one in the SF Chronicle about a coach who needs some coaching herself – from Miss Manners. Writer Leah Garchik was the high bidder for an hour of garden consulting at a charity fund-raiser and the experience was so bad, she wrote this article advising readers to hire consultants only if they really have to.
But there’s lots more than one rude consultant in this fascinating story – it’s also about our relationships with our gardens and how to use the services of any consultant, for better or worse. Let’s dissect:
- The consultant asked Garchik to gather some photos of gardens she liked before their appointment. That’s a great idea because most people have NO IDEA what they actually want, so how can a consultant help them get it? But notice that magazine photos didn’t actually help. Too perfect, too expensive. Instead, I ask people to find a garden in their neighborhood they like, if possible, and show me THAT, or at least a photo of something reasonably REAL.
- Was it too-too judgmental to describe the consultant as "carefully made up" and "newly coiffed"? It FELT like that, and maybe because this hit a little too close to home and now I’m worried that make-up and blond highlights leave me vulnerable to the same reaction. (Though in my case there’s nothing careful about any of it.) But a consultant’s appearance does say something about their style and if it’s perfect and tightly controlled, maybe that’s a legitimate red flag.
- Suggesting a bunch of plants that Garchik didn’t know from petunias is useless, and that’s why I started creating plant profiles. Now I just send links to each plant page. And if they live nearby I invite them to stop by and see most of the plants I’m recommending right in my garden (or we sneak next door to see even more).
- And what the heck is that invasive plant that’s destroying Garchik’s garden from below? In my area bamboo certainly does that but what could it be in the SF area?
Now let’s look at what Garchik could have done to benefit more from the consult:
- Raked. I’ve been called to look at gardens that I also COULD NOT SEE, either because they were covered with leaves or, even worse, a jumble of invasive vines mounding to 5 feet high over a sea of mystery plants.
- And Chron reader comments are SPOT ON about people not understanding the
commitment it takes to have a nice garden, either of their own time or
the money to pay someone else to do it. People want no-maintenance plants, or plants that do really well in the absolute worst places, and are unbelieving when told that no such plant exists.
"I’D NEVER WORK WITH YOU PEOPLE"
That’s what a friend of Gorchik’s was once told by another consultant, supposedly because the friend and her husband were "bickering". Well, considering that designers of all types encounter marital bickering ROUTINELY, it must have been really bad.
Me, I’ve had only two clients that I wouldn’t work with again for all the money in the world. One was a husband-wife team who’d imported me to resolve conflicts over their yard, and the bullying husband who assumed I’d agree with him was none too happy with me. What a relief it was to just hop in my car knowing I’d never see HIM again. Then there was the woman who started attacking me as soon as I arrived, kind of a preemptive move before I could attack her, it seemed. "I suppose you won’t approve of THAT." And "I know THAT’s not your style but…" And so on. And everything single suggestion I made elicited an angry response. After all that she demanded that I draw a sketch for her property and when I said I don’t do that she almost lost it. I won’t even mention the extremely weird and disturbing way she kept displaying her private parts to me. Get me outta here!
So readers, can you relate to any of this – as either the customer or the person being hired?
Thanks to Chuck B at Back40Feet for posting about the story.Posted by Susan Harris on January 12, 2008 at 5:40 am, in the category Grab Bag.