It has taken ten years of designing gardens to meet my toughest, trickiest and most demanding client. As a general rule, I have been very fortunate in the clients I have dealt with over the years. To the point some have become friends and I even have first dibs on two houses I have designed gardens for if they ever go up for sale. I have a few clients that randomly send me photos of their garden on particular days that they look out and think it looks extra special and feel the need to share it back with me. Never ceases to land a smile on my face.
It has only been recently that I have stumbled across this particular client that is causing me issues in my life. It probably isn’t the best business practice to publicly talk about this client except for the fact the client is ME!
I have lived in my house for almost 3 years and to be honest the back garden hasn’t bothered me. However the public criticism and humiliation of people saying “I thought you were a garden designer” or the tongue in cheek remark “I love what you have done here”. I never wanted to be the horticultural equivalent of the mechanic who’s car doesn’t run. It is time something was done to get these people off my back, maybe actually show some of them a sneak peak at what I actually do.
It is an interesting concept to sit there and finally decide to do your garden. In theory this should be very easy for me. It is what I do for a living. Every day I go to work and meticulously plan how peoples gardens are going to be put together. While doing this for a living I have one very simple luxury and that is, I do not have to foot the bill for the great ideas we come up with that end up going into these gardens. Part of my job as a designer is to educate people about correct horticultural and landscaping practises. Some of this education comes down to helping people understand what different elements cost to install and why things can cost what they have been quoted. Even with a good grounding on what things cost and what goes into constructing them, when it is your own money, seeing the bottom line on some quotes can make your heart skip a beat.
I have started this process by listening to some simple advice I give clients. “Know where the finish line of the project is before you start the project”. Taking this piece of advice, I actually designed a concept and thought about the garden before I went hell for leather pulling things out and randomly building new elements into the garden. During the design process I remained very reserved. I don’t want the garden to be overwhelming, I mean I would love to go crazy but it just isn’t the garden for that sort of design. I don’t see myself living in this house for a long period of time. I think it needs to be the sort of garden that makes an impact on people as they walk in the kitchen/living area but doesn’t over capitalise on the house itself. Plus whatever I design I am going to have to build and my skills or what used to be skills are rather rusty, or left me years ago, about the same time as my youthful exuberance for this sort of thing.
I thought I would be clever so I asked my landscape contractor for a favour and got him to price the concept plan for me. The quote came back at 35K. This is me being reserved! In all honesty, the size of the garden and what I want to achieve from it the quote came in at about exactly what I thought it was going to be. Now the tough part, planning and project managing how this thing actually gets built. Given the fact I generally work 6 days most weeks it doesn’t really fill me with excitement to want to be out in the garden constructing it on my one day off a week. I’d much rather be at the beach or investigating an established garden somewhere.
The client in me is saying “this whole project is happening too slowly”. The landscaper in me is saying “we are going as fast as we can”. The lazy in me is saying “pay someone to build this for you”. My bank manger is saying “you’re doing all of this yourself”. Currently I am about half way through the excavation of the job. I am trying to keep half of the back yard usable for a dog rather than have a big bomb site. Footings are almost dug for retaining walls ready to be poured. I now know what it is like to be a client. I have been putting money into this project in rubbish removal etc. so far and there seems to be zero return for the dollars. I hope once I see the footings go in and the walls come up out of the ground I will be flushed with motivation to finish the project. And let’s be honest all I want to do is get to the fun part which is planting and experimenting and seeing what I can get to blend together.
I could have just done a little planting make over, maybe thrown a bit of paving down. I have chosen to do this properly in the hope that one day I can throw the doors open to the public and say come and have a look at my own space and the sort of plants I play with and enjoy. At the moment it has been a hard push to get motivated to do anything and this part is the hard slog. The garden always gets worse before it gets better. The one thing I do intend to do is stick to what has been put on paper for the end result of this garden. This way there is no compromise to cutting corners or not quite finishing things. Our gardens are meticulously planned to be completed as efficiently as possible so there is no reason why this one should be any different. When it is finished I will let you all know and you can come over for a look.