I’ll admit, I try to get to all the garden shows that are in my area every year. I’ve personally spent many hours setting up extensive unique displays only to see very little return on my and my companies investment of time and capital. The worst part is you know that at least 75% of the leads you draw from a given show (even the pre-qualified leads) will still be a competition between your company and probably two or three others that had displays. At that point, a designer has to ask himself, is it even worth my time to go through this every year, sometimes more than once. I’ll tell you what I found from the show I attended this weekend. And I’ll be honest, if that is the future of Landscaping and Gardening in the Midwest, then we are so far from the “cutting edge” it’s sad. But I guess the good thing is, when your that far from the edge, you can never fall off.
Now don’t get me wrong, this hardscaping is certainly a hot ticket these days. With so many people cutting back on generic spending, they are looking to put their money somewhere they may see a return on their investment. Any sort of outdoor garden expansion generally creates an increase in a properties value since if it is executed properly, the garden should add livable space to the home. Whether that space be for entertaining, playing, or quiet contemplation is solely up to the discretion of the home owner. That doesn’t mean it has to be the same space as the neighbor up the street. Just as “track homes” have lost their flare even to the price conscious, I have to believe that a cookie cutter backyard provides no appeal to Joe and Jenny Home Owner. People are using their space in far more creative and hands on ways, and something like this display just tells me that this contractor doesn’t realize there is more to life than this.
Please don’t misunderstand, I did find a few things I liked at the show. This bubbler rock with a fire “topper” intrigued me a bit. Although not terribly creative, at is still more unique than the average fire pit you saw in almost all the other displays. The combination adds a nice touch of class while still providing at touch of nature at the same time. I would like to see this taken to the next level and instead of being in the garden on the edge of a patio, use permeable paver’s and a rain water harvesting system and put this bad boy right in the middle of your patio where you would install any other fire pit. What bothered me the most is the fact that the last year I was involved in a show display was the last year I saw ANY contractors promoting any sort of rain water harvesting or permeable pavement systems. These sustainable landscape methods are becoming common practice in many parts of the country but are still struggling to catch on here in good ole Omaha, Nebraska. I’m not going to lie, this bothers me quite a bit that more contractors aren’t promoting these methods and systems. That being said, I know from experience, many people feel they are environmentally conscious right up until they see the cost attached. While I do admit, many of these systems do carry a higher up front cost than your typical landscape, can we really compare the two. One is making a patio and planting some flowers, while the other is reducing our carbon footprint, utilizing natural resources, AND STILL creating a wonderful space to enjoy. This coupled with the fact that utilizing these systems will eventually create a “return of investment” by reducing utility costs as well. That being said, it really is a commitment to living more sustainably to leave something better for the future. Okay, I’m done preaching about that, now back to my thoughts on the show.
As I said, I did find a few nice ideas to take away from the show. The unique burner installed on this fire pit gives it some pretty cool character and does create a bit of a break from the norm of its boring old square parents. Still let’s be honest, it still just like it’s daddy, it just got a new piercing to rebel like most kids do these days. Perhaps a figure eight shape melding two round pits each with one of these towering at its center would be enough to wow me these days. I fear I may be becoming just a bit jaded, but with a new IPhone every 6 weeks, I guess I feel like my fire pits should be unique and updated too. Biggest complaint about this is they used river rock in it. Even grey lava would have given this a better texture in my opinion. Although I do have to admit, there is one trend I am riding right now. That is the use of glass chips in fire pits. Again, in my humble opinion, there is no better texture available at the moment for your fire features. And with the myriad of color choices you can really get it to blend with the color pallet of your adjoining gardens.
Even this wonderful, large water feature shows a phenomenal lack of creativity on the part of the contractor. The simply took two very distinct tools out of their “design bucket” and slapped them together in one site. At least in the first picture I shared, they attempted to blend the fire and water. Here they simply dropped a fire boulder right in the middle of the pond. Where’s the “splash”, where’s the thoughtfulness, where’s the NEW? Perhaps had the put the fire directly on the surface of the water, or moved a burner to under the upper falls so that the fire burned behind the water they may have achieved something special. Instead, it just appears like they didn’t have any creative thought process, they simply wanted to show as many items they could shove into one space as possible. Unfortunately, the result doesn’t work for me.
At the end of the day, I can tell you a few things for sure. First, there were far fewer contractors with displays in the show I attended last week compared to the shame show in previous years. Sad, but a testament to my belief that aside from getting your name in front of a potentially large number of people, there is little in the way of returns for an established contractor in these events. Second, of all the contractors in this years show that I have seen there in years past, very few had even CHANGED THEIR DISPLAY FROM LAST YEAR! Now, believe me, I KNOW how much these shows cost us as contractors, but that REALLY shows a lack of creativity or effort on the part of the contractors involved. The way I see it, if your going to spend the money anyway, why not be different and find a niche that you can promote yourself with. Even if it doesn’t blast off, like the the rain water harvesting systems I had in my display one year, at least folks will remember YOUR display over every other patio and fire pit they saw.
Anyway, point of the story is, don’t be satisfied with your grandma’s landscape unless your grandma is the awesome grandma that would sit and play Atari with you before video games were even cool! Their are so many unique things you can do with your outdoor living space, so don’t just jump on the first idea you see. And the last thing I would like to leave you with, is if your going to spend the money anyway, why not try to improve not just your own life and space, but leave it better than when you got here and consider installing some of the more environmentally friendly options available to you. Even if that just means getting “your feet wet” with a rain barrel on your patio (it’s like a gateway drug), trust me you; you won’t regret it!
As Always, GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GROWING!