Realizing that the competition among landscaping companies San Diego is strong, landscape designers vie for the homeowner’s choice with their best photo of their most artful work because to do so is accepted theory practiced and taught by marketing experts.
This puts me into a bind of sorts: What is my best work? I thought I knew that, but when I show my portfolio to potential clients I get the most divergent comments on my work that make me question this assumption. Take this example:
This landscape design appeals to me, and I feel it is one of my more successful ones. I love how the grasses capture the light, and how the pinks and purples in the foreground harmonize with the greens. It’s a romantic and successful arrangement of textures and shapes, evoking an idealistic and earthy mountain scene, and many people who see it exclaim “How beautiful this is!” and “I love this”.
You can perhaps imagine my amazement when I experienced for the first time a client who, with a crinkle in her eyebrow, said “Nah… This looks too weedy for me”. Other comments have been “too crowded” and “too jumbled”.
Or take this example of a DIY landscape design: Here I helped a homeowner fine-tune her front yard landscape design ideas, advised on her selection of drought resistant plants and assisted with the plant layout (this was in order to qualify for the City of San Diego’s Lawn Replacement Rebate Program.)
The application for the rebate was successful; the homeowner received a partial reimbursement of the turf removal/installation cost. Better still, her front yard captures the admiration of her neighbors who admit that “there’s now so much more going on” in her yard and that “it is so alive”! My client loves it and is very happy with the design.
(The project is shown here right after planting; nothing has grown in.)
Would you say that the photo of this garden deserves a place in my portfolio as my “best work”? Is this design artful? Would you like it?
Contrast this project now with this:
I just love this arrangement of two classy chairs, the glimpse of an elegant pavement and a pretty table décor, against a green plant screen that evokes privacy and peace. The vase and flowers on the table add beautiful, warm colors to the scene and give it a lively spark. Who wouldn’t want to sit here? Don’t all elements combine to make you relaxed as you imagine yourself sitting here?
Without doubt this is a very inviting scene, and I have yet to hear an indifferent comment about it, but is it artful?
In the end I think this is a fairly irrelevant question. I have found that what counts to my clients is the style they prefer, that speaks to their aesthetics.
Since I have realized this, I find my work much more satisfying. Of course there’s the tough project once in a while: Designing a garden that excludes anything attractive to bees is “unnatural” to me, even though I understand the client’s fear of bee stings… …(This design incorporated lots of grasses and plants that don’t flower very often, such as Agaves, and wind-pollinated plants, as much as I could determine this.)
Equally, creating a landscape that categorically excluded trees was a challenge. But I tried my best and gave him what he wanted – he wouldn’t have felt at ease in a landscape with trees. So even this was in the end a good experience, and the homeowner was very comfortable with the design.
When I help my clients turn their landscape design ideas into a project that works for them, I’m successful, and they enjoy the beauty they see. And although I have my personal preference as to how I want to use plants to give life to a space, I try to temper it and put my client’s glasses on, so to speak. (That’s why designing a garden without trees or flowers is harder to do). Sometimes the happy circumstance puts me together with a homeowner who loves my own style, and those designs are most inspiring to me. But whether those designs or any other ones that I do are artful only you, the user, can say.