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60 things landscape designers should know

Guess what? July 2nd, I celebrated NINE YEARS of being my own boss. Ring that bell!

Yep, we party like rock stars on our anniversary

In that time I have learned so, so much. And I’ve gotten to work with and mentor newer designers, as well as get great advice and coaching from those who can kick my butt. I recently stumbled across this amazing list of 250 things an architect should know. I picked 60 for landscape designers because it’s the height of the busy season here – ain’t nobody got time for 250 items. Read on, and let me know in the comments what YOU think I missed. Even better, write your own list, and I’ll either share the link here, or post it for you if you don’t have a blog!

Note: I realize that this list skews a little heavy into the landscape construction side of things. That’s because I feel a lot of folks who get into this business do it out of love for plants, so that’s not the area that’s lacking. If our clients want us to know a little about everything, we should!

  1. The feel of dry grass on bare feet.
  2. What it’s like to walk across pea gravel in high heels.
  3. How far conversation travels in a neighborhood.
  4. How big a waterfall needs to be to drown out traffic.
  5. The cost to have someone mow a quarter acre for you.
  6. The cost to have someone maintain a lawnless quarter acre.
  7. The feeling of a sudden pollen-induced allergy attack.
  8. How slippery different patio surfaces can be when wet.
  9. How stone is laid.
  10. What a sun scorched hosta looks like.
  11. How to communicate using a sketch (no matter how bad the sketch is).
  12. What an appropriately pitched wheelchair ramp feels like.
  13. What it feels like to push a wheelchair through gravel.
  14. Or over grass.
  15. How to plant a tree.
  16. What the client wants.
  17. What the client thinks they want.
  18. What the client can afford.
  19. What the planet can afford.
  20. The feel of a sunny patio in winter in Ohio.
  21. The feel of a sunny patio in summer in Arizona.
  22. How to discover the shape a plant wants to be.
  23. Real japanese gardens.
  24. Uplift.
  25. Lateral movement.
  26. How to mitigate being in a subdivision lot.
  27. How to resolve neighbor disputes.
  28. How long it takes to plant a tree.
  29. How to weed a densely planted perennial bed.
  30. How to get along with landscape architects.
  31. How to talk to engineers.
  32. The behavior of different wood species.
  33. When to hold ‘em.
  34. When to fold ‘em.
  35. When to walk away.
  36. Three vegetarian dishes for the grill.
  37. How to talk to a dog.
  38. A good lawyer.
  39. How to communicate to a crowded room.
  40. Why David Lee Roth was the better frontman than Sammy Hagar.
  41. Another artistic discipline (I suggest playing an instrument).
  42. The scientific method.
  43. What % soil settles.
  44. The golden ratio.
  45. How to make a good Manhattan.
  46. Approximate project costs early in the discussion.
  47. How to turn green pond water clear.
  48. How to repair a broken irrigation head.
  49. What plants will let you cheat your USDA zone
  50. What plants will die if you try and cheat your USDA zone.
  51. The weight of a gallon of water.
  52. Voltage drop.
  53. The turning radius of an SUV.
  54. Which syllable to emphasize in “peony”.
  55. How to prune anything.
  56. At least rudimentary Spanish (Sesame Street or better).
  57. How to at least move any piece of equipment that may end up on your site out of the way.
  58. How to shoot grades.
  59. How to accurately locate a tree relative to the house.
  60. How to not take yourself so damn seriously.

In the comments – what would you add to this list?


    July 10, 2017 REPLY

    always allow and any area of shade for humans /and/or wonderful pets

    July 11, 2017 REPLY

    Love the list. Maybe show clients they can eat serviceberries. I eat lots of them. Tasty!!!

    July 12, 2017 REPLY

    “What decking boards installed over the edge of a pool look like two years later”

      July 12, 2017 REPLY

      Shah, I wish I could say “come on that never happens” but… yeah, I know better!

    July 13, 2017 REPLY

    To have a good sense of colour combinations and to have some imagination and to know the value of own grown herbs and veg…

    July 19, 2017 REPLY

    How to have a conversation about budget with your customer early in the design/install process

    August 10, 2017 REPLY

    I would love to explore some of the topics you mention in your list. I’m very small compared to most of you, I’m sure. If you’re ever interested in discussing a couple of those topics please keep me in mind.

    Thank you so much,

    August 16, 2017 REPLY

    Styles ranging from European gardens, parterres and statuary to ‘Down Home Landscaping’. Yes I’m talking bottle trees and spare tires.

    August 20, 2017 REPLY

    -properly use auto cad #fillet #layers
    -use 22×34 paper. It thalf sizes to 11×17.

    September 5, 2017 REPLY

    Be prepared to ‘disagree’ with a client if what they propose or ‘like’ will not work, and be prepared to give the reasons why – think and plan for the long term. Also, know the weather conditions for the proposed location, which means a good knowledge of plants and their needs.

      September 5, 2017 REPLY

      lol @ disagreeing with a client! I’m pretty fortunate in that I can get away with being pretty blunt, which at the end of the day? My clients are busy, they appreciate me not wasting their time equivocating! Thanks for commenting, you make some great points!

    September 5, 2017 REPLY

    Thank you for posting. Such a fun reading exercise. To add to your list……how about why weeds grow in lawns? Why do weeds grow in gardens when “after we paid all that money for bark mulch?” Why did the deer eat my cedars? Why do raccoons go after my grapes?
    Why did a dog do his business on my lawn? I guess I could go on and on, but you get my point everyone. Silly people in our business. Oh…..and how is it that the snow landed on my lawn and didn’t melt as quickly in all areas? Too Funny!!! XoX

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