Janet Waibel, landscape architect and owner of Waibel & Associates Landscape Architecture, has done something remarkable, something no one has every done before.  She has written down and compiled best practices and standards for landscape management in the southwest, in particular, the Valley of the Sun.  Why is this such a remarkable feat?  Simply because no one has ever written such a comprehensive and consensus-based text on this subject.  Our climate is so unique that our landscape has very specific and different needs than anywhere else in the country.  Sure, over the years people have figured out how best to plant a tree or how to prune shrubs, but no one has written it down as a standard.  The reason it’s important that it’s finally written down is that various people, groups, and landscaping companies were all doing things differently and they all thought they were doing it the right way.  But now there is something to reference so that the people involved no longer have to reinvent the wheel every time they clean up leaf material, for example.  And more importantly, they can’t pass on incorrect information on how to maintain our landscape any more, because now there is a document that holds the industry accountable.

Janet’s book is called Sustainable Landscape Management, Standards for Landscape Care in the Desert Southwest.  It’s been adopted by the Arizona Landscape Contractor’s Association (ALCA) which means it’s been accepted as a standard by the industry.  What I love most about Janet’s book is that it focuses on sustainable practices, and in essence defines best practices to be the same as sustainable practices.  There is no distinction between the two and that’s exactly how it should be.

In the book, Janet points out that there are three components to the landscape industry: landscape architects, landscape contractors and landscape maintenance contractors.  Landscape architects, she says, are required to be licensed, must graduate from an accredited college degree program, must work under a licensed professional and then must pass a series of exams.  Landscape contractors, the ones that actually install landscaping, are regulated by the Registrar of Contractors and there are specific requirements for professional licensing with regard to installation of different landscape components. Now landscape maintenance workers are not required to be licensed or certified nor are they regulated by a third party.  The irony is that landscape maintenance contractors are the ones that have the biggest and most long lasting impact on our landscape!  This is where Janet’s book of standards comes in and fills a gap of knowledge, information and standards where there were none before.

Have you ever noticed dead or dying trees on your outings in the city?  Often times, there are dying trees right next to vibrant living ones.  Why are some flourishing while others wither?  Sometimes it’s as simple as which crew is maintaining them.  Sometimes City-maintained trees don’t do as well as the ones maintained by private companies.  Again, this is where Janet’s book can have a huge impact on whether our landscaping is maintained uniformly and sustainably throughout our city.  Now that there is an industry-accepted standard available, municipalities need to follow the example of ALCA and adopt it and then train their maintenance foremen and workers to follow it.  This book of standards goes hand in hand with the Tree and Shade Masterplan created by the City of Phoenix that I wrote a series of posts on.  In fact, it meets the recommendation the authors of the Masterplan make in the Sustainable Maintainable Infrastructure section which is to develop Planting and Irrigation Standards.  Well, Janet has done just that!  So you can see how it’s a no brainer that the City of Phoenix adopt this document.

The most important step has been taken, the standards have been developed and documented and adopted by the landscape industry association.  The next important step towards sustainable landscape maintenance in the Valley is that all our municipalities adopt it as well.

If you’d like to buy Janet’s book, you can go here.

Photo Credit:  A landscape project designed by Waibel & Associates Landscape Architecture.  Photo from their website.

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12 Responses

  1. Will Novak says:

    Sounds neat, I hope part of the best practice standards includes telling people to stop trimming plants into hideous bizarre drum shaped hedges and removing the beautiful flowering part of the plant!

  2. Janet Waibel says:

    Yes! Of course it does – thanks for the comment.

  3. Taz Loomans says:

    Will, here’s an excerpt from Janet’s book:

    For shrubs and accent plants:

    “Apply practices of Renovation Style Pruning to allow plants to become fully mature and display their best blooming potential.”

    For trees and palms:

    “Apply proper pruning practices that maintain a strong central leader, remove no more than 20% of the canopy at any time, create proper pruning cuts, and remove staking at the right time.”

  4. Matthew says:

    The Arizona Landscape Contractors Association has been out to HOA and Building management companies and trade associations promoting these principles in an effort to re-educate those that are hiring and judging the performance of maintenance contractors. Additionally, a curriculum will soon be developed to train contractor on these principles.

    Additionally, ALCA’s judge’s follow this when judging submissions for Excellence in Landscaping awards.

    If you know of a group that would be interested in seeing a presentation with the intent of endorsing these principles, please contact Janet or the ALCA office. We want to promote this to the municipalities as well!

  5. Dave Hedrick says:

    Hi Janet!!

    I just ordered the book…I can’t wait to ready it!

    Have a great Thanksgiving!!!


  6. Jo Jo says:

    Janet Waibel is a genius and a collaborative one at that. She shows respect for all those who contribute to our surroundings and gently nudges everyone toward better and more beautiful, sustainable practices. Go Ms. Waibel. You are a credit to the profession.

  7. […] project Waibel & Associates Landscape Architecture photo from their website designed .. Landscape contractors – Google Blog Search by […]

  8. Matthew says:

    I am happy to report that the Building Owners & Managers Association of Greater Phoenix (BOMA) has voted to endorse this book. The The Arizona Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (AZSLA) has voted to promote this book.

    Just in the last few months, 500 copies have been sold and promotion of the book has been restrained because ALCA (www.AZLCA.com) has had a hard time keeping up with the demand.

    Second printing is coming up with some minor tweeks. Feedback from the community has been fantastic!

    Also a training & certification program is being developed with a goal of April 11 to have the first class.

  9. Very informative post. Your post really gonna help the people like me who are looking for such terms and info…. I am glad i visited here and learned.

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