Landscape Literacy

Bad Landscaping Drives Out Good Landscaping

This blog is mostly going to be geared toward Landscape Education. I will be discussing all things landscape; covering the disciplines of horticulture/plantings, fine masonry, landscape construction, drainage, landscape design, pool construction, etc.

The backdrop for many of these posts will be the difference between quality landscaping and mediocre landscaping. Much of the information on this blog will be geared toward being able to notice and identify these difference. This is a particularly important topic because the Green Industry as a whole has experienced an “across the board” decline in the amount and caliber of quality craftsman. One of the results of this decline is that there is a general undervaluing of the service that landscape craftsman provide. The worst result however, is that many consumers end up paying for inferior products unknowingly.

This phenomenon is known as Gresham’s Law, which is simply stated as “bad money drives out good money.” This concept was originally applied to currency but it has application in all areas of the economy. Here’s an example of how it works:

The Milk Story- Once there were two dairy farmers living in a small town. They both learned the passed down profession of farming from their fathers. Between the two farmers there was enough milk for everyone living in their small town. The townspeople knew and enjoyed the good pure milk and dairy products that they received and they respected the farmers that produced them. 


As time passed the town experienced good fortune and many new people saw it as a desirable place to live. Construction began and new residents started to flock to the small town. The two dairy farmers experienced an increase in demand and (as with all products that are governed by the laws of supply and demand) prices on dairy products began to rise. A sustainable growth model would be to allow the farmers to raise their prices so that they could buy more cows and thus increase the supply of good pure milk. Price reduction would follow an increase in supply and eventually the market would reach a balance again. Unfortunately, this was not to be…


Farmer #2 decided that instead of taking a risk in raising his price he would instead sell milk that had been watered down to 80% of it’s original purity; no one would know the difference. Of course some people were able to taste the difference but most did not. Instead of the townspeople rejecting this milk as an inferior product they flocked to Farmer #2 and his business increased enormously. Who doesn’t want to pay less, right?


Farmer #1 protested, “that is not pure milk, it is just a cheap, watered down alternative,” but few listened. Some who heard even accused Farmer #1 of price gouging.  Of course he had a faithful following of a few loyal customers that still knew and appreciated the difference, but the masses remained blissfully unaware that they had no idea what REAL milk was. They were just happy to get a lower price. Eventually, as the town grew more and more, there was a need for more dairy farmers. None of the new dairy farmers would even think of selling 100% milk, there was just no reason to… no one would know the difference even if they did. As time passed and market pressures increased, Farmer #1 sat back in amazement as he saw the standard for purity drop from 80 to 75 to 60 to 50. 


The townspeople finally lost completely, the taste for quality milk. Bad milk drove out good milk.

This is Gersham’s Law in action and you can see it across so many industries today. The landscape industry is no exception. There is plenty of bad landscape work that happens today and there are few that know enough to name it and shame it.

Many of the upcoming posts will deal with the ways to distinguish between quality pruning and poor quality pruning, fine stone work and sub-par stone work, good landscape design and bad landscape design, and on and on. Education is the goal of these posts.

Dick Cavett has been quoted as saying “As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it.” He’s right, no more crap. Not on our tables, not in our glasses, not for our homes, not in our yards.

So, grab a glass of milk and let’s toast to Dick Cavett and fine landscaping!