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10-year logoBy Stephanie Rose

‘I’m not a big believer in conformity, strict rules and absolutes,’ wrote Stephanie Rose to start her December 2006 Natural Companions column, ‘but sometimes I’ll come across something that, well, is just wrong.  These aren’t matters of taste, style, or visual appeal:  What I see is just plain wrong!’

‘Whether we classify ourselves as watershapers or landscape professionals, we collaborate with our clients to create spaces that appeal to them both visually and emotionally.  . . .  [I]t’s our professional responsibility to guide them within those parameters to a design that makes sense to us while following principles of proper installation.  Aside from basic issues of visual incongruity that might be carried in clients’ preferences, we need to be keenly aware of other ways projects can go off track.’  She continued:


‘Not far from my house, I spotted a corner-lot landscape that was being reworked, and what was complete at that point was a six-foot-tall, concrete-block wall that screened the house from the street.  It was massive, but not necessarily a bad idea.


‘[A] couple days later, . . . whoever was running the project planted a lawn right up to the wall and completely surrounded it on the street-side edge with a hedge.  . . .  The main reasons this design is flat-out wrong flow from both aesthetics and maintenance:  On the one hand, that nice lawn will become invisible once the hedge grows.  On the other, the only way to trim the lawn even now is to pass a mower over the hedge!  Just plain wrong.’


‘[I]t’s our job to take all of a client’s wants and needs and roll them into a design that works.  . . .  It’s not the client’s job to figure out why this wall/lawn/hedge arrangement doesn’t work.  It’s the professional’s job, and what seems to be missing in too many cases is application of a spark of common sense.’


‘Trouble is, the eyesore I’ve been discussing here is hardly an isolated incident.  While walking my dog the other day, for example, I passed a lawn in which the pop-up sprinkler heads were elevated about six to eight inches above the soil level.  Most homeowners wouldn’t think twice about this – until, of course, a pedestrian tripped, fell and called an attorney.’


‘The landscaper should have known better, but this sort of obvious tripping hazard is one of the most common mistakes I see in installations.  Whether it stems from laziness on the part of an installer who doesn’t want to dig an adequate trench or simple ignorance of proper installation practices, anyone can see that raising sprinkler heads this close to a heavily trafficked sidewalk is a recipe for disaster.’


‘Or take the sad driveway I spotted another short walk from my house:  In this instance, I would surmise that the client wanted to save money and did so by finding a slate that looked right but was completely incapable of handling the weight of cars.  As a result, the slate started breaking up immediately after installation – no doubt the first time the homeowners rolled over it in one of their cars.’


‘The fact that we see so many errors tells me that there are plenty of so-called “professionals” out there who are either unscrupulous or incompetent.  But it also tells me that there’s a poorly educated client base shopping for price and the almighty “bargain” rather than quality.’


‘Client education is the key.  Those who buy our services need to understand what quality watershape and landscape design and installation mean, including issues of liability and the long-term performance of their investments.  . . .  On the flip side, landshapers and watershapers need to take more responsibility.  . . .  When we lower our standards to meet a client’s wishes,’ Stephanie concluded, ‘we all lose.

As you drive in the area of job sites or walk around your own neighborhood, are you as bothered by what you see as Stephanie is?  Where do you place responsibility for the problems you see?  Does any professional deserve to be let off the hook?  How about the client?  Please share your thoughts on these issues by commenting below!


Stephanie Rose wrote her Natural Companions column for WaterShapes for eight years and also served as editor of LandShapes magazine.  She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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