Alyssa just told me of a conversation she had with a client, the punchline of which ends: "Well. We never really knew what we were getting. We just trusted Matt. We figured most everyone would just show up and start building stuff. But Matt came in with all these drawings and stuff. But we can't really visualize things like that, so we just let him have at it and now we're just starting to see it for the first time."
Alyssa tells this story; its narrative is the great trust the client had in our work. But. This isn't how it is supposed to be.
The design process, what I call "The Design Study," is not meant to just allow the designer to design. Yes. Sketching, drawing, scaling, and conceptualizing things on paper is how a designer designs. But, the drawing work is also needed so we - the client and I - have something to budget from; to scale; "How many square foot of paving is to be done?" What is the volume of soil to be excavated and hauled away? How much lawn will there be? In the design study we can answer these questions. It takes the guess work out of production. But further, design documents, sketches, and drawings are documents that represent what is to happen on the project, what is to be built. As much as any written proposal, a scaled drawing "says" what we agree we are building. And most importantly, the design study and process is creating a situation for dialogue with the client - design makes a representation, or tries to bridge the space from imagination to real constructed object; it brings half form to what is concept, theory, and imagination. Design communicates. A designer isn't (or shouldn't be) designing for themselves - they design for the client. Yes, some clients just "want it taken care of" and choose to be minimally engaged - but the process is there to involve them.
I always say, "It is my work as a designer to understand the clients imaginations, needs, desires, and wishes, and to bring them form, bring them into being, guiding them with some basic elementaries of design, visual, and spacial language."
We are first and foremost here to help people with their homes (or whatever). There certainly isn't any glory in doing this lawn repair work shown above - unless you are the homeowner. Most of our day to day work is spent "just helping out;" but that work isn't always something people want to read about, critique, or view pictures of. But little small jobs are the best. They help you the most and are the easiest and least stressful for us to execute.
Ten years ago, there was this small journal I was near that experimented by putting out works formed as 500 word essays. From that same group now we find creative productions down to 100 words. This might prove a good size garden.
Much of my writing at times focuses on the idea of "value." In many historic traditions of economic thinking, value relates the life spent in the making of an object to that objects value. Value has two sides; here we may see it as both the life spent in the method and practice of The Buff Hort Project as well as the help someone may receive from the productive work of Buffalo Horticulture and how it transfers into their home.
The season rolls by...
And it becomes thick
Where its duration stops being marked at intervals of reflection.
Endless and impenetrable.
An exit, no matter how temporary,
Threatens the stability
dependent on continuousness.
It is a flow.
Our most important work this week was being able to distinguish and separate the two above narrow leaf plant species.
The more sophisticated plantings become
Poetries of "naturalized," and "native" -
The more intense we have to understand the insurgents of
Crabgrass has the tiniest of hairs around its leaf collars,
Barnyard Grass doesn't
Trying to cross a conceptual divide...
Design is a visual intelligence.
It is a different way of thinking.
It resists spoken language
as well as "opens up" critically
taken for granted structures
in every day life.
I have attached an image.
It is not of "a wall" like you have asked
Like I have proposed and spoken of.
I looked back at my proposal.
I wrote - "line/wall"
We spoke of it as "a wall"
because in commerce
It is "a wall."
The manufacturer calls it "wall stone."
"Wall construction" will be the process we follow;
in this sense
It is a wall.
But in my design
It isn't a wall but a line.
It is a solid form that creates order.
That in speaking of it as "a wall"
It gives the impression that it is
"An add on" or
As if we are working from a menu
And adding ornaments as we choose.
Yes. It is a line item on a proposal.
But this is to help understand how we arrive at the value of the job.
We may speak of breaking things up into production phases - "plants" and "wall;
But the design is one whole thing.
The wall relates to the maintenance and care of the garden.
The wall does the ordering
in place of the manicuring hand of the gardener.
It is an investment.
Its a machine.
Until four or five years ago
I had never heard of Fritillaria -
A fall bulb that emerges in spring
Alongside Daffs and Grape Hyacinths.
The tiniest of flowers.
Small enough to evade me
in my life of horticulture
Running 30 years at least.
I suspect it a new floral or garden consciousness -
Formed not in the garden
But on Instagram -
From where it has found its way into me.
Instagram has changed the scale
From which we imagine the garden.
The zooming up closeness of a phone's camera
Is bringing us closer to the garden
Where before we viewed it an arms length
Or whatever scale and distance
A persons body would stand and view.
Fritillaria is not something you would see from the street. Its not something you would make stand out by planting in mass. It is singular and only viewed up close - a distance I rarely found myself until now.
There is this divide
Between cleaner, horticulturist, and designer
That always needs to be navigated.
I always say
"The greatest problem we face
Is the word 'Landscaper.'
Fifty years ago, it worked.
It was primarily a construction term.
Then in the 70s and 80s
There was a massive economic shift
To a service economy, and
Into a weekly lawn mowing service.
You come to me
To care for your landscape -
Is the field,
The profession -
But you imagine our work
In weekly intervals;
You imagine our work
As if we are
the manicurists and cleaners.
We clean and manicure
As just a part of the work of caring,
But our production isn't organized
Around the interval of lawn mowing.
Our cycles are seasonal
Tied to the snow's thaw
The blooming of spring bulbs
And the dropping of flowers
from the shrubbery.
The soil drys in the summer
And we can work it
Build new beds
And set solid foundations.
As the summer nights cool in early August
We can sow turfgrass.
Soon the leaves start to turn
And we transplant,
And as the leaves fall
We clean them up and plant the bulbs for the spring.
We celebrate the holidays
And begin again as the snow thaws.
But the word landscaper
Has been completely subsumed
By weekly intervals
And I can't for the life of me
Figure out how to communicate that
Without sounding elitist
I'm trying to give consult and care
But there is a line that cuts you every seventh day
And you can't feel it;
But it makes me cry.
Spring Clean Ups.
Every job is complicated.
Yours has specific pruning details,
some rabbit feeding on Spiraea needs tending, and
The Boxwood are poorly shaped
- and I think they should be attended to.
There is some Japanese Knotweed
in the back corner of the yard
- You don't know what that is
but it should be tended to
immediately. Its an invasive. Its no small matter.
Every yard and landscape has its own set
of specific complications
And the value of our work
is FIRST based in consultation
and the dialog
that informs back and forth
collaboratively in the care.
Maybe you just want the security of knowing everything is cared for
and wish to minimize your work.
I can't finish this articulation.
It won't come out.
But, I put together a proposal for a spring clean up and offered to review it.
I was met with a
"Do you think its that complicated?"
Yes, I do.
I was asked
"Do we need a new lawn"?
During our consult
they turned to each other to whisper.
Apparently someone made the recommendation
they would need a new lawn.
"Well. The lawn you have right now
is doing what it is supposed to do -
Defining the space thought of as lawn.
So. You don't need a new lawn."
"If your lawn does not look the way you want it to,
that is another question.
Then you should say to me
'How can our lawn look THIS way."
I can help you get what you want and need.
But it should never be the work of the designer
to make judgements against you,
especially ones that make anxieties
that can only be relieved
by paying your landscaper.
The Buffalo Horticulture identity for the most part organizes around the concept of design build. But I see it as (A) "We always need the work" and (B) we are here to help in whatever capacity we are asked. Above is a architects drawing for a stair and retaining wall structure surrounding a basement height patio in a backyard. I feel my strengths on a collaborative team are that I can understand the organization and visual language of an architects design program and can offer feedback as we put the project together on little bits and pieces of detail, the number of ways I have experience building such things, and of course the production complications with certain ways of building - or, I may help find easier, less costly, or more valuable ways to produce. Most importantly, I think, is I can communicate.