Friday, August 08, 2014

You Don't Always Get What You Pay For

The landscape architect sat on the other side of the table, her bracelets jangling, her confidence in her design evident.  We'd contacted her, contracted with her and after four long months, the moment where she'd present her designs was here.

(random design from web, not ours)

Why four months?  The original due date was the end of April, or so her email said.  Then she wasn't quite ready as she was working on someone else's plans but would be able to get to ours when she got back from Paris.  Okay.  Then there was another delay because she had just gotten back from France and was still working on them.  Okay.  She wanted to present the plans to us two days before our big trip and I postponed it until after we returned.  Then she wrote and said she'd like to postpone our meeting date again because she had a chance to go away for the long 4th of July weekend (and who could pass up that chance?).  I said, Um, no.  Not interested in postponing again. 

This is a YES.
I'd met with her initially in March, gathering together my ideas of our xeriscaped yard into two files: YES and NO, and sent her the links.  I went down to the city and got our plot plans.  She wrote and wrote as I talked during that first meeting, asking questions, clarifying.  I was really happy to get this process started.

This is another YES picture, as I said I wanted an interesting way to present my vegetable garden, not just boring grow boxes.

And we wanted a water feature where we could relax and enjoy the sound, like this one in my sister Susan's yard.

So back to the Presentation Meeting.  We were already a little testy with each other because I'd said I didn't want another postponement, and I may have emphasized the word "another" because she got a bit huffy over the phone and said that I was the one who had postponed it.  Right.  Okay, moving on.

We started to ask questions about the plan in front of us, drawn to a scale of 1/8" to 1 foot, which made it look puny on the page, barely filling up 1/4 of the lefthand side.  The plant list was extensive and I was chagrined as she talked, mentioning the multiple rose bushes.  I'm NOT a rose grower.  My mother is, and her garden was gorgeous and full of beauties.  My roses are nearly all gifts to us that I planted and can barely keep alive.  (You all know I'd rather be quilting.)  Dave had asked for a very-low maintenance yard, but she kept saying "deadheading" and "trimming" and other such things.

Finally I stopped asking questions and just let her talk.  She'd brought us two 18 x 24" sheets of paper, both handdrawn with circles for plants.  One was colored in with colored pencils.  The fee: a sack of money.  To our minds, the sack of money was way too much for what we saw before us.  There were no sprinkler diagrams, no material callouts, no information on possible lighting, or power for the water feature, let alone any info at all about that water feature except that there was a circle drawn and the letters "WF" on the circle. 

We, my husband and I, were done.  Our silence, punctuated with polite smiles, lasted until we accepted her bill with an accompanying addressed envelope, shook hands and she jangled her way out.  After one terse email exchange, where she said "I'm a Garden DESIGNER, not a landscaper architect" and "I'll be happy to make any modifications you want, but my going rate is $$ an hour," we learned that she was not flexible, especially when she haughtily reminded us (via email) that she had designed over 250 gardens, of which 50 were now in existence.  We knew once again that we were done.

I think the most discouraging thing was that we had counted on her to help us, to get us ready and get us set for sending our plans out for bid.  I moped around for a while and had a root canal in the meantime.  I think the two experiences were comparable.

But nothing was going to happen unless I made it happen.  So I gathered up all the garden books I had in the house, then ordered the one on how to draw landscaping, and went to town.  I used the plant list from the city's WaterWise website, jotting down information such as how much sun a plant needed, how much water it liked, and the height and spread of each plant.  After a long week, with a night of selecting plants with Dave, I had this:

Scale: 1/4" to 1 foot, filling up the plan paper nicely.  In the lower right I had a landscape title, but I've whited it out for internet publication.  And yes, I know.  I have boring grow boxes for my vegetables.

I'm no landscape architect, and I'll depend on the expertise of companies I'm contracting to fix any rough spots in my design. After the city calls me back so I can get my "tear-up-the-lawn" rebate, and after the bids from a couple of companies I've contacted come in, we'll be rolling again.


Sherri said...

I can really relate...we hired a contractor to build our home ten years ago and have regretted it ever since. We could have done a much better job and saved a lot of money...lesson learned.

I can't wait to see your new garden come to life!

Judy said...

Really truly amazing. Your creative genius never ceases to impress me. I can't wait to see the finished product!

Artax said...

I understand this. Somehow, the only one really committed to the project is you. Sorry things didn't work out better with the landscape architect. But your own design looks pretty nice!