John Wyer of Bowles & Wyer set up a curious debate in the recent SGD Garden Design Journal. Having attended a cross industry event (APL, BALI and SGD members) he reported that the two part panel debate discussed the ethics and practicality of designers supplying plants and materials to clients. Landscapers were not happy with Designers effectively encroaching on their profit margin by supplying plants and materials to clients.
It was suggested that designers should stick to designing and landscapers to building and supplying materials. But gentlemen, and ladies, this is business, it’s not personal. I’ve worked with clients who want to supply either materials and plants or both, that is their prerogative, mostly they understand that professionals can buy a t wholesale prices and have good working relationships with reputable suppliers thus making supply more effective. Supplying materials provides an income stream for a business and in the case of plants, some control on the quality of plants supplied, not to mention control on the varieties subbed in. Some businesses add on a fee for selecting, sourcing and setting out plants, others offset it through the plant supply in it’s entirety.
I would no sooner think of telling landscapers they cannot provide design services, it’s their business if they want to offer this service it is up to them. My business. My business model. I will adapt it according to my market and client needs.
The only issue that seems to have any weight is who is liable for plant failure. Legally it’s the client, as once a plant is delivered to site, technically they are liable for the product. In practice though most businesses, mine included, will replace dead plants for a limited period after planting with the usual caveats about over/under watering and care. A good route is early discussions with clients about failure rates of living things and aftercare maintenance!