Veteran Landscape Designer Speaks Her Mind

By Allyn Paul, filed under Life & Lawns.

Spring Is Almost Here, and We’ll Get Back To The Lawn Tips Soon… but for now, this rant:

Landscape construction and outdoor lawn/garden improvements are two of the easiest and best ways to improve the appearance and value of your home. Anyone can have a nice green space. But that doesn’t mean you should give a half-arsed effort to them, or take them lightly.


For those of you who have been subscribed here for a while, you know that my philosophy in regards to outdoor improvements is that they should be taken just as seriously as any other home improvement project like plumbing, electrical or flooring. The difference is that gardens and landscapes are constantly evolving and growing, becoming more beautiful over time. Plumbing just leaks after a few years, light bulbs burn out and floors go out of style. Landscapes are always en vogue, decade after decade.

To that end, I wanted to share an email with you that I recently received from a seasoned landscape architect. She read one of my articles talking about the concept of “low maintenance landscapes” (which I think is a stupid term) and how the HGTV and DIY Network world has made landscaping out to be something that gets done “CHEAPLY in one day” by goofballs with big biceps and “crafty ideas” (ie: Jason Cameron of Desperate Landscapes -DIY NETWORK- who is a carpenter by trade, but is billed as a landscape pro on TV).

In all actuality, landscape contractors are tradesmen who perform a professional service in their communities. Their work is top notch and takes years of training to get it right. Here is what this pro (who wants to remain anonymous) says about the HGTV landscape shows and what they have done to shape the thinking of her high-end customers:

Dear Allyn…

Thank You Friend!… …For putting all the BS on HGTV upfront! I just found your blog today (in a round-about way, in search of something else) and I’ve saved it to my favorites!

I’m a well seasoned (27 years in the biz), and slightly jaded landscape designer in the North. I’ve always had issues with TV presenters who know very little about their subjects. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve snorted in disgust and walked away from the TV when I’ve heard some of the things these people recommend. I’m sure if these poor homeowners didn’t have an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement with the producers, we would see a show on another channel about just how tough it was for them to fix the situation that the “experts” caused! LOL

I too, am sick about the concept of landscaping a $500,000 (+++) home with a bargain basement price tag. HELLO!!!! LOL … clients see these shows and think free is the going rate! I have another problem with HGTV shows like “Flip this House” for example. They commonly estimate the cost of a new kitchen with new cabinetry, granite counters and Stainless Steel appliances in the $8,000-$10,000!!! WHAT??!!?? Where I live, that’s 30 GRAND worth of work! Also…”Sell this House”…they have a budget of what?…$2,000??? Sure! that’s reasonable for the materials, but the week’s worth of labor cannot POSSIBLY be included! What a SCAM!

In the last few years (since HGTV became HUGE), I’ve noticed a very weird attitude among many clients. (Sidebar…I’ve worked most recently with a high end company that doesn’t really advertise…it’s word of mouth, more or less…landscapes in the $300,000 to $1.2 million range…BIG stuff). I feel as if the majority of my clients expect me to “rip them off” before I’ve even stepped into their home!

It’s as if they feel that through HGTV, they’ve discovered a supernatural power that makes them experts in the pricing and logistics of landscaping! I have one or two clients (repeats, btw) that totally get it and tell all their friends about how astonished they were to discover just what happens with the infrastructure before they really see any real landscape elements! I call these people my “Clients-from-God”!!! From these lovely people, I get many referrals!

The others???…well, let it be known that I’m really good, no…I’m GREAT at what I do (won many prestigious awards over the years), and I’m to the point where I HATE this career so much, I’m going to make a switch! I simply can’t handle all the BS anymore! I’ll do it for my favorite people, but all others can take a hike!

I’m sorry to have ranted so much, but it’s refreshing to find someone who sees through the veil and isn’t afraid to speak out!!!

Now that I’ve found your site, I’m going to check your blog regularly. Your rants are well founded and it’s about time that someone called BS on all this!

So there you have it folks, you can see some of the frustration that we “green pros” feel when we quote you pricing for a job and you think that it should be done for half or quarter that amount.

Of course, this site is all about teaching you how to do it yourself, and I am going to keep on giving you those tips for many years to come. I just wanted you to realize how some of the pros feel. Your comments are always welcome.

If you are wondering who on TV I actually do like and trust, there is one: Paul James from HGTV. He is the real deal. Read his bio here.

This has been another rant, from Life and Lawns, Lawn Care tips.

2 Responses to “Veteran Landscape Designer Speaks Her Mind”

  1. HGTV Fan Says:
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1

    I love paul james. great tips, thanks again


  2. Lawn Care Minneapolis Says:
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1

    I feel that man’s pain. With these shows saying all of this work is cheap, and then with this horrible economy. Well, it can be pretty rough sometimes just to get the client to understand how much work it actually is. Seems like some people think it just pops up like magic and that’s that.

    Oh well, I guess that’s just the nature of the beast sometimes.

Leave a Reply