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Working with Landscape Designers Without Settling for Their Vision (Marte’s Story)

Working with Landscape Designers Without Settling for Their Vision (Marte’s Story)

Meet Marte, an empty nester with a new project on her hands: a 44-acre homestead in central Ohio (Zone 6a).

Marte used the Design Your 4 Season Garden course to create a garden bed exactly as she had envisioned it.

But it was a long road before she found Pretty Purple Door.

Marte's garden before & after
Marte’s koi pond before & after. Check out the Design Your 4-Season Garden course.

“I’ve been through four different designers since I’ve been here.”

Why so many?!

Although each designer had his own technique, there was a common denominator between them all: none of them ended up with a plan that matched Marte’s vision.

Trial and Error

Marte and her husband moved into their new home in 2019 and immediately sought help with their new – completely overgrown – garden beds.

Moon Garden - Before
When Marte moved into her forever home, all of the garden beds were overgrown like this one.

“The grass was knee-high; all of the flower beds were overgrown… I’m 52 and I’ve never really gardened or designed before,” she explains. “This is our forever home, we wanted to make it look nice and enjoy it, but I’m not a gardener. There was a lot of work to do… it was very overwhelming.” 

Marte made the decision to look for a landscape designer. The experience she had with that process left a lot to be desired.

First Designer – Just the Basics

With the first designer, Marte spent about $5,000 at the nursery and spent the following spring doing the back-breaking work: digging and getting them in the ground.

“We got some base stuff in,” she says, explaining how they chose 50-60 trees and shrubs. “But then I look at it, and there’s… no plan. I’m just looking at these still pretty bare garden beds.”

Marte's first designer
Marte’s garden bed after working with the first designer.

Second Designer – Hurry Up and Wait

While looking for a new designer after that, COVID proved to make things difficult.

“People wouldn’t call you back. They were booked out months and months and months.”

Finally, after repeatedly trying to contact a certain designer, Marte got ahold of them and made a deal: to complete just one garden bed.

Marte laid out exactly what she envisioned for this garden bed… and still had to make two or three revisions with the designer before they were on the same page.

Before and After cottage landscape
With the second designer, Marte really wanted to get one garden bed finished – the one you see when you’re driving up to the house. It took a few drafts to get it right, but she loves this one and gets lots of compliments on it!

At the end of working on that one bed, Marte was happy with the result… except for one thing.

It took way too long. I felt that waiting three or four months just to get a design for one bed was ridiculous. I decided the following year that I didn’t want to wait on him.”

Third Designer – Looked Good on Paper, but…

Marte found her third design team at a local nursery and started in January of that year, with the hopes of having things done by the 4th of July.

Unfortunately, she was left disappointed again.

“Again, we worked with several different revisions,” she explains. “It looked good on paper. But it was – plop, plop plop – it didn’t really look well designed.”

The final straw was Marte’s moon garden…

For those unfamiliar, a moon garden is a garden designed to be enjoyed in the evening. Light-colored, fragrant blooms and plants which attract night pollinators are characteristic pieces of a moon garden.

marte's moon garden
Marte requested white and silver flowers for her moon garden. The designer convinced Marte to keep the oak leaf hydrangeas in the back, which are only white for a few weeks before turning a dusty rose color – a problem she is now able to avoid with her 4 Season Garden know-how.

“I did a lot of research and I had a Pinterest board, which I shared with the designers. And so when they did the planting, I was very happy with all of the plantings… except for this moon garden.”

“It was frustrating.” Marte didn’t feel like she was being listened to at all.

“My feeling, just from my experience… is that you’re never gonna get it right. If he doesn’t listen to you, or if he totally listens to you and kind of puts his vision into place… You’re two individual people and what you’re going for may not be exactly the same.”

Marte felt like she had done enough work on her part. She communicated a clear vision and showed her Pinterest images, but in the end she was left feeling defeated. She simply said, “well, done is better than perfect.”

Enter Pretty Purple Door

After a total of three years of living in her new home and working on her garden beds, Marte found the Design Your 4 Season Garden course.

“I love it!” Marte exclaims.

“You’re amazing, I gotta say. I love the step-by-step program. I love all the diagrams. It all makes sense to me.” 

Marte illustrates her love of a “formula” to funnel her creativity into. “It helped me to get a direction, to narrow down a lot of things.”

Like the gardening style.

“I like the cottage style, you know, more traditional/cottage, which I found out through your class. Before taking your course, I had no name for what I liked.”

Marte plan view drawing
In the Design Your 4-Season Garden course, Marte learned how to create a garden plan and draw it out on graph paper.

Even if you’re using a designer, you still need a clear vision that you can express with that designer.”

“I love to learn. So sitting there going through the course, and learning about different plants… Deciding on plants that go better with your soil type in the sun… You opened my eyes to the soil types and what grows better. And what would be low maintenance for me.”

“I also discovered that you want interest at different seasons, which all landscape designers don’t look at!”

Fourth Time’s the Charm

Marte took what she learned with Pretty Purple Door and set out to build a plan for the beds bordering her pool. She was able to use what she learned in the course to talk to yet another new designer, and this time she nailed down exactly what she wanted with him.

marte's pool garden from the last designer
Marte's pool garden from the last designer 2
Marte's pool garden from the last designer 3

Finally, she ended up with beds that she was completely happy with!

The course gave her the language and the understanding of design, so she had the ability to lead the project and get the exact results she wanted.

Applying the Knowledge

With this newfound knowledge of plants and garden design, Marte took it upon herself to finish one of the beds she started with the very first designer she used. 

“I filled it in using what I learned – doing the groupings, my color scheme, paying attention to seasons… I was just using everything from your class. And I did it all myself. This is me going to the nursery. This is me digging the holes. This is me doing the planting.”

marte's own design
marte's own design 2
marte's own design 3

“It was the most rewarding to look at… because it is 100% MY VISION.”


The Course Facebook Community

Marte also expresses how much she loves the Pretty Purple Door Facebook group, which students have access to forever after signing up for any course.

“What I love about your group is you comment on every post, every time. Once we make that investment into your class, it’s a continually ongoing process.”

Marte’s Advice on Working with Landscape Designers

Marte learned that with design, you usually either have time, money or creativity. What you lack in one area, you can make up for in the other two.

A tip she loved from a landscape designer was to look at your garden beds from the inside of your house. It helps you visualize what you want to see in them. 

This is also something you can learn more about in the Plant Perfect Activity Book. This fun workbook offers an easy step-by-step way to plan out your landscape like an expert and get the exact garden you’ve been dreaming of.  

On working with designers, Marte warns to watch for the red flags.

“If they’re so far off your vision, or they’re not calling you back, or things like that… Just stop. Find somebody else.”

Along those same lines: hone in on what you DO like.

If they have elements in their plan that align with your vision, highlight that. Telling the designers exactly what you like – and why – helps them get a better idea of your personal style and what you’re looking for.

In short, be specific in your feedback.

“And that’s what really helped me with your class. I used all the principles. It allowed me to be more specific, rather than ‘I just don’t like it.’”

Final Thoughts

After trials and tribulations with 4 different designers and thousands of dollars spent, Marte found that Pretty Purple Door had everything she needed and more to design her dream garden.

She also loved that it taught her how to better communicate with professional landscape designers. She will never have to settle for someone else’s vision of what her garden should be again!

She even helped design some of the garden beds at her daughter’s house!

“I love it. I love it. If you want to put what I’m saying in quotes and put it on your website… ‘This is what Marte said!!’”

The course turned someone with no interest or experience in gardening into a 4-season garden designer!

As for her moon garden?

“I’ll be using your course and doing that myself.”

Marte plans on redesigning the moon garden this coming summer, and has the confidence that she will get it exactly how she envisioned.

Create the Garden of Your Dreams

Are you ready to experience the same sense of empowerment that Marte felt when she created the garden she REALLY wanted – with her own two hands?! 

It is totally possible for you or anyone to do it!

Sign up for my Design Your 4 Season Garden course today and see how attainable your dream garden is!!!

More Garden Tours

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before and after garden transformation
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Garden Tour: Melissa’s Magical Shade Garden

Garden Tour: Melissa’s Magical Shade Garden

Welcome to Melissa’s dream garden, completed in 2021 after taking the Design Your 4 Season Garden course

Backyard landscape design - before & after
A before and after view of Melissa’s backyard transformation.

Melissa lives in Zone 6B near the Boston area. She lives in a beautiful home, but the yard was a blank slate. She dreamed of having a beautiful cottage-style garden, filled with flowers. But, while she tried to plant things here and there, it never felt successful..  

“I did everything you said – bought pretty plants and popped them in the ground.  No groupings, no thought in advance.” 

She didn’t think she was capable of designing a landscape. 

“Periodically I would buy a few plants at the nursery, haphazardly plant them, pay little attention to them and of course nothing resembling a garden resulted,” she said. “I had no idea how to design a garden.”  

She thought the only solution was to hire a professional, so she budgeted about $15,000 for the project. But, the landscape design company seemed really disinterested in the job, noting they were very busy with other projects and she may have to wait 4-5 months. In addition, they estimated that she’d need at least $18,000, depending on the specifics of the project.

Annoyed with their fees, delays and general disinterest, she told the landscape designers to take a hike. She began to wonder, “Why can’t I do this myself?” 

Despite her years of unsuccessful planting efforts, Melissa took to books and the internet to learn more about designing her own landscape. She kept wondering why there wasn’t a course to learn how to do this. 

“And then, by a stroke of luck, I found YOU,” she said. 

Melissa enrolled in the Design Your 4 Season Garden course and immediately got to work planning her garden! 

“I have been working very hard every night and I am extremely energized to give this my best shot,” she wrote in an email to me.

“Thank you for being my INSPIRATION!  I never would have even attempted this before meeting you and taking the course.  I am grateful for all you do.  Your passion for gardening is infectious!!!!”



While she was committed to her project and full of energy and enthusiasm, it didn’t come without challenges. Namely about money mindset, finding time to complete the work and having the confidence to design the plans. 

Mindset Challenges

Her mindset on the total cost of the project was a really important factor. 

“Having that big price tag in my head made me realize that if I am going to do this, I need to pay for plants. So I pretty much just said it’s going to cost me, but a ton less than the landscaper. And, it’s also going to come out soooo much better. …That mindset was critical because, as a friend told me last week, “you buy ten plants at the nursery and it’s $200!” If I didn’t have that “it’s gonna cost so don’t be cheap” mindset, I really couldn’t do it, at least not on the scale I did.”

If you’re struggling with price issues, a great exercise is to get quotes from local design companies. Then, do some of your own research on the cost of plants and equipment.

This will give you a baseline to work from so you can create your dream garden without being blindsided by the cost.

Labor Challenges

Melissa decided to use some of the money she budgeted to prepare her garden beds. Local landscapers dug out her beds, tilled in good soil and gave her the perfect blank slate to install her new garden. 

Melissa's Backyard Garden in Progress
Melissa used some of the money she budgeted for the landscape design company to prepare her garden beds.

This was definitely worth the investment, she says, as it cut down her prep time and labor for the project so she could focus on the design.

Design Challenges

While taking the course, Melissa regularly emailed me her plans and asked for feedback every step of the way. At one point of the process, she wrote,

“I am terrified about the next step of mapping out layout, but I think I will just dive in and try.” 

It’s amazing what you’re capable of if you just trust the process and do the work. She credits the step-by-step format in the course with keeping her project on track. 

“Landscape design is really hard,” she says.

“It was way harder than I even thought it would be, and I expected it to be hard. The lighting, the soil, working around what you already have combined with each plant and its size, light requirements….it’s just a lot. It absolutely requires a course and I was surprised that I never found one until I found yours.”

Melissa’s Gardens

Melissa used the course to design two garden beds in her landscape. The first was a challenging, muddy side yard that she wanted to turn into a 22’ long walkway. The space is shady and flanked by a fence and a deck. The biggest challenge was that the space was so narrow, leaving space for only 2’ wide beds on either side of the walkway.

The second garden bed was the entire border of her backyard, along the fence line. This bed was about 95% empty when she started. Different sun exposures and the sheer size of this bed at 48’ wide and 15’ deep made it a daunting task.

Side Yard

The side was a total mud pit before creating this garden. The bed goes past her deck on the left and leads to the backyard. This is a super narrow area with stepping stones in the middle and two long beds that are 2’x22’.

  • Considerations  –  Super narrow area with two, narrow and long beds. Lots of shade limits plant choices.
  • Size  –  Each bed is 2’ wide by 22’ deep, separated by a walkway in the center.
  • Light  –  Part-sun to shade.
  • Color Scheme – Pink & Chartreuse
  • Main Season of Interest – Summer
Side yard muddy
Before the transformation, Melissa’s side yard was just a muddy pathway.

Using what she learned in the course, Melissa used a harmonious and exciting combination of evergreen shrubs, perennial plants and groundcovers to create this magical woodland walkway.

A muddy side yard becomes a beautiful shade garden path
Here, Melissa’s muddy side yard has been transformed into a magical shade garden path.

Not only is the combination of plants beautiful, but it’s also unique and shows off her personality so well. She adds,

“I loved your course and I love your approach to garden design.  It just makes sense and you are a wonderful teacher.”

Back Garden Design

This back garden bed was 95% empty before Melissa’s new garden bed was installed. In early spring, more than half of the area was grass with an old scruffy tree in the left corner. The area left a lot to be desired and Melissa was determined to use what she’s learned to turn this into the space she’s always dreamed about. 

Before the transformation, Melissa’s backyard was as unremarkable as they come. But wait until you see what it looks like now!
  • Considerations  –  Low fences on each side and a high fence in the back. Several existing trees to design around (arborvitae, crab apple). Difficult to use the same plants because different areas of the garden bed get different amounts of sun.  
  • Size  – 6’ fence.  48’ wide by 15’ at its deepest point. 
  • Light  –  Primarily part-sun. Full sun on the left side with a long stretch of afternoon sun. The rest has dappled, part sun.
  • Style  –  Cottage
  • Color Scheme – Pink, Burgundy and Chartreuse
  • Main Season of Interest – Summer

Melissa struggled at first to create repetition and flow in this garden bed, mostly because of the varying amounts of sun that parts of the bed receive. But, she was able to use what she learned in the course to choose the right plants for the right places, while still making this garden bed feel cohesive yet unique. She used a combination of several different evergreens mixed with flowering shrubs, perennial plants, even grasses, ferns, sedges and vines.

The step-by-step format of the course enabled her to make lots of different plant selections with confidence. The end result is a gorgeous, professional looking garden that incorporates all of the plants and colors that Melissa loves. 

Now, Melissa’s backyard garden is filled with beautiful shade loving plants in jewel tones.

Continuing Her Gardening Journey

Melissa’s love of garden design didn’t stop after taking the course! In 2022, she continued using the skills she learned to design several new garden beds. These included: the side of her backyard, a bed near the back of her house and a sun-loving garden bed on the other side of her house.

Before and after garden bed transformations
A new garden bed near the back of the house (top) and a sunny side yard garden (bottom) were added to Melissa’s space in 2022. I love how there are different plants in her sun-loving side yard, yet the whole design is still unified through color and style.

To see all of Melissa’s gardens, including the new side yard design, watch this video!

Take a video tour of Melissa’s shade garden and new sun garden.

A Massive Transformation

After taking the course, Melissa not only has a beautiful garden, but a new hobby that will continue to reward her as the years go by. She adds, 

“It’s been quite a life-changing experience (thanks to you!). Looking at my “before” photos right now is pretty shocking.”

I asked Melissa how she feels about garden design and how things may have changed for her since she’s taken the course. Here’s what she said. 

“A MASSIVE transformation took place. I designed a beautiful garden from scratch and planted it. I know all of the steps and considerations needed to design a garden.  I loved Amy’s step by step approach. It was so logical and practical and effective. I always wondered why there wasn’t a course like this, and then I found it!  If you are a gardening novice and are remotely considering this course, take it.  You will be happy you did.”

Melissa kept track of the cost of her plants and other purchases like a wheelbarrow, hoses, accessories, hardscaping (large stepping stones and cobbles), soil, soil delivery and a day of labor. In the end, the cost of her new garden was half the price of paying the landscape design company.

She adds,

“I told a friend I feel like I had a baby.  I love it and want to ‘baby’ it. And watch it grow.  I am so excited to see it blossom. And I am so proud of it. Every plant was my choice. Every location was my choice. I had a plan and redid the plan and evolved the plan, but in the end, it came out as it was supposed to.”

Final Thoughts

Melissa had budgeted to pay about $15,000 for a professional landscape design. When the company came back at $18,000 and seemed disinterested in the project, she decided to try it herself. 

She made all of the mistakes that beginner gardeners make, such as buying pretty plants and plopping them into the ground without much thought in advance about design. Not surprisingly, her efforts were unsuccessful. Then she turned to books and websites to try to learn more and fix some of the issues she was having.

But, she says,

“What you read in books and magazines never breaks down the “how to” like this course does.”


Melissa noted that the price of the course is well with it, especially if you’re planning to create multiple gardens like she did. While you have to invest your time, lots of elbow grease and a substantial amount of money on plants (more than you’ll expect), learning how to DIY your own landscape is a really fun and energizing experience.

“I really hope I can help you and help others find you and try your course because it has been truly life-changing for me. THANK YOU, thank you, thank you!”


I am so grateful to hear about Melissa’s experience and see her beautiful work. I often smile, knowing that I’ve converted another person into a lifelong gardener. And I think that may be what I am called to do in life. What I’m supposed to do.

Gardening is a hobby that continues to give back to me each and every year. I know it will reward me for the rest of my life and I’m so glad I planted that first plant in the ground (so very many) years ago. I want everyone else to experience the joy and excitement of garden design, too… just like Melissa was able to.

So, if you have an itch for gardening and are at all interested in design, I do hope you’ll join me in the Design Your 4-Season Garden Course. I can’t wait to meet you.

If you need any more convincing, here are a few final thoughts from Melissa (I picture her writing this to me while enjoying her brand new backyard garden space).

“This course is fantastic!  Amy has done a very thorough job in preparing top notch videos and a plethora of useful materials to guide the design process.  She is very generous with her time and provided outstanding thoughtful responses to my questions. This course has changed the way I think about gardening and has inspired and empowered me.  I am so grateful that I found Amy and Pretty Purple Door. I have a new hobby I will enjoy for many years as a result!”

If you’re ready to get your dream garden and are looking for a step-by-step framework to follow, this course may be a great fit for you.

Join over 300 other home gardeners who are expressing their creativity and supporting each other when you enroll in the Design Your 4-Season Garden Course today!

More Garden Tours

Shop my Amazon storefront for my essential gardening books & tool recommendations!

shade garden tour
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