Cultivate your Garden like a Start Up!

May 28th, 2012 by CASUDI

This is the story of “10 years later, it was an Overnight Success”


This was the“Art Gods” concept drawing in March 2002….

10 years later ~ this is the way it tuned out. Not too shabby, eh?. Showcased as “Asian Fusion” design in OBJEKT International, a prestigious European design publication…

True to life, and the way it often happens in a start-up, although modified along the way, the “bones” of the initial concept remain true. Other times you have to bite the bullet and just throw the whole idea out. This happened to me more than once during my landscaping journey! You need to accept that’s it’s OK to dump an idea or plan if it doesn’t work, and the sooner this is done, the better. The dumping that is! I’ve known gardeners who insist on planting the same plant or shrub time and time again, even though each time it fails.  I did this myself with a glorious Rosemary hedge draping over a stone wall; it died twice, and finally after 10 years, I am trying something else! I also know entrepreneurs who doggedly and repeatedly tread the same path of “not working”, thinking somehow it will be different this time…

My original idea of having an exotic Wisteria species was quickly nixed by Brett at Islandscape Nursery, who emphatically recommended Sinensis (Chinese Wisteria ), because this less finicky species of Wisteria (above image) was far more suitable for my salty, windy waterfront location. Lesson: listen to the experts to avoid making expensive mistakes. That’s what I do for start-up companies.

Check out the gate; it’s nearly identical to the concept (top image above). This is the view from inside the small enclosed garden; a tranquil space, protected from the wind (and the deer!) – still a work in progress. The wall/fence design changed quite a bit…this happened during construction actually… contractor standing there with the plans in his hand, the ART GOD said “we need more lightness”! So the original solid panels were rethought in bamboo (now with a green patina of lichen), and the area above the panels a more open ‘architectural statement’ focusing on the reclaimed wood we used throughout the ninety-foot long Wisteria pergola.

So you see that “planning” needs the flexibility ingredient as an integral component. You do need some sort of plan to get started, even if only to have something to deviate from! Just like needing a business plan when starting a business. Don’t stress over it endlessly; it will evolve and change as your ideas do….

Last June I exposed my landscaping design to a Garden Club tour of about 200 participants; some even came from Seattle! I created a series of garden signs, which told my story (or anyway lots of stories about my designs….), and added some philosophy of life as well. The most memorable tour visitor was a man who, after reading my very first sign, told me he had been gardening for 23 years with no plan!


A few days later I visited this man with the “unplanned” landscaping; many diverse themes; some quite compelling, including a really fabulous pond. However, to put it politely, it was a hodge-podge of ideas in various stages of incompletness; and a maintenance nightmare to boot!!

Hmmm; I’ve been called into start-ups in just the same state of confusion….

My first suggestion for him was to ‘Google-earth’ his property, to get the overall picture of what he had created (impossible from walking the grounds). I suggested he consider picking 3 favorite themes or environments (from at least a dozen). I really liked his Arboretum (he planted in excess of 500 trees!), the pond/wetlands story (fabulous already), and the deer-fenced vegetable/orchard/flower scenario. “Delete” was required here, with careful consideration to creating some breathing space between the environments. In a start up I’d not be so lenient; I’d say “PICK ONE!”

It’s trial & error along the way ~ if it doesn’t work, try something else ~ be flexible and adapt, and keep in mind that what may work this year, might be inappropriate next (can you say marketing timing?).

Gardening takes time to realize, often many years; that’s why gardeners are rumored to be long lived; sticking around to see how it all turns out.  You could say the same about those with the entrepreneurial DNA. I waited 10 years to get this shot!

Then there are those who have the budget to create ‘instant landscaping’. Saw this down the road from me at Lake Tahoe, when a newly-minted billionaire sent his minions to scour the established old properties in Washington & Oregon, offering wild sums for purchase of established exotic 100 year-old species trees and shrubs. Later, this individual didn’t like the ‘blue’ color of his extensive new lawns, so called in a local sod company, and overnight had them changed to a more pleasing ‘green’!

Could this modus operandi work for a start up? An “Overnight Success”, if you have oodles of money to throw at an idea? I’d say very occasionally yes, but certainly not often.

Check out my list of similarities between Gardeners & Startup Entrepreneurs’ mindsets on; and by all means add your own items to the list!

CASUDI Designing Success


Headline for How are gardens like start ups?
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How are gardens like start ups?

This is a landscaping design focus which show the similarities between cultivating a garden & a start up. This is the story of "10 years later it was an overnight success"



Seasons of Growth

May 28, 2012 by Nick Kellet
Seasons of Growth

They pass through phases or new growth and then maturing growth.


Initial concepts are often modified along the way.

May 28, 2012
Initial concepts are often modified along the way.

Plans are very good, but keep in mind they need to be flexible.


Sometimes you have to "dump" the idea and start all over.

May 28, 2012
Sometimes you have to "dump" the idea and start all over.

If you have to fail, fail fast.


Listen to the experts.

May 28, 2012
Listen to the experts.

Often this can help in avoiding expensive mistakes


Not Enough Space

May 29, 2012 by Nick Kellet
Not Enough Space

Sometimes there's just too much going on. Too much competition for attention and natural resources.

That's so true for Startups too!



May 30, 2012 by Joseph Ruiz

While you do have to dump an idea, sometimes waiting 10 years is necessary too. There is value in advisers to help you figure out the difference


Weed & ReCycle the Weak

May 30, 2012 by Nick Kellet
Weed & ReCycle the Weak

Trying is good, but not all things work. Sometimes they need relocating, regrouping.

Sometimes they just die. Sometimes they need new homes. Sometimes they will just do better off the premises


How are gardens like start ups?

Dec 25, 2014 by Ivo Henfling
How are gardens like start ups?

Pick one really good (design) theme & follow through.

May 29, 2012
Pick one really good (design) theme & follow through.

Theme & variations is OK in the garden ~ and in a Start up, though be careful that the variations of the product don't de-focus from the product.


Expect (& prepare for if possible) the unexpected.

May 30, 2012
Expect (& prepare for if possible) the unexpected.

Something I forgot to do yesterday which resulted in the deer eating 30% of my blooming Siberian Iris. I failed to spray the anti-deer stuff ~ too busy paying attention to other things. Happens all the time in a start up!


Dont be blinded by success.

May 31, 2012
Dont be blinded by success.

Today I was looking up celebrating my success with my Wisteria, and slipped on the Wisteria petals and fell hard! OUCH! This can happen along the way in a start up or small biz when celebrating a success; resulting in a setback or fall!


9 Responses to “Cultivate your Garden like a Start Up!”

  1. Elli StGeorge Godfrey Says:

    Your story of how your garden grew is very much like how startups and small businesses grow. So many of my clients tell me that they grew their businesses by instinct and the willingness to learn along the way.

    As a gardener, I’ve learned that, at some point, you have to educate yourself about the plants you grow or want to grow (like your wisteria). There can be micro-climates even in a small lot. Native plants are sometimes more desirable than climate-suitable plants. Plants you loved die. Although sometimes you can resurrect a plant by giving it proper fertilizer or moving it. I’m convinced there are plants that suit one’s personality. I have one type of plant I cannot grow for love nor money.

    With a startup/ small business, it is very similar. Instinct and learning on-the-go are good starts. To become a more sophisticated organization, the next step can produce lush growth or thin results. Attending programs, working with a mentor or coach and reading business blogs and books are educational. Sometimes you find out that you cannot or do not want to do something that looked like a good idea at the time. Sometimes we have to eliminate a service or product that does not produce revenue and sometimes re-packaging resurrects this same product/service. We all operate in local, regional, national and global economies which is much like micro and macro-climates. With all this in mind and proper fertilizer, we can tend our businesses during the time it takes to make them strong and profitable.

    Caroline, this is such an apt post and a good reminder that developing a small organization takes time and attention. Much like a garden.

  2. CASUDI (Caroline Di Diego) Says:

    So happy you visited and commented Elli. I was not sure if I would get more comments with a gardening or start up (small biz) focus. Like me you are into both and see the great connection. When you design any aspect of a garden you know more or less instinctively that it will take time and you are prepared; however most small biz and start ups I mentor have the billionaire mentality without the bucks! They don’t prepare for the long haul, as most gardeners do and get caught in the equivalent of a drought!

    Happy Gardening and I cant wait to see your “English cottage garden with the balance of wild exuberance & design”

  3. Janet Callaway Says:

    Caroline, aloha. What a great analogy! Loved, loved, loved the images. My sister-in-law has a beautifully landscaped yard, however, I doubt that she has ever thought of using google earth to see her creation. Thanks for the idea, Caroline.

    Whether you are talking gardens or businesses, nothing lasting and innovative happens overnight Instead, it takes time, patience and consistent work.

    Best wishes to you for a terrifc week ahead. Aloha. Janet

  4. CASUDI (Caroline Di Diego) Says:

    So happy you visited Designing Success Janet, and enjoyed the images. The one showing the expanse of the Wisteria pergola was most challenging; I retook it many times over the past couple of weeks while in full bloom. Now the window of opportunity has passed for another year.

    Google earth is getting better and better. I find the polaris website seems to have better resolution, more recent images and shows the tax parcels (property lines). We use this all the time with clients, especially during pre-planning consultations when an overall theme is designed, or critical house placement is discussed. I wonder what the equivalent is for showing the overview of a start up? Any ideas?

  5. Suchitra Mishra Says:

    Hello Caroline,

    Thank you for sharing your little bit of paradise. I can almost see myself sitting on the step and breathing in the peace. I would be willing to wait for ten years to see those wisteria in bloom.


  6. Joseph Ruiz Says:

    Great story love the way you weave in the lessons. I am starting a bucket list. Item 1 Wine and conversation inside that gate! ;-)

    Don’t know the first thing about gardening but I can appreciate the result and the lessons.

  7. CASUDI (Caroline Di Diego) Says:

    Suchitra, I am so glad you could sense the quiet and peace we created here. I have to think 10 years in the past is way shorter than ten in the future! Planning ahead for ten can be quite burdensome and needs to be broken up into manageable years or less, both for the gardener and the start up entrepreneur. Who was it that said ~ Time is relative?

    Joseph, I thought you were into gardening, then I remembered our actual discussion was about selecting landscaping/maintenance companies; actually one for yourself and how a small biz needs to attract or keep their client by asking “How do you feel about your landscaping ~ on a scale from 1-10? ~ I loved how this hypothetical conversation continued with the customer rating their own yard, and the small biz owner asking for the opportunity to raise the customers rating by doing (continuing to do) the landscape maintenance for them. Thanks for commenting here and inadvertently reminding me of this.

  8. Janet Perkins Says:

    The flowers and the over-all garden are breath-takingly beautiful. I could hope that I could grow a garden jut like yours. Thanks for posting up your story and the story of your garden. It is really inspirating to read and realize how we should love our gardens. The shots of your flowers and garden are amazing. Great losses, too.

  9. “10 years later it was an overnight success” | CASUDI Says:

    […] is the story of “10 years later, it was an Overnight Success” Check out the post “Cultivate your Garden like a Start Up” and enjoy! CASUDI Designing […]

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