Thursday, November 29, 2012


In 2006 I designed a front yard for a couple that were tired of just having lawn and not much else.  I got all excited to do the design because I had a gut feeling that perhaps they would refer to someone else.  I did two concept plans and from there I created a final plan that a contractor could bid from.  I was told by the homeowner's that they knew a contractor who belonged to their church that could do the work.  I decided not to be involved during the installation process assuming that their contractor knew what he was doing.  


I went back months later and to my surprise (horror) nothing was installed per plan.  In fact the pilasters in the design where not installed accurately and to make things worse the plants were not what I had specked out in the legend.  I felt so embarrassed that I never bothered to contact the client nor did I ever get a referral off of that project.  I learned the hard way that when you design a project you just cannot leave it be and assume that it will get installed accurately.  From that moment forward I adopted a few new rules in my business that I refuse to negotiate with.  If you are a self employed landscape designer I suggest to use these rules in your business or if you are hiring a landscape designer I suggest you ask them to follow these rules.  

Rule 1:  Insist on referring a contractor.  I have a network of 3-5 that I have worked with.  I tell each of my clients that I will refer you to one person and if you want someone else for number comparison etc. then I will happily get you someone else.  If the client already has someone they want to work with that is OK provided that you still get to refer someone.  

Rule 2: Meet with the contractor to thoroughly go over the design. Whether it's someone that you referred or if it's someone that the client knows it is very important to make sure that the design intent is understood.  Don't just assume that the contractor (especially if you don't know the person) will completely read the drawings or will install it per plan.  Just because you may understand the design thoroughly in your head and on paper does not mean the contractor will.  

Rule 3:  Come to the job site regularly to take updated photographs and ensure that things are flowing smoothly.  In some cases the design may change slightly based on unforeseen (unknown) field conditions but if the change looks unnecessary then speak up and say something.  It's your hard work.  Be there to place all the plants and make sure that the right plants were purchased.  In the case of my 2006 client the contractor claimed that he could not find most of the plants on the legend.  Apparently the note I had put on the drawings indicating to contact me if the plants could not be found was either not read or ignored.  

The bottom line is that you can't just create a design and let go of it.  You have to see it through and in doing so you will be guaranteed a smooth installation process and referrals upon referrals.  If you have any fun or horror stories form your installed designs then please share in the comment section below.   

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