WORKING WITH ARTHUR

Welcome to our November edition. This month we have a treat that in a few moments you will discover. However, I want to take a moment and remind everyone that we continue to landscape through the winter months. The plant is going to survive either in a cold plastic can at the nursery or in the ground which is much warmer than the can and well insulated especially when you consider the mulch that goes on top. So if we were plants, we would want to be planted. With warmer roots the plants handle the cold better even though some varieties will need frost blankets on the colder nights – they do at the nurseries as well. Lastly I want to wish everyone a good Thanksgiving and please make a point to read our December edition. It is the most challenging one that I write. Now for our article.

Arthur has asked me, his client, to write this article to give his readers a new perspective and share our experiences of working with Arthur and his crew. I think he may have overestimated my writing abilities, but I’ll give it a try.

When we started, we had a definite plan and I had done a drawing of what we wanted. Arthur listened carefully to our goals and tried to understand my drawing (which took some doing since I am not a landscape architect). We wanted to use plants to create privacy and create an inviting outdoor living space. I also wanted a raised vegetable bed and my husband wanted a fire pit. I thought my vision was perfect, but of course Arthur had a few ideas of his own. He’s been doing this for a long time, and thankfully he was persistent in putting forth his suggestions since they ultimately improved my plan.

Looking back on our experience together I wonder what he thought as he listened to my demands and read my long email of how I expected everything to be done. I call it being precise and communicating well, but he may tell you otherwise. Actually as we got to know each other better he did tell me what he thought…..he may have said it in a nicer way, but basically he was not used to working with someone as particular as I am.  Fortunately we both hung in there and the result was well worth it.

FYI, Arthur will let you know that he and his crew like chocolate chip cookies.  So yes, I dusted off my recipe and made a few batches during the project. I guess it is just something about his charm, because I hadn’t baked in quite a while. Now that the project is complete, my husband is wondering why I don’t make cookies for him!

While I wanted to stick to my plan, Arthur was more comfortable planning as things progressed once he understood my overall goal.  Just as he was frustrated with my steadfastness, I was frustrated with his fluidity. Especially when it came to costs, since I wanted to know the exact total cost up front.  That was really our first hurdle.  He gave us an itemized estimate, stressing that things change as the project develops so I also needed to be flexible as the plans did change.

One of our ongoing discussions was over the proportion of hardscape. My plan included a small block retaining wall along the back fence. This was not so popular with Arthur, so I had to whip up a batch of cookies to convince him. It didn’t work, and after much discussion we agreed with Arthur and decided to eliminate the retaining wall, using strategically placed boulders instead. It would have been too much hardscape for our yard. So that’s one for Arthur…..he was right!

While Arthur wanted the raised beds to be smaller (too much hardscape again), I had my measuring tape handy and made sure they weren’t altered. (More cookies required and it worked! One for me.)  I remember one day when Arthur showed up with his can of spray paint to mark out all the dimensions prior to the cement being poured. It was like two alpha dogs fighting for territory. The lines were drawn and redrawn several times. I gave him more planting space in the corner and he gave me more concrete at the edge of the patio. His only mistake was leaving the can of spray paint.  I must admit that I did some slight modifications after he left!  

Arthur’s real expertise is his knowledge of plants. He steered me away from plants that would be high maintenance or that would not look good over time and could tell just by looking which ones were strong and healthy. Though I gave him a bit of a challenge when I said I did not want any deciduous plants (tired of raking up leaves), he rose to the occasion and provided just what was needed. We now have a variety of plants with different colors and textures.

Somewhere along our journey I came to realize that what I initially perceived as his stubbornness was really his commitment to me to provide us with a good result. He didn’t win every argument, and in our toughest battles he made it clear that he worked for me. However when I went along with him it made for a better result. One exception was in building a seat wall out of block. Arthur tried to talk us out of it, feeling it was too much hardscape for our yard; however, this was something that I really wanted.  To my surprise, when it was done he said it looked pretty good. I tried not to smile too much, but it felt pretty good to hear him say it!

We will have to wait to achieve more privacy since we used smaller plants than planned to save money, but our goals were met. Our yard feels bigger, inviting and more functional and we are very pleased with the results. With any luck I may also be harvesting veggies!

~Diane

Gardeners – prepare cold frames for those cold nights or at least have some frost blanket sheets to cover them. Until Next Time – Good Gardening.