There has been a lot written and spoken lately, about the need for Designers and Contractors to ‘Work Together’. Whilst we all know what this is supposed to mean in practice, but in reality, there should be no need to remind ourselves of the benefits of Working In Harmony (which is more pleasant sounding – more friendly).
I have been blessed with a long and varied career, which has included a successful period as a Garden Designer, with over 250 domestic schemes, including 37 RHS medals, and feel quite entitled to call myself a Designer. At the same time as working on my ‘own’ schemes, I was also working for 25 of the leading Garden Designers of the 80s and 90s, all of them fully aware that I was also a professional designer.
I developed a strict Code of Conduct which I called Keeping The Faith. This code stood me well for over 20 years, and I have never fallen out with any single one of those designers, as we had a clear understanding about ‘Working Together’
On my behalf, I never told any of my staff of any dealings I may have had with the designer. My contract, written or verbal, was an agreement, and nobody else’s business – including the client. My undertaking with the designer was to produce the scheme as specified or drawn, using all materials and techniques as described on the plans/specification, without question or comment.
Any problems that arose, and they were frequent, especially on larger projects, matters of materials, inaccurate drawings, general hiccups etc were quietly dealt with in conversation – rarely if ever in writing – and issues resolved. On the odd occasion, a Variation Order may need signing off (more of these VO’s later), with the client very happy with the smooth running of the contract.
On the designers side, he/she would trust me completely to produce the scheme, albeit with any minor alterations if and as necessary quietly dealt with as above. The designer would never, under any circumstances, try to blame me for any problems that may have arisen due to inaccurate planning.
To complete the Keeping The Faith, I would never mention, or allow any mention of the fact that I was also a professional designer, and if the clients found out (via Chelsea etc), then I would state in polite terms that their garden had been designed by XXXXXXX, and it was not ethical for either of us comment on the others work! We worked as a Team, and we worked well together. Most of my work came via recommendations from other designers, so it was a very happy and prosperous business period for me, and only ceased when I became Head Gardener to Goodwood, and my son James (Arun Landscapes Ltd) took over from me. He still operates the same system of Keeping The Faith, working with the leading designers of today!
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