By Design ~ A Letter from APLD CT’s President

This is my fourth and final draft of this quarter’s newsletter. What I thought was a completed message, I chose to alter during the extended power outage, writing in a composition book set upon my desk, alit by candles and a battery powered lantern. When finished, I again opted to wait to send it out to our stalwart stewards of the newsletter [Mary Ellen Pirozzoli and Debbie Roberts] in the hopes of including information I would glean from the annual APLD NY Chapter meeting to which myself and the president of the NJ Chapter, Jock Lewendon, were graciously invited, by Bill Einhorn, [President of APD NY] to meet with APLD National President-Elect Susan Olinger. The following thoughts are an amalgam of those newsletters and the discussions that ensued at the meeting.

I trust that all of our members and their families weathered the October storm with only minor inconveniences. The damage was disastrous to many of the landscapes that I have installed and cared for over the past 11 years. And yet, with  destruction, there is also hope for reinvigorated landscapes to emerge, some from culling plants that have been coddled for too many years, others from what will now be corrective pruning, and lastly by reassessing what clients want, need, and expect from their gardens.

It reminds me of a time about 7-8 years ago that we were designing a garden space that included an enormous White Ash. The tree was clearly struggling with ash blight, etc. and at the end of its life [all things must pass], yet we worked diligently with the help of a licensed arborist, to do what we could to keep this “anchor” of the given landscape alive. Despite herculean efforts the tree finally succumbed, losing a major leader and leaving other limbs severely damaged in a torrential rainstorm, to the point where it became a hazard. With a tone of sadness the same arborist whom had cared for the tree, took it down.

While we counted rings, and marveled at the mass of the tree now lying in pieces on the ground, you could not help but notice how the space had been transformed; there was a depth of field to the property that had never existed and the smaller Maples, Birches, and Hickories became more prominent and framed the land in an entirely new light.

Many of us in this organization view APLD National with the same “light” that we had viewed that ash: the anchor, the stalwart, the strength of that place.  In fact, APLD National is akin to the smaller trees that were in that garden uniting the space, framing the “discussion”, creating the framework for which to build upon. For many years I had always looked to National, as I am sure many of you do, with a what can YOU do for ME attitude. It was a discussion led by Bill [Einhorn] that truly delineated for me the crucial role that we as chapters play within the organization.

Upon reflection, it has been part of the past letters I have written; I’ve asked for input, to have an open dialogue with members, and for our membership to keep in touch with myself and the board by dropping an email or calling. This is essentially what National needs from us. We should take advantage of what they have to offer by logging in to the national website and updating our personal information. Go through the site and find the tools and information that are provided to us. We, as members, need to me more proactive in our approach to the organization.

Information regarding APLD and its member’s activities are being placed in certain markets by the Garden Media Group. Many chapter presidents, including myself, have expressed a sense of frustration as to the lack of information that we are seeing in national periodicals regarding APLD. We in the CT Chapter have an advantage by our affiliation with the Connecticut Gardener publication and the Designer’s Forum article that is now published in each edition. I encourage all of our members to subscribe and support this insightfully published magazine.

National will be reviewing the impact that GMG is/isn’t having. Suffice it to say, print advertising is extremely costly and they are looking for input from members as to how best maximize getting APLD out in front of the public. [ I will be asking members to provide APLD CT/National with contact information of publications within your counties.]  Another way that we in the CT Chapter are reaching out to the public and our fellow professionals is by participating in the CT Flower Show in Hartford, and the annual CNLA Symposium. We will be asking for members to help out at both events; sharing time at our booth greeting people and talking about our chapter.

At a time when many chapters are struggling to retain membership we need to work collectively to strengthen the foundation of the organization. This does not mean that all the members need to be spending countless hours a week working for the organization. We’re all busy with work, life, families, etc. But even a few minutes of your time reaching out to other professionals in the field and students at NVCC and NYBG, making them aware of the organization will go a long way in securing us in the minds of those yet to join.

Nationally we have approximately 1,200 members, a third of which are in California. There has been some discussion lately of chapters entertaining the idea of combining to become regional chapters, which the National board [and I] think is not a productive use of membership.

We need to reassess why we have joined this organization; is it for professional networking, professional validation, and/or opportunities to gain potential clients? All are important in today’s economy and atmosphere. Perhaps the most immediate concern, and the one that is sometimes forgotten, is our Right to Practice. We need to highlight and push this issue to the forefront of the discussion.

In every state throughout the country our right to practice is being called into question. A bill passed in NJ giving municipalities the authority, at their discretion, to have a patio/terrace designed by a landscape designer to be approved and stamped by a licensed architect or engineer. Bob Heffernan of CNLA has, in the recent past, defended a handful of designers within the state before land use boards. We need to work with dedicated people like Bob and find the strength in our own members to ensure that we can represent to the leaders of our towns, municipalities, and the State that we are dedicated and qualified professionals and not only have the right to practice, but have at the core of our profession, the best interest of our clients at heart.

Walking into a room and flicking a switch, we expect the light to go on. Turning a handle we expect water to come gushing forth, warm and soothing. Sitting with a client or walking their property, we expect that our designs will not be called into question by the well-intentioned member of a land use board. All too often, what we expect and what is reality, can be turned on its head by the simple whisper of doubt.

It is not my intent to wash a shadow of doubt over us. I truly feel positive for the future and for the direction in which APLD is heading. I, for one, was reinvigorated from meeting with Bill, Jock, and Susan. There are a great many things ahead for all of us. I am asking for your input.

I want to hear from members about their ideas for our chapter and for National as well. There are many exciting events planned for the next few months. Our annual meeting and holiday party is in a few short weeks, which is a time for us to socialize and get to meet old and new friends.  We will be participating at the annual CNLA symposium in January, and we are extremely excited about our upcoming January workshop with Catherine Wiersema. Anyone who has had the good graces to attend one of her lectures understands what an insightful and positive approach she has to our profession. The workshop is sure to be a great benefit to all who participate. Lastly, we will again have a booth at the annual CT Flower Show. Please consider attending or assisting us at these events.

That’s it for now, perhaps more than you wanted. Please be in touch, I truly want to know how best I can represent you. Email is best;

A brief note; this newsletter will be the last one that Debbie Roberts will be working on. I don’t know if many of you know that in addition to her own work, her writings, and her blog, she is our webmaster and has worked on our newsletters with Mary Ellen Pirozzoli. I want to thank her for all the work she has done for the organization, and for her continued support and efforts to maintain our web presence. Thank you Debbie. It wouldn’t be right not to thank Mary Ellen as well. Thanks also go out to our current board members for providing information for this newsletter and for items currently posted on the web.

With that, I’ll say farewell and hope to see you at one of our upcoming events.

Respectfully yours,


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