Thinking Forward

This past  year was one of upheaval and profound change.  People, ideas and places were passed by, passed through, passed over and passed around.  New ways of thinking and doing emerged and evolved while some old ones became immediately antiquated and still others proved their mettle.

back and forth

We have all fretted about the economy just as we looked for new ways to continue our landscape design practices with fewer and newly frugal clients.  Independent designers in all disciplines have struggled to survive while reinforcing and sometimes reinventing their value  in the wake of the so called ‘new economy’.  I hope that in the coming year  more people–designers and clients alike–will more  fully understand that the designed environment adds positive substance daily to their lives.

The days of  over-the-top backyard resorts have all but become extinct, and to survive  that extinction we have to find more imaginative ways to draw people outside and give them meaningful places to gather.  In 2010 we will still have to continue to prove to our clients that  thoughtful and creative design gives back to them directly as well as to the world at large.  Landscape designers are at the forefront of creating a more sustainable planet by making changes great and small, yard by yard, garden by garden.  We must also demonstrate to ourselves and our clients that we can do more with less and that innovative and forward thinking design at any budget will help heal the earth and add to their well being.

We, as designers, will have to become more adept at communicating that message on multiple platforms to reach out and  promote ourselves and our message to our clients.  We need to communicate our value so clearly and understandably that potential clients will see beyond the picture perfect images of published design that seem so financially unattainable.  We have to help our clients to understand what we already know–great design gives back long after the check is cashed–it’s an investment in quality of life for them directly as well as the world at large.

13 thoughts on “Thinking Forward

  1. “…images of published design that seem so financially unattainable.” I love this line. I call this the Martha Stewart Syndrome. People want what they see on Martha, without realizing that is takes a crew of people to maintain it. If you can’t afford a crew, you can’t afford a design like that. Maybe the organic, more back-to-basics movement will spill over into design and clients will want designs that are practical and attainable as well as beautiful.

    Good design can be good for you!–S

  2. Good points, Susan. There is still a need for innovative garden designers who can teach the rest of us how to live in a beautiful, sustainable outdoor setting without spending a million bucks.

    As Kat said so well, most of us want those magazine-profiled gardens, but we don’t have a giant gardening crew to maintain that 3 acre picture-perfect estate. 😉

    Still it’s these ongoing challenges that keep life so interesting, and I’m sure you’ll rise to the occasion, Susan. Good luck and Happy 2010, Teresa

    Thoughtful solutions and creative answers to spatial problems are what we are trained to provide — along with budgetary management and planting design and the rest. There are many gardeners out there with a great eye for design and just as many designers with a brown thumb!–S

  3. Fantastic article Susan.
    I agree that this new economy is going to give us design professionals more opportunities to be imaginative with our clients.

    One point of communicating this method is through publication and I am extremely grateful to innovators such as Martha Stewart for her continuing inspiration and publication of a wide variety of gardens in her magazine and other media outlets.

    People , ( our clients ) read these picture perfect magazines to be inspired and to gain ideas on how to craft and style their own exterior environments.
    Besides being entertaining they are good for our business and extremely helpful as an educational tool to our clients.
    How many times have we all read or head of the landscape designer who has requested that their client create an image notebook from clipped magazine images ? …. Plenty.

    Part of our job has always been and should always be to assist and guide our clients in creating the garden of their dreams within their budgetary constrainsts and if those picture perfect magazines with those over the top residential resort images can help narrow down the wide variety of choices then I say keep promoting that avenue of communication.
    We can use all the help we can get in this new economy.

    Agreed. Many people need the imagery to help clarify their ideas visually. I believe people still want their dream gardens – we have to use and invent tools to give them that…whatever their budget. I think we’ve all learned a few lessons this year! Here’s to moving forward in a way that allows for creativity, collaboration and dreams.–S

  4. We need to see some books on low budget, sustainable landscape and garden design. But those books apparently don’t have many readers. Considering the cost of maintenance, we may have to accept less than pristine garden environments, not a bad thing for the environment, but tolerance for that would need to be cultivated, the benefits made visible (or immediately apparent).

    If a book on budget wise, sustainable garden design was titled something that didn’t sound as if it had to be good for you- like cherry flavored cough medicine- they might sell.–s

  5. Good timely article Susan. Back to how it should always have been more to the point. We know from other life lessons the pendulum must swing to the slightly uncomfortable extreme before us humans come back into line. Its an exciting time ahead. I am editing a presentation I made for industry conferences a few years go called New Plants New Spaces, your article and the comments above are very helpful for plants people like me to learn what may be needed in the future. One could say so much on this topic. I recently read an interview, nothing to do with plants, with the Architect Frank Gehry where he said one of his main points of pride in his work is that his projects come in n budget! Another important achivement on his check list was a mention of his Guggenheim gallery buliding in Bilbao cost, on budget, $100 million and that last year it earner $320 million euro for the city this may not seem to have much to do with a garden design but it most definitely has. For the majority the garden must be a functional, affordable place to live in and give people who worked hard for their money return for expenditure. This may have been forgotten for a while in some Chelsea Show copy designs but for sure reality has roosted today. Thanks for your planning insights Susan they are very helpful.

    Thanks for taking the time to visit and respond with such a thoughtful reply Pat. Interesting that you bring up the added after value of such a high profile and high sticker project as Bilbao. If we, as designers, pay attention to giving the most that we can within the client’s budget, then the after value will certainly become greater to both the client and ourselves. P.S. I would have thought Bilbao cost so much more than that…–S

  6. 2010 will be a year of shaking out. There is a need for good design, creative problem solvers and ecology. This will be applicable in all fields. There is a need for people with vision. Landscape designers are in the unique position to add quality of life to the public while working to save the environment one city space, or backyard at a time. An educated public will make all this easier though.

  7. HI Susan,
    I’m with you. Sustainable gardens and landscapes are gaining momentum and the buzz starts with us professionals as we inspire our clients to consider one.

    I welcome the challenge of a small budget (not too small though that I can’t make a living) and a homeowner with “lofty ideas” (magazine clippings), it brings out my creative problem solving side.

    I’ll be posting more “before and after” photos on my blog as well as on my show with price tags so people will understand how much things cost!

    Maybe we should all consider doing this. It will surely educate the public.

    Shirley Bovshow “Eden Maker”

  8. Susan,
    Your post is influencing and inspriational. Though the new econony has punched or clobbered our budgets, it can be exciting be part of a fight to create a saner more beautiful planet. Loved your Robert Frost photo.

  9. Accords very much with our letter in the January edition of the Garden Design Journal. If it doesn’t sound patronising, Susan, you always make very good sense. A happy new year to you. Robert

  10. Although our blog is taglined “real gardens by real people”, it’s hard not to be swayed by garden porn. We do find ourselves reporting on garden-tour gardens, as they’re so darned showable. But I’ll never have $150,000 for hardscaping (or $15,000… or, right now, even $1,500), so cheap and cheerful has been and will continue to be my mode de vie. I’m challenging myself as a gardener to be more creative about it. Constraints can be a great muse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *