Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Garden Makeover

Today, I thought I'd give you a peek into the business side of Garden Girl. Here's a garden makeover done for my very first client earlier this spring. This is before:My very first gardening client is mom to a childhood friend of the nursery owners. She wanted help with her garden, and asked Mom, (of Mom & Pop who own the nursery,) if she could recommend someone. That someone ended up being me. She wanted a lush, colorful perennial garden to replace her tired, developer-installed shrubs.

Tucked between and in front of these shrubs were phlox, peonies, spiderwort, cotoneaster, lamium, May Night salvia, a geranium, and daylilies my garden-loving client had planted over the years. We found homes for them in the new garden.

We contracted the shrub removal with a fellow new gardener. That was a job for someone bigger and stronger than me. The root balls with their heavy, wet clay weighed about 50 lbs. each.

Before and after the shrubs were removed, she and I shared several conversations about her garden wish list.

I measured, sketched, and selected samples of a variety of sun and part sun plants chosen for size, texture, attractive foliage, color, and long bloom times. And then. . . we went shopping! You know, the fun kind of shopping - plant shopping!

She liked my selections, so all that was left was to pull the plants. After helping fill her car with annuals she later planted in her front landscape, I gathered the quantities needed of each plant selection for her new back garden and moved them to a holding area at the nursery for installation the following week.

It took a full day for this installation. Here's the garden immediately after planting:

And this is the garden about six weeks later. My client added her own personal finishing touches.

Here's the 'before' of the smaller border on the opposite side of the patio.
There are iris, a delphinium, and some asters over here. The homeowner added annuals every year. She wanted more perennials here. This is how it looked after planting:
The homeowner added hosta divisions and impatiens, and this is how it looked six weeks later.
This lovely lady, my first client, has recommended me to several neighbors. Since her garden redo, three of her neighbors have become clients. All of them are the nicest people I could ever have imagined having as first clients.

The garden is thriving. She takes wonderful, loving care of it, and it shows. On days when I'm back in the neighborhood, she's often out watering, preening, and enjoying her new garden. I recently installed new front and back gardens for a neighbor who lives behind her. It's fun to walk the path behind her garden, watching it grow from a distance while working on her neighbor's new garden.

A couple of weeks ago I planted some knockout roses in her front landscape. She loves them. I'll be back sometime after frost this fall (shhhh!!!!! let's don't think about that now, ok?) to put the garden to bed for the winter. In the meantime, thanks to my first gardening client's referrals to her neighbors, I'll be seeing her around!


  1. You did a beautiful job, which is certainly reflected in your other referrals. Congrats!

  2. Beautiful make over(-: Congrats on your first job!!

  3. Oh, I'm so happy for you. Nothing like having wonderful clients. You did a fantastic job. I hope you got enough money to buy more plants for yourself.~~Dee

  4. Thank you for showing the makeover. Before and after photos are so inspiring and chock full of ideas. These are lovely! You did a great job.
    They might have been good clients but I imagine you are also a great designer to work with!


  5. Anonymous11:11 AM

    Looks great. Good luck with your garden design career. I wish you much success.
    Shirley Bovshow

  6. Wow, a great transformation! Glad you have Before and After pictures! Make yourself a portfolio for future clients!

    Warning: Don’t take on too many jobs. You want to keep it fun and not like work! LOL…

  7. What a great first experience! It sounds like it was a lot of fun. It looks so good now too. Congratulations. Word of mouth is the best advertising, but great garden view from the neighbors' property is the second best.

  8. This is just fantastic - you did such a beautiful job. The after pictures look so different and wonderful, even right after things were planted. To get to shop for plants and part of your work - now there's a great job :)

  9. No wonder your business is growing so fast! You did a wonderful job. I like having the before and after pictures; it really shows off the differences you made.
    How nice that you're working nearby so that you can continue to see how the gardens are growing.
    Wish I could hire you:)

  10. So very nice! Great job!

  11. Anonymous5:21 PM

    That's fantastic! Word of mouth is always the best. I'm so happy for you!

  12. It looks great! You used several nice looking plants. Was that Jacob's Ladder in the first picture? Good luck with growing your business!

  13. A person can get paid for this? (I mean, does it pay ok? Could be a nice side job some day) Looks like fun, actually, if you get nice people as you have. Good job.

  14. I liked the plants that you picked out! Are you sure you don't need a helper?!?!? I'm cheap labor! :O)

    Your job sounds a heckuva lot better than my typical day behind a desk.

  15. You made a wonderful transformaton. I can see why you are getting so much work coming your way.

  16. Great job! I sure like the job you did. Those bushes must have been hard to remove.

  17. Thank you Chey! I'm pleased with the way it turned out, and most importantly, happy the client is happy.

    Thank you Cindee. My first job was both exciting and anxiety-producing. I've never done an 'instant' garden like that before. Mine have always developed over time. The design part was a little scary!

    Thank you Nancy. This client has been gardening for many years, and knows how to care for everything. It shows!

    Thank you Dee. I feel very fortunate the nursery owner thought to recommend me to her friend. She held my hand through it too, since she knew I was nervous.

    I always manage to make room in the budget for plants for myself! One side benefit I'd never of thought of gardening for other folks is being offered divisions or stray seedlings from their gardens. If something's going into a yard waste bag otherwise, clients are usually pleased to let me take the plants instead.

    Gail, My pleasure. I appreciate my client allowing me to use the photos. She was excited to know I wanted to feature her garden on the blog.

    I'm glad I got the before pictures. Soon I'll have enough to create a portfolio. Designing gardens is the challenging, and anxiety-producing part. It's getting less nerve-wracking though, the more of them I do. Getting to know the client, asking lots of questions, and taking lots of notes helps assure everyone's happy.

    Shirley, thank you. I hope you have a wonderful vacation in that other Eden you're heading to.

    Skeeter, thanks! I'm really glad I took the pictures. The client is happy to have them too.

    I'll definitely be collecting before and after shots from any gardens I design and will be using them in a portfolio eventually. New garden designs, and garden restorations will be included.

    MMD, it was fun, challenging, and stressful! I started working with this client late last summer. Since the redo was planned for this spring, I had all winter to think about it. Doing this first garden was a confidence-builder for subsequent jobs.

    Amy, thank you! I definitely enjoy the shopping part. When the client wants to get the plants at the nursery where I work, that makes it even more of a pleasure. I have confidence in the care they get before they go into the client's garden, and I know where to find everything we need.

    Rose, thanks! Most of my clients are less than ten minutes away. This group of clients is about 30 minutes away - further than I'd initially thought I'd be going. But because it's turned out there are several in the same neighborhood, I'm able to use my time (and gas!) efficiently. I'm very pleased to have this group of clients. It's a very warm, close-knit neighborhood, and it's a pleasure to be there.

    It's common for folks out walking dogs or going out for their mail to stop by and admire what I'm doing, and it will be nice if eventually even more folks in the area decide they'd like me to help with their gardens!

    You already do a wonderful job with your gardens, but if you lived closer I'd be happy to help!

    Kim and Victoria, thank you! I appreciate your kind comments.

    Brenda, thanks! so far word of mouth, and business cards at the nursery have been my only forms of marketing. I've been very pleased with the volume of business coming my way. Now that I'm up and running smoothly and the initial spring and early summer frenzy have subsided, it's time to focus on developing more maintenance clients.

    Thanks Dave! Yep, it's 'Snow and Sapphires.' I have it in my own garden. It's such a pretty plant, supposed to be sturdier than some other varieties.

    Benjamin, good question! The hourly rates gardeners charge in this area are quite respectable. The challenge is with the seasonal nature of gardening in this climate. I think it might be an ideal side business for a teacher with a love for gardening during the summer months.

    Gardeners in this area for whom this is their main income often build their businesses to the point where they can hire temporary help such as college students. I know gardeners who do this and make enough money during the season to support themselves year-round. That's an option I'm considering for the future as the business grows.

    The good thing is, being the business owner I get to choose my clients. Being a human resources manager for many years has helped make me a pretty good judge of character. So far I've been very fortunate to be building a very nice clientelle. Nice clients and associates also seem to make nice referrals, so I'm off to a really good start.

    Beth, thank you. This client has a perfect combination of sun and shade in her garden that maximized our plant options.

    Sure, I could use some cheap labor! ;) That would be quite a commute for you!

    Eve, thank you! I'm really pleased with the way my business is growing - gradually enough to be manageable and quickly enough to be challenging!

    Thanks Cinj! The shrubs were quite a challenge! I knew they were more than I could, or wanted to tackle. That's where networking with other gardeners and landscapers comes in! It's important to know one's limitations and find ways to manage them.

  18. Anonymous2:22 PM

    Nice work. It's inspiring to see how you're pursuing this career and making it happen. Good luck to you.

  19. Very nice job, Linda.It is inspiring and beautiful.

    How nice that the owner is taking care of what you planned & planted... it's one thing to get it in the ground and quite another to keep it growing.

    I'm glad you took photos of the process.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

  20. What a wonderful makeover! You should be very proud. Glad you got some referrals from it too! Keep up the good work!

  21. Thank you Megan. Thanks for visiting! I'd probably still be in a stressful corporate job if I hadn't been downsized a couple of years ago. I enjoyed my human resources management position, but didn't enjoy the politics or the culture. I'm grateful for the opportunity to do something I love so much and to be able to set the tone for my business.

    Meems, thank you.

    It's so nice working with this client. She's such a sweetheart. She's so appreciative. She loves her new garden, and she takes such good care of it.

    I'm really glad I was able to take the pictures, and especially the 'befores.' The 'befores' were a helpful part of the design process and that's why I originally took them. Now that the new garden is planted, it's really nice to have the photos to document the transformation.

    Sherri, thank you!

    Referrals have been key to having a successful first season with the new business. I'm pleased I've exceeded my initial projections for number of clients and earnings this first year, especially considering the slow economy.

  22. Garden Girl .. it is lovely ! and it certainly inspires me to get rid of my ugly wooden ties I use as an edge to my back garden ..
    Joy : )

  23. Beautiful photos--I wish I had thought to take before and after photos when I was doing gardening for clients. It's a great record for you, plus those photos make a great portfolio, too!
    ~ Monica

  24. I love the before and after photos. You have revived a sleepy garden with the magic Linda touch. My compliments!

  25. nice plant choices.

    I've often thought how nice it would be to design multiple separate gardens in the same neighbourhood - you could have real fun repeating the odd theme and creating a joined up look I think!

  26. Thank you Joy. I've done Victorian edges (a/k/a Victorian trench,) for a couple of clients, and did it in a new bed way in the back of our yard this year. It lasts a year or two and is easy to maintain. It might be a good solution for your wooden ties, helps keep grass from spreading into the garden, and you can mow right up to the edge of the garden with no weed whacking required. Best of all, it's attractive, free, just takes a little labor to do it and even less to keep it up.

    Hi Monica, I'm so glad I did the before and after shots - they're nice for me to have, and for the client.

    Thank you Violet. It's fun making the 'world' a prettier place, one garden at a time!

    Tai, thank you. It's interesting working with clients with different tastes. In this case there are a couple of plants in common with the neighbor behind this client, but the looks are totally different. This client wanted lush, and the neighbor wanted to keep things more simple. Both look nice and have some plants in common. Each garden is unique, yet related.

  27. Congratulations on your first job, it will be one of many! What an incredible transformation, your client must be so thrilled. Your work says welcome, sit a spell :).

  28. Lynda,
    Congratulations on your fist job - so you made it!
    Transformation is great and your choices are very nice.
    I just tagged you - have a look at my blog.

  29. Very nice. Great you had such nice first clients and good luck!

  30. Thank you for the feedback Kathi!

    Thank you Ewa! I'll be getting my tag post up later this morning.

    Thank you Tina! It made that first garden makeover very rewarding knowing I was doing it for a such a lovely person.


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