necessary to build a solid and sustainable project. Don't omit or leap-frog around them.
  • Know that proper preparation - often unseen in the finished project - is essential to the finished outcome.
  • Pay for the best quality materials that you can afford.
  • Pay for the best professional craftsmanship that you can afford.

Spend the time and money necessary to maintain your landscape:
  • Know that your plantings will take time to mature and to reach their full potential.
  • Know that your hardscape will weather and deteriorate with time.
  • Pay to keep your plants vigorous and healthy. 
  • Pay to keep your hardscape beautiful, safe and functional.

The reality is that gardens take time and money and attention to detail.  Thanks for the reminder, Georgia!

Join my fellow members of the Garden Designers' Roundtable for more discussions and insights on today's topic: Reality Check!

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : Easy Bay, CA
Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA
Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA
Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA
Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA


Ruth said...

It is hard to see the garden for the flowers sometimes.... beautiful images. Thanks.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Ruth - you've got it! Glad you enjoyed the photos.

shirley bovshow said...

Great reality check- budget! I focused on money mistakes too. Thanks for your info.

rebecca sweet said...

You're so right - don't forget the price of maintenance, folks! Beautiful images, too. (What IS that third photo? I can't figure it out!)

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Shirley, it's often a reality shock to discover the price of one's dream garden. Education and preparation are key!

Rebecca, the cost of maintenance is a reality that can become a burden. Again, planning and appropriate plant choices are crucial. Appreciate the photo comment - #3 is a ripening lotus pod.

Susan aka Miss R said...

This could be a companion post to my rant...knowledge is power! Fantastic advice for anyone wanting to embark on the garden of their dreams!

Robert Webber said...

Hi Jocelyn!
Such sound sense and such fabulous pics.

Pam/Digging said...

I see other people have commented on your reminder to "Spend the time and money necessary to maintain your landscape," but it's such a good point. Maintenance is often overlooked, and then the money spent on a beautiful design is essentially wasted as the garden deteriorates without a thoughtful and appropriate maintenance plan.

Helen said...

You're right about both time and money -- although "time" being rather an abstract term, it's important to add that it often means a lot of sweat and sore muscles. (Beautiful photos!)

susan morrison said...

Wonderful advice and very well put. You are making me realize I need to update some of my new client documents to spell out the realities of a new garden more clearly.

Desert Dweller said...

I'm drooling over your photos. And then there's the hit the center of the bullseye.

All the thought, time and money to do each element right...yes! Somehow we need to connect the process of a Georgia O'Keefe commission, and transform the process of a typical design commission. She performed her art, then went out and sold it, right? I wonder how we can work more on such an unhurried, methodical and thoughtful way, given we have a larger canvass owned by someone else? Hmmm...

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Susan C. - We are so often in tune (although my synonym for "rant" is "soapbox")!

Robert - I'm a pretty well balanced right brain/left brain person. My designs mus make sense!

Pam, the maintenance issue is the elephant in the room. Nobody wants to plan for it, but the reality is that everything needs care sooner or later!

Helen, thanks so much for stopping by! Time to plan, time to execute, time to maintain, time to mature. Abstract, but oh-so-important!

Thank you, Susan M! The more we work, the more understanding we have to pass on to our clients.

David, great point. As designers we're often forced into a "hurry up" mode. One can't turn creativity on with a switch, and research and attention to details take time - even for an experienced designer. Glad you enjoyed the photos!

Debbie said...

Jocelyn, I enjoyed your take on the topic. It's so true that 'gardens take time & money'. And it is always the attention to detail that truly makes a garden more than just a collection of plants.

Genevieve said...

Nice. Yes, so true! And thank you for not neglecting the part about what happens after installing. Maintenance also takes time, money and expertise, but it, too, it worth it. Great post.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Debbie, the plant collectors of the gardening world (and you know who you are!) have the biggest challenge of all.

Gen, thanks for your comments!

Andrew Keys said...

My ears are burning! ;-) As a designer AND a plant collector, I can attest to that.

This is a terrific post, and even more so for referencing Georgia O.

ScottHokunson said...

This is the thorough discussion we each should be having with our clients prior to every project! Any advice on how to get them to "see the forest for the trees"? ;-) Great advice, and like Susan M. stated, I also need to revisit client documents.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Andrew, you are a sketch! Glad you enjoyed a dose of the fabulous Ms O.

Scott - I ask a lot of questions, listen closely to my clients, and feed back to them what I'm hearing --- all to make sure that we're moving forward together.

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