The Dirty “S” Word
In The Garden – By Stephen and Kristin Pategas
The “S” word puts fear in the hearts of designers. A good design is completed in a manner so that when it comes to realization every piece will fit together and the finished product will be spectacular. Unfortunately, between the design and the spectacular outcome, there are many potential pitfalls.
“Substitution” is one of the worst – alongside value engineering and poor installation. If the designer is still involved in the process, then it may be easy to transcend these problems and still end up with a breathtaking outcome. The owner, contractors, other designers in unrelated fields, or suppliers of products may bypass the designer and offer suggestions on ways to save money, save time, or – shudder – redirect the profits. Plants or materials that are cheaper and quite different than what were specified, may be suggested or just be installed without any discussion with the owner or designer. Sometimes these items are leftovers from a previous project or they are available at less cost than those specified and noted in the installation proposal.
While saving money is a worthwhile venture, it shouldn’t cheapen or compromise the design. If clay brick pavers are specified and less expensive concrete pavers are installed, someone (hopefully the owner) is saving money. With a bit of luck, the owner was notified that while the clay brick pavers are maintenance-free, concrete pavers need regular cleaning and sealing to hold their luster. Another concern, if it is an historic or older home, is whether concrete pavers or travertine is too contemporary in look for the structure.
On the soft side, using different plants can compromise the aesthetics, provide high maintenance plants, the wrong plant in the wrong place (i.e. a tall shrub versus a short one), or ones that are easily damaged by the cold. None of these scenarios are a bargain for the owner. Lack of availability is often an issue. Since landscape plans are completed months in advance of installation, it’s impossible to predict whether all specified plants will be available during the few weeks the landscape is installed. In a perfect world, the landscape contractor acquires plants in advance and is experienced enough to know which ones need more lead time to track down.
Many times, the best solution for a plant that is not available is to use a smaller or larger size or wait until it is available. This decision should be made after consulting with the designer. Compromising the design with an improper substitute ultimately disappoints the owner and the designer. Protect the integrity of the design and the pocketbook by having the final design inspected by the designer. There is no good substitution for that final step of due diligence.
Credit: All photography by Stephen G. Pategas/Hortus Oasis
Hortus Oasis (FL26000315) in Winter Park is a boutique garden design company specializing in residential, commercial, and specialty gardens. Stephen is a registered landscape architect and Kristin is a certified landscape designer. Contact them at 407-622-4886 / firstname.lastname@example.org