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Typical Day

Not all horticultural professionals get to be out in the elements all day. Landscape Designers do most of their work in their warm and dry, but sometimes boring studios, miles away from their projects.

Carla Greenthumb of Genesis Landscape Design arrives before 7am at her well outfitted design studio downtown. From her big windows on the 12th floor high above Fourth Street, she has an excellent view of the city all around, but would prefer to be out in the "field" getting measurements of new job sites or watching the landscapes that she finished designing earlier this year come together.

Instead, she is starting the preliminary drafts for the sprawling new airport proposed to replace the older, simpler terminal. It is a good, lucrative project, but rather sterile. It requires long hours of meticulously drawing circles around the outline of the large main building and associated structures. The architect who designed the building is so pompous and proud of his creation that he does not want it to be cluttered with any landscape at all. However, the city council wants as much greenery as possible. It is hard to keep everyone involved happy.

The funny thing is that all this friction is what makes the job interesting. Miss Greenthumb knows she can appease both the architect and the city council because she knows what trees and shrubbery and perennials will do the job. Lanky and elegant red ironbark eucalyptus around the outer perimeter of the parking lot will add enough substance to the urban forest to keep the council happy, but not detract from the architecture of the main building.

When the telephone rings, Miss Greenthumb is not certain if she should be annoyed or pleased for a distraction. She needs to get the job at hand done, but is actually happy to get out of the studio to tend to a "problem" out in the field. The installation crew at one of her landscapes wants her to show them what plants belong where. In less than half an hour, Miss Greenthumb arrives in her Subaru Outback at a massive residence on the west side.

The clients love her plans, but the installation crew (most of whom do not speak English as a first language) can barely read them. Besides, the crew can barely tell the difference between a poppy and a redwood.

The nursery that supplied the material did not have Acer platanoides so instead sent Platanus acerifolia, hoping that no one would know the difference. (Translation from Latin: "Maple with sycamore leaves" and "sycamore with maple leaves.") Sadly, no one did notice until Miss Greenthumb arrived. The cotoneaster that was supposed to be a ground-cover is instead a variety that grows up to fifteen feet tall. Well, it would be hard to make that work. What were they thinking?! Were they thinking?!

Then Eve, the discriminating client, comes out! Her husband made enough from his exclusive line of stylish serpent skin boots and investments in forbidden fruit juice to pay for whatever garden Eve wants.(Neither of them have a last name.) The problem is that Eve wants it all...and wants to add it to the landscape that Miss Greenthumb has already designed.

Eve drags behind her a Hefty bag of pictures and articles cut from every sort of gardening, house making, travel, and leisure magazine, as well as from Genesis and a few comic strips from the Sunday newspaper! She really digs the arctic jungle style for out front. Perhaps drought-tolerant water lilies and a modern early Kansas design would be nice for the embankment out back. An intricate central crop circle surrounded by saguaro cactus would give the motorcourt that nice English cottage garden look.

Miss Greenthumb maintains her composure and somehow refrains from slapping Eve silly, and instead explains...again...why the meticulously designed landscape plans would still be best for the particular situation. The climate is too mild for anything arctic...and too harsh for anything tropical. Water lilies need...well...water. In the end, Eve cannot have everything she wants, but will be satisfied with what is practical. The crop circle will be considerably more work, and will most certainly add to the original bid, but Miss Greenthumb knows she can make it appealing for extraterrestrial visitors.

It was actually good to get out…but now, after kicking a lot of agri-butt, Miss Greenthumb is ready to go back to the studio. When she returns, she spends a few more hours working on the airport landscape before realizing that the sun is going down over the city. By the time she returns home, it is too dark for her to see how much work her own front yard needs.