September 29, 2013
PDT Outdoors Columnist
In landscaping design, we are limited only by our imagination. Yes, of course, budget usually enters into installation, but in the initial concept of designing, when you tell me what you want, I should tell you what I can do. We should try to achieve your wants and needs. The wants are the free-spirited, aggressive issues that you’ve dreamed of and the things you never had at your previous houses. They’re the aesthetic eye-catching curb appeal that someone else always had. The needs are the reasons of function that caused you to call me. You need and want to gain shade, privacy, curb appeal, resale, low maintenance, walkway, etc. These are the issues which we address, and we do it in an aesthetic way.
As the brainstorming transpires, we would discuss the cost of various options. My 30 years of doing this, gives me a pretty good guess as to the cost of the various phases we’re discussing. This same experience tells me that it proves to be disappointing to both parties, if I don’t interject ballpark figures into the mix in the first meeting on site. We both need to be on the same page on budget and happiness. The price of things will determine the quantity of things, whether it’s shade trees or wall block. It accomplishes nothing for us to brainstorm and dream up the most beautiful landscaping proposal you’ve ever seen, but never had, if you only wanted to spend a fourth of the price. At that point, we’ve wasted each other’s time, because we’re both disappointed and left with nothing.
Where did we go wrong? We did everything right when we discussed your wants and needs, but part of my response to you should have been, “Do you know where we’re headed in cost on this project?” If your answer is “no” or “yes”, you would usually ask me my estimated cost. I would tell you my best guess.
This leads to being in agreement or scaling down sizes or quantities at that point. Of course, if we’re making changes in what it costs you, we’re also changing what it costs me. At this time, we discuss what you’re giving up in order to achieve the budget we both agree on. This is the reason for many repeat customers. I refuse to surprise them. Many say, “Oh, surprise me” or “Just do your magic,” but I want to discuss it on site first. I hate to get unpleasant surprises and I hate to lose good customers.
I’ve always had a rather vivid imagination and it’s not to be totally unbridled, because I’m very realistic too. I’ll get what I want, if I work harder or wait awhile for it to fall into place. This could be doing landscaping in phases. A master plan allows us to see the big picture, and pick and choose our priorities.
This is where our imagination, both mine and yours, meet at the intersection of opportunity and reality. The opportunity is both aesthetics and function, but the reality is the budget. I’ve practiced and preached this pragmatic proposal approach to design and contracting for many years and it works.
It was James Thurber who said, “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” Mark Twain’s thoughts were, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” Will Rogers’ take on it was, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Imagine that.
Dudley Wooten can be reached at 740-820-8210 or by visiting wootenslandscaping.com