A Favorite Client

harriet.jpgIt isn’t hard to identify the favorite clients.  The work you do for them-they appreciate it. They are not afraid to ask you to detail every step you went through to arrive at a recommendation. Once you provide all of the details, they respond, kindly. They think over everything you say, carefully. Better, yet, they are interested, and committed.  They are clear about what they like, and polite about what they don’t like. They are willing to weather any storm.  They can be persuaded.  But they know their own mind and life, and are not afraid to stand up for that. I don’t often visit this client, for whom I did a landscape for her new house some three years ago. We had cause to meet recently-a few new issues needed solving.  Her opening topic-a leaf that had fallen from her katsura espaliers.  That heart shape leaf falling on an under planting of boxwood-a cause for celebration. That randomly falling heart shaped leaf was the first topic of her day.  The beauty of nature was number one.  All else was a distant second.   How like her, to feel this way, and show it to me.  We spent a few moments, in celebration.

DSC_4381Celebration energizes and organizes all sorts of  expression.  The landscape is, in its most basic form, about defining spaces, directing traffic, and nurturing a love of nature.  As much as a home is a three dimensional representation of the story of the life of a family, the landscape is a story about how that home interacts with nature.  That relationship with nature is about a lot of things – materials impervious to weather, and the plants.  The shapes of spaces, and their dimensions. Color, and dimension.  Depth.  Places to be. What grows and lives in the landscape parallels a life some describe as a life well worth living.

DSC_4402This landscape just three years old.  It is starting to is take root, and become part and parcel of this property.     It will take a few more years to see what the landscape screens, what it frames, what it features, how it thrives,  and how it enriches this household. A mature landscape will take a good many years to achieve, but the early signs are good.  Establishing the landscape has been a battle.  Very heavy clay soil close to the water’s edge means the soil is usually saturated. We have had casualties.  But the peonies have taken hold, as have the climbing roses and the clematis.  Once a garden built on clay soil is established, it it long lived.

DSC_4378This favorite client took my recommendations about pots and benches, steps, porch stone-this was just the beginning..  This year she had a mind to change her color scheme for her containers. Lots of color, please.  Container design can take a last minute cue.

DSC_4366A meadow garden near the water was too tall, and too green.  Some of the beds got a subtle punch of color from the addition of mid height annual plants.  We planted a few low growing shrub roses-just to see if they would take to the placement. Any successful garden depends upon the willingness to experiment, and evolve. Tinkering is is the hallmark of every inventor.  Among that big group of inventors – gardeners.

DSC_4363My client’s property is overrun with rabbits.  Rabbits that treat her gardens like a lunch buffet.  Her sculpture collection of minks, foxes and dogs that inhabit the landscape are a personal signature. She may never defeat the rabbits, but her landscape is endowed with with her hope, interest and commitment. She is a favorite client, yes. The relationship is a regular pleasure, and routinely full of surprises.  She thinks about her landscape in a way that I never could.  It is hers.  I so appreciate that she thinks about every issue, personally.

DSC_4361water’s edge garden

DSC_4355bright colored containers

DSC_4398saturated color

DSC_4359a view of the garden

DSC_4347I have never seen streptocarpella thrive quite like this. Bravo, Harriet.


  1. what a pleasure … thank you for sharing your clients and your wonderful point of view

  2. Deborah, I really enjoy your blogs postings. The insights you give about design considerations and your description of what a good relationship between a garden designer and a client looks like are so interesting and helpful. Congratulations to you and Harriet for creating such a beautiful, evolving garden!

  3. Katherine Ritter says

    Deborah, your posting today did my heart and spirit well. Our son has undergone his fourth open heart surgery and I am sitting in his room now reading your blog which helped me get through these past two surgeries with him. Your client’s observation was a wonderful sign to me. Please thank her for that and thank you for posting the photo and the info you share so freely. Warmly, Katherine

  4. Laura Gardiner says

    Your thoughts are so beautifully put. Thank you for sharing your ideas, and your client’s garden.
    It is always a pleasure to read your posts.
    Can you tell me what the flowers are in the water’s edge garden?

  5. Heather Burkhardt says

    Beautiful landscape.

  6. Dear Deborah,
    I sure appreciate seeing and reading about your gardening design creations…..so very generous of you! Thank you!

  7. Agreed. Depths we gain from our favorite clients.

    And, the return of letting them know.

    You wrote this post for Harriet.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  8. Deborah: This resonates with me and reminds me of my mom who always celebrated and eagerly shared nature’s beautiful, unpredictable moments in her garden….

    “That randomly falling heart shaped leaf was the first topic of her day. The beauty of nature was number one. All else was a distant second. How like her, to feel this way, and show it to me. We spent a few moments, in celebration.”

    Thank you.

  9. Hi Deborah,
    I re-read this post several times in order to soak it all in. Your words and observational skills on what makes a ‘favorite client’ are so perceptive and dead-on.
    I’m not in the gardening business, but the qualities you reference in your favorite clients apply to my own clients as well. Your post served as a great reminder to cherish those who cherish us — and to do what it takes to ensure we don’t let them down.

  10. I always enjoy your posts…the containers with color vs. all the gray and green, perfect. “What grows and lives in the landscape parallels a life some describe as a life well worth living” – yes.

    That client and you both sound fortunate to have each other. Some magic to that…

  11. Thank you for this post. Beautifully written such that your readers could feel the depth of your words. As an interior designer (and passionate gardner) I couldn’t agree more about favorite clients. When gifted with clients such as the one above, you can feel happy about the career you have, knowing that the work you created is making a difference in their lives by helping them to define what truly makes them happy, allowing them to achieve an environment that exists authentically and harmoniously with their surroundings. Life is never static, and gardens and interior designs are best when they flow with the life of the person one is designing for. I just found your blog today and am looking forward to more reading.

  12. Nice work…. really appreciative…..thanks for sharing your clients with us…..It shows us your dedication and hard working for your clients….

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