After 20 years of garden design, what is your design philosophy?
My philosophy toward garden design is based on two key things: the active involvement of my clients in their garden design, and the use of natural elements in those gardens.
Why are these two things so important?
In my experience, I create the best gardens when I work with clients who want to be involved in the design. When my clients participate, they become more invested in the choices we make, and they ultimately find their garden more personally fulfilling.
As for natural elements, the use of natural elements in the garden puts us all closer to Nature. I truly love working with clients who value Nature and want to have access to it in their homes and gardens.
Particularly in urban environments, many of us lose touch with Nature. We get caught up in day-to-day activities and lose our ability to connect with the natural world. By adding natural elements to our homes and our lives, we can be reminded of the wonders of Nature.
People definitely benefit by being in lush and soothing natural environments. It's therapeutic, it's interesting, it's educational, and it's very fulfilling. My goal is to help people integrate Nature into their daily lives so they too can receive these benefits.
"Transformation" seems to be important to you. Can you tell us why that is?
There are two main reasons why people hire me to design their outdoor or indoor gardens. They either don't have a garden right now and they want one, or they don't like the garden or landscaping they currently have and they want to change it. Either way, they're looking to transform their space into something they'll love--into something that uniquely reflects who they are. My entire design approach is built around doing this for my clients.
How do you begin your design projects?
I start by listening, taking notes and asking questions so I can understand all of my client's needs and desires for their new garden. In doing so, I find that my clients need a garden design that will address all aspects of their particular lifestyle. For example, some of my clients work at home and they need a garden they enjoy looking out upon. Others need areas for entertaining defined for their typical number of guests, we may need a roomy landing or stairs that double for seating. Some have elderly parents as frequent visitors, while others have pets that need ample room for romping, or a child with special needs. I then use images, drawings and discussion to communicate possibilities for balanced garden design. It can be a lot to keep track of but my clients will be actively involved digesting the possibilities, expressing their inspirations, and getting clarity on their priorities as we proceed.
Another thing I do is make sure that I understand my client's budget and timeline. I always ask how much money they want to invest and how much time they have to achieve their end result. In my experience, if a project doesn't meet a client's financial requirements, then they won't be happy.
Additionally, many of my clients make both an emotional and financial investment in their gardens. For example, I have one client who financed her garden design from money that she inherited when her mother died. For her, the garden was way more than a real estate investment or a place for outdoor entertaining. It was also a way to remember her mother. I really like working on projects like this that involve my client's heart and spirit.
Why is client collaboration so important?
It goes back to what I said in the beginning. I have found that collaboration is the best way to make sure that my clients are 100% fulfilled at the end of the project. And all of my client have opinions and ideas that their garden design needs to be based on. Even if they don't think they have ideas, in fact, they always do.
I always encourage my clients to share their ideas with me. Sometimes they're not sure their ideas are do-able or they're not sure they should even bring them up to me. By helping them explore their ideas even further, and get more in touch with the emotions behind their ideas, I typically can come up with other design solutions that will fulfill their desires even more. This type of result cannot be achieved without client collaboration.
Don't all designers collaborate with their clients?
No. There are designers that are like famous artists. People hire them to get that artist's particular look in their backyard. There are also designers that are known for a certain style. Often the client wants that exact style and they don't want to be part of creating it. These types of projects don't require much client collaboration.
I'm different in that I collaborate with my clients by encouraging them, guiding them, educating them, and giving them permission to take time and explore what they really want from their garden. I also encourage them to explore their own unique creative inspiration. Most importantly though, I listen to what they really want and give them options for receiving it.
It sounds like your collaborative process helps clients better understand who they are.
Yes, that's true. My work is all about helping people reach inside themselves to find out what's going to make their garden rich on a practical and financial level, as well as an emotional level. I think that many designers don't know how to sit down and really investigate who their clients are and where they want to go with their lives. This is where I approach things differently.
Is there anything else that you'd like to share about what guides your design philosophy?
I really want my clients to trust me. They're not just paying me for a service. They're entrusting me with who they really are as people and it's part of my philosophy to honor that. It's an honor that my clients allow me to step into their worlds and help them integrate Nature into their lives. It's why I do this work.