Did I just offend this landscaper?
September 22, 2012 9:29 AM Subscribe
What did I do that was inappropriate in my consultation with this gardener/ landscape designer?
posted by steinwald to human relations (30 answers total)
This morning we had a meeting with a guy who does tree trimming and some landscaping. He had worked with the prior owners of our home for years and did some plantings in the back and front yards. We are planning to do additional extensive landscaping in the front yard (several thousand dollars, converting most of the front yard from lawn to trees/mulched beds/paths/terracing etc).
We had met with him once previously, but I was watching our toddler and my husband did most of the talking (I wasn't present for 99% of the meeting). He was hired to trim some trees and he did a fine job. At the first meeting he talked briefly about the front yard project. He said that most clients don't want to spend the money on a drawing of the design/plan. I said we would be happy to pay for a drawing. He said it was too expensive. I asked how much, he said $300. I said I would be happy to pay that for a good design. He said no, that it was not necessary and he would just come over with some rope and pots and we would figure it out.
Today he came over with the rope and pots and bricks. We talked for about 90 minutes. We talked about a bunch of different ideas. While I have a general idea of what I want I don't have the details worked out at all. I mean, I don't know how many plants, what kind of plants, the exact location of anything, the exact shape of anything. I know I want ornamental grasses, trees, curving shapes, maybe some terracing, a lot of different textures, etc. I wanted to work with him to create a beautiful plan for the yard. We started talking about different ideas and I thought it was going well. I thought it was going well. We kind of went back and forth with different ideas and I thought we were making progress. We talked about different materials for retaining walls. We talked about how much grass to keep. We talked about different kinds of plants. Eventually he got out the pots and charted out where he was planning to put the plants and it turned out that he was planning to basically put the plants in a straight line. I wanted curving organic shapes, and I said so. He rearranged things so that it was kind of a zig-zag line. This was also not what I wanted. He asked me to show him and so I blocked out some areas for different kinds of plants, just kind of making it up as I went along.
The meeting ended shortly thereafter when I asked if we could put a tree next to some tall ornamental grasses on one side of the yard. He said that the tree would make it too shady. I stood over where I was thinking about putting the tree and we talked about it for less than a minute. I don't remember exactly but I think I said something about where the shadow would go, and he said that you couldn't see the tree well enough if it was behind the grass, and I said that the tree would get a lot taller than the grass so I was not too worried about that. Then he decided to leave saying that this was too complex and that we should hire someone else. I was very surprised and I immediately apologized profusely and said that I don't want to be the difficult client he can't work with. I again offered to pay him for the time he's spending on the design process which I think is extremely important. He said that it sounds like I have a very specific idea of what I want and that I have a good eye and that I should essentially draw it myself and give him a call at that point and he would just do the planting, or that I should call someone else. Then he left.
I am very upset. I don't know what I did wrong, but I am afraid that I have offended him and behaved inappropriately. My husband is pretty conflict averse and not willing to talk to me about this. He says that my tone of voice and body language was completely normal (I wasn't yelling, I wasn't acting condescending, etc). He says I was talking too much and too critical of some of the landscaper's ideas and that he probably thought I would be a difficult person to work with. I need someone to help me understand what I did wrong and where the line is - I really thought it was normal and appropriate to discuss different ideas and to express opinions about things. I mean I would think that a consultation like this with a landscape designer would consist entirely of proposing different ideas and either agreeing that they are good or talking about what you don't like about them, and I don't know how I can do this without politely expressing opinions.
Do you typically just get their plan and take it or leave it? I would think that I could say "no, that's not what I want in my yard, can we do something a little curvier?" or "I want limestone instead of wood" or even "why can't we put a tree here, and are you really sure?" without offending him. It seems like with the show up with a rope kind of deal it should be even more OK to have discussion. So my question is, was I out of line? Should I hire someone else, or should I try to work with this guy? Will I drive away any landscape designer with this kind of behavior?