Some Residential Landscapers Lack Essential Knowledge

I was recently hired by another group of residential landscapers operating in Los Angeles.  They contracted me to answer a long list of questions they had about how to do landscape design.

image: some residential landscapers don't even know plantsThat’s right, they paid me to answer their questions about how to design landscapes.

I didn’t expect their questions to be so essential to the service they were out there providing to unwitting customers.  To illustrate my point, I’ll share with you the long list they sent me.  I answered every one for their company in the hopes of saving the lives of plants (if you’ve been a reader for a while you know I see plants as sentient beings), and I sincerely hope that it helped them better serve residents – and the landscape – of Los Angeles County.

I’ve seen some of their built projects, and the plants were all high-maintenance, high water-use species used in all of their designs.  They actually even told me that a lot of their designs are losing plants and have to be replaced regularly.

It made me sad to see these residential landscapers misleading and shortchanging clients, but unfortunately there are a lot of people with no or minimal training calling themselves landscape designers.

The homeowners and the landscape suffer.

Here is their list of things they didn’t know about essential landscape design:

  • “What is the easiest way to select the right plants based on sun conditions?
  • Why is afternoon sun “harsher” if it’s a similar amount of time as morning sun?
  • Will flowering plants still flower w/ only morning sun if they’re labeled “Full Sun”?
  • I’m always confused on what the different sun conditions mean:
    • Partial shade – full sun: Does this mean the plant can survive in morning sun, but not harsher afternoon sun?
    • Full sun: Does this mean the plant can survive in ALL day sun & afternoon sun?
    • Full shade: Does this mean the plant can survive with very little sun?
  • Ficus are apparently toxic, but are all over the US in yards. I get confused when a plant is toxic, but then used by everyone it seems.
  • What is a good checklist to run through when a newly planted plant is struggling or dying?
  • What make certain plants finicky or higher maintenance such as Azalea, Gardenia & Camellia shrubs?
  • Why do some plants need fertilizer and other’s don’t? Does that mean their higher maintenance plants?
  • Is it impossible to keep plants small that naturally grow very large or grow super quickly such as Santa Barbara Salvia or Plumbago?
  • Generally how often are plants supposed to be pruned all the way back such as Salvias?
  • Usually how often do flowering plants or Roses need to be dead-headed to keep lush looking?”

This list of questions indicates a serious lack of knowledge essential to landscape design.  For instance, trying to sidestep rather than work with plants’ natural mature sizes. Or not understanding which plants will thrive in a space.

I helped this residential landscape company – they call themselves a ’boutique’ firm – but ethically they aren’t upholding the standards of landscape design.  I’m not naming them so as to avoid conflict, but their lack of training and education is wasting money, vital plant specimens, water, and the health of the landscapes with which they are being trusted.

The silver lining is the stark reminder this experience highlights:  that we can all be careful whom we hire to work for us.


image: residential landscapers with professional knowledge & skills