, Crrritic, Tunein

Should this be my new job title? (as an aside, this is a lot of lawn for drought ridden Southern California – please be reassured that I have talked the clients into converting a sizable portion of it to edibles. And the rest of the property is succulents and drought tolerants. Okay – you can snark at me for designing this! If I can be a Snarkitecht so can YOU!)

Okay, this is a RANT.

For some reason, colleagues always want to introduce me as a Landscape Architect – and I always correct them. I am a Garden Designer, and proud of it. I don’t even like the title “Landscape Designer” – I think “Landscape Designers” want to separate themselves from plain old flower and plant obsessed Garden Designers – Landscape Designers feel the need to designate themselves as more serious than “gardeners” – but not quite as serious as “Landscape Architects”. I once had an online acquaintance with a garden world professional who would get his hackles raised whenever anyone would refer to him as a “gardener” – he always corrected them. Very pointedly. Without humor or irony. He was a LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT.

Well, I am happily not a Landscape Architect, I am a GLEEFUL GARDEN DESIGNER.

In fact, why not refer to me as what I really am – I am actually a LANDSCAPE SNARK-ITECHT.

I am judge-y. I am hyper-opinionated. I like my way, and if you don’t like it, I will yap at you until you go away (or you convince me that your way is the highway I need to follow – that does happen!). I have ideas about gardens, landscapes, gardeners, designers, landscapers, architects, design, and architecture. I like playing in all of the playgrounds, and I play on them often, and I usually play well with others.

But sometimes…

Today, I was on site having a bit of an altercation with a pool installer who didn’t like that I was supervising a re-do of some shoddy work he had performed. I had to stand over him and his crew and make certain that they did not repeat the mistakes they had previously made. He, thinking he could intimidate me, asked me in a loud and swaggering tone, (imagine Rush Limbaugh saying this and it’s like you were there), if I was a “certified Landscape Architect”.

I had to laugh.

This man was certified in his field, and turned in some of the worst work I had ever seen. He came highly recommended. And to boot, he was rude, crude, and boorish. The idea that he thought “outing” me as a mere garden designer (lower case) was going to shame me incited gales of laughter that wouldn’t stop. His crew started laughing with me. He stood alone, confused, in the middle of a beautiful garden that I made, wondering why everyone was laughing.

I am proud of what I do. I have done it for a long time, and I do it well. A certification in landscape architecture is a great thing for some people – it just wasn’t right for me. It is true that some people think only landscape architects can design outdoor spaces with attention to code and detail – this isn’t the case. What they have is, is a stamp. A certification. That certification is not proof of talent or experience – it is proof of passing classes and an exam. Those classes and exams are good things. But they are not the only things. Passion and excellence are not measured by such standards, they are measured in other ways. And some people don’t see those specific units of measure.

Am I crazy to be bothered by this? Have any of you had similar experiences? What are your thoughts? Right now I am 1/4 into a bottle of rose´ and I’m eager to hear if I am hypersensitive or WHAT. And if you are a Landscape Architect, do you think you are better than a good Garden Designer? Or are you just different? What are the differences? I know Landscape Architects who love doing detailed plantings and I know Garden Designers that kick ass on hardscape and codes, so I don’t think we can use those as lines of separation. I’m genuinely curious as to what my fellow ranters have to say.

I’m pouring myself another glass. Okay, talk amongst yourselves. I will be sure to chime in.

Posted by

Ivette Soler
on April 29, 2015 at 1:12 am, in the category Everybody’s a Critic.

Comment List

  • Jonas Spring 25 / 07 / 2016

    A perfect rant!
    I have a landscaping and gardening business in Toronto Canada. We do some design and work with lots of garden designers and landscape architects and can definitely identify with your comments. For me, the job is about enabling homeowner to be stewards of their land full stop regardless of the job title. Here are 4 things to consider regardless of your job title…
    1) A knowledge based approach to residential gardening anticipates the public asking questions about where things come from and how they are made.
    2) Seeing, appreciating and caring about land are three prerequisites to stewardship
    3) Sharing observations and recommendations about land enables residential landowners to be stewards
    4) Residential urban green space is the connective tissue to parks and ravines, together forming green corridors that are habitat for plants and wildlife.

  • skr 15 / 10 / 2016

    It’s funny that you mention CAD drawings because one of the biggest problems I have is clients expecting the irrelevant marker rendered plans that most garden designers supply and clients can’t interpret. CAD drawings are for the contractors and building departments not clients. Clients don’t understand them anyways. They also generally don’t understand plans regardless of how nice the shading is either. That’s why I provide perspective drawings. No need for pinterest if you can just draw the idea quickly in perspective. I can’t tell you how many times I have shown a client a plan based on their suggestions and they were very happy. Then I showed them the perspective of what they thought they wanted and it’s like a switch is flipped and they realize that it would look nothing like what they imagined.

  • tara dillard 21 / 10 / 2016

    Pay attention to the name, landscape architect. A designation for moving earth. They are for drainage issues. Scaping soil. Placing plants, knowing plants is not within the scope of their education, expertise, unless it’s a personal choice.

  • Mills 26 / 10 / 2016

    As a licensed Landscape Architect, I guess I should weigh in here. Personally, I insist on being referred to as an LA because I worked hard to get an accredited degree and pass those brutal exams. I take offense when unlicensed individuals use the title that they have not earned.

  • Linnea Borealis 02 / 11 / 2016

    My biggest beef is with ‘landscapers’ – those who come with loud, powered tools and NO sense of design, ecology or proportion.

  • skr 20 / 11 / 2016

    I have worked with some LAs and architects for long periods of time. I’ve been a guest critic numerous times for LA and architecture student reviews and even filled in as instructor for some classes. IMO, LA is a profession in crisis. With few exceptions, the pedagogy is decades out of date and modes of representation are essentially the same as they were 40 years ago. Aesthetics seem to be a secondary or tertiary consideration after regeneration and politics. They spend enormous amounts of time memorizing plant IDs but the lack of practical experience with those plants makes that knowledge somewhat myopic.

  • anne 20 / 11 / 2016

    Hmmm, let’s see… You interrupted a guy in the middle of his job and proceeded to correct him and then supervise him and his crew (on his dime) in that correction, without trying to talk to him first? I’m not surprised he barked at you Ivette, certification or not! Color me naive, but I think in that circumstance I might get a little defensive myself, right or wrong. It was a form of humiliation, an attack on his livliehood, out of the blue. Titles and certifications are the least of it really, but he reacted by attacking you where he thought it would hurt, and apparently it did, or you wouldn’t be having this spazz-out about your title and what it means.

  • anne 21 / 11 / 2016

    Ivette, thanks for clearing up my misconception about your encounter! I couldn’t tell from what you wrote in your post that the contractor was hired by you to do a job you were responsible for–that makes your situation totally different than what I read into it! From what you wrote, I thought the guy was another, separate hire working in the same yard as you. My apologies for jumping on you so hard!! It’s clear you love what you do and care about doing it well.

  • Liz 21 / 11 / 2016

    Hi Ivette, thanks for making me giggle… and groan. I love your writing and snarkiness, and I love this blog in general–I’m a daily reader. For myself, as a young landscape architect (halfway through the exams!), I do not like snobbery, reverse or otherwise, and I find myself sympathizing with many of your points. I really am tired, however, of people dismissing or bashing landscape architects, and I am tired of landscape architects poo-pooing those without certifications or who have not gone to a fancy Ivy-league design school. Why can’t we all just get along?

  • Steve 21 / 11 / 2016

    I don’t work in the field, but I used to consider myself an avid gardener. Then I moved to the Midwest where for people equate gardening with growing veggies. Now I just work in my yard.

  • Steve 21 / 11 / 2016

    I actually had a coworker say, after learning that I wasn’t planting a veggie garden, “Oh, so you’re not planting anything useful.” I bit my tongue, rather than lecture him on water quality, pollinator habitat, energy efficiency from shade trees, etc. I pointed out that I am planting fruit trees, which is indeed true, and let it rest.

  • KathyG 21 / 11 / 2016

    Interesting distinction. In our household, I am the gardener, my husband is the generous soul who helps me when I need a strong back or mechanical skills. We refer to necessary outdoor tasks such as raking pine needles, cleaning gutters, refurbishing the sprinklers & hoses, etc) as ‘yard work’. We see the neighbors doing it all the time. We see ‘landscapers’ and ‘landscape services’ doing it all the time in other people’s yards. We refer to all the other fun stuff such as digging, planting, weeding, pruning, messing about with plants, etc as ‘gardening’. There is an overlap sometimes, but in our minds the two types of activities are different! LOL

  • Carrie Ottmers Wikander 21 / 11 / 2016

    You know what you are? You are a person who loves what you do, that much is obvious. It gets you out of bed excited in the morning, and you have a strong passion for it. That makes you super lucky. Of course you are opinionated, you do your research (or your experience is your research). Whatever – I wish I could have you come and design my garden – that’s the kind of enthusiasm and passion that makes beautiful, well though out spaces. I really enjoyed reading this – basically, people need to check their egos at the door. A piece of paper makes you nothing – it’s the care and passion you bring to your job that counts! You go, girl!

  • Angela Price 22 / 11 / 2016


  • KathyG 22 / 11 / 2016

    Angela, LOL! Be sure to plant plenty of ‘zeroscape’ plants ….a term I heard recently that cracked me.

  • Vanessa Gardner Nagel 22 / 11 / 2016

    Ivette, I confess I haven’t had the time to read through this entire thread, so if I repeat something, my apologies. I am VERY sympathetic to contractors doing poor work on site, BUT I must warn you! It is legally very dangerous for you to “supervise” on site activities! You can observe and report to the owner, but if you supervise work of the contractor, you are taking on a legal obligation that you truly it get yourself into hot water over. If you want to learn more about why, I’m happy to chat with you, but I can’t go into any more detail or time right now. Just want to give you a serious heads up!

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