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Making Changes
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Making Changes



This has been a year of changes.

Consider the weather, which, in my corner of the world, saw unusual, sustained periods of freezing temperatures never witnessed in my lifetime along with inconceivably low rainfall totals that make water rationing a very real possibility on southern California’s horizon.

Whether these climatic extremes are, as some scientists are saying, a consequence of global warming or not, the fact of the matter is that these phenomena are worrisome and their implications need to be taken seriously by people in the watershaping and landshaping trades.

Consider opportunities as well. In my case, the past year has seen two big ones occupy my time, one in the form of a magazine called LandShapes that didn’t work out the way any of us hoped, and another in an entirely separate field that did.

A wise person once told me that we shouldn’t waste time worrying about things we can’t control and should instead focus on those we can. I believe that adage to be true, and the immediate consequence of my success in this new venture is that I am moving on: This will be my last “Natural Companions” column for WaterShapes.


From the comfort of my office for nearly ten years now, I’ve sat down at my computer every month to collect my thoughts and offer a landscape designer’s perspective on the watershaping realm.

My words have always been surrounded by those of gifted, dedicated watershapers of all sorts, and my intention each time has been to flow my ideas in among their wide-ranging concerns to reinforce our genuine, collective effort to elevate an industry that really needed to raise the bar.

I began in 1999 by looking at how we view our roles as watershapers and landscape professionals and by defining the effects we have on the world around us. Sometimes I narrowed my focus down to minute details that influence the way our clients see our work and the way we shape how others view these environments. Other times, I painted with a broad brush, occasionally in provocative ways.

Controversy has occasionally resulted from expressing certain of my points of view, but probably not so often as has been the case with either Brian Van Bower or David Tisherman, fellow columnists whom I respect tremendously. I’ve always admired those who have the courage to stand up and try to effect change by stating unpopular (yet valid) opinions, and I am proud of those occasions when I have done my share of stirring the pot.

To my mind, this is a growth process – a profound professional dialogue that shapes the work we do.

For years now, I’ve written about the importance of communication and collaborative effort and about the necessity of paying attention to detail while still being able to step back and look at the Big Picture. I’ve discussed everything from climate to irrigation, from individual plants to whole families of plants, from overarching design concepts to specific project details. I’ve profiled my work and delved into a host of key topics – and I’ve enjoyed every opportunity I’ve had to use this amazing forum to express my point of view.

Curious about the sheer volume of thoughts and ideas I’ve expressed in the pages of this magazine, someone asked me recently how I managed to write something every month that was both fresh and relevant. At that moment it occurred to me that, as a landscape designer, I go about my work most often on instinct. On paper, however, I must step back and dissect what I do and think things through in ways that examine intuitive processes and convey them as clear, communicative words.


In a sense, this column has made me a better designer by making me think on a more microscopic level about the work that goes into creating beautiful, successful designs. It’s my belief now that the more we’re able to think about what we do, the better we’re able to understand the work – and carry that insight into future projects.

In an even more personal sense, my writing for WaterShapes has effectively been a voyage of discovery not unlike the experience of many other watershapers and landshapers – the difference being that I’ve been able to share steps of the process with all of you for nearly a decade.

From the start, I felt a sense of responsibility to use this monthly space to try to get all of you to think about what you do every day and how your thoughts and actions affect those around you. All of us who’ve ever written for the magazine have in some way challenged you to create beautiful landscapes and watershapes, and there is no question in my mind that on that score the watershaping industry has progressed admirably in the past ten years.

It’s magical: We are creating masterpieces that had previously never been envisioned.

The future is bright, and I think it has a lot to do with the synergy of the landscaping and watershaping industries channeled through this publication: WaterShapes has inspired and motivated an entire generation of watershapers and landscape designers and architects, and it will continue to do so with generations to come.

Most who lock into the sort of career path I’ve pursued do it in the hope that skills will improve over time, that projects will become bigger and better, that money will flow freely and often and that, ultimately, we’ll reach a point where we find satisfaction and fulfillment on the path we’re following.

In my own case, however, I don’t seem to be one of those people who has found that spot to settle in, and I’m not even sure it’s in my nature to find it: I’m always looking for change, for something new, for something that grabs me and carries me down a new path that is exciting and offers me opportunities to do things I’ve never done before.

This time, that quest has led me to an altogether new career path, so I’m saying my farewells and moving on.


This change was wholly unanticipated but fully welcomed in a sense that it’s an opportunity I’ve had my eye on for many years – it’s just that until recently I never figured out exactly how to make it work.

Even had I not made this change, I have the feeling that it wouldn’t have been long before I surrendered this space to another columnist: I think I’ve done about all I could in my time at WaterShapes, and although I know I could continue in my role here for many years to come, I believe the readers of this incredible, groundbreaking publication are ready for a change as well – a different point of view.

I’ll miss the call from my editor every month, gently reminding me that it’s time to e-mail him some pearls of wisdom about design ideas, plant performance or some other expression intended to inspire readers and an industry that has grown significantly in sophistication in the past ten years.

I will miss the camaraderie I’ve experienced at trade shows and in teaching seminars (even though I generally dreaded preparing for them!). But most of all, I will miss my seat in the forum and the opportunity it has given me to engage in a monthly dialogue with you – and the chance to suggest that you think about what you do and how it affects peoples’ lives.

In parting, let me share a few final thoughts – one last stab at passing along key messages I’ve been working for years to impart to you:

[ ] A successful landscape never materializes in a vacuum: It takes effective communication, willing collaboration and a sharing of ideas and creativity to build projects of true beauty.

[ ] Keep an open mind and always welcome the input of others: You never know, but one small idea has the power to revolutionize an entire industry and inspire everyone to do better.

[ ] Believe in yourself and love what you do: I had no idea when I started out in landscape design 18 years ago that this was where my path would lead. I gave up a career in finance and a hefty paycheck to do what I love, and I never looked back.

If there’s one additional message you’ll allow me to reiterate, there’s a single phrase I’ve probably used more than any other in the 88 columns I’ve written: The possibilities are endless!

Thank you for your loyal readership – and goodbye!

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 [email protected].

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