ne of my favorite children’s stories is the “Emperor’s New Clothes”. This classic tale, about an emperor who is tricked into appearing naked in public by weavers who promise to make him the finest outfit using “invisible fabric,” illustrates how con artists can take advantage of people who lack knowledge about a subject, playing on our ego and gullibility. Versions of this story unfold in our everyday lives; as a board member or property manager, it is easy to be fooled by crafty salesmen who make up services that your association and property may not need.
However, at Agave, we understand that each community or commercial property has its own theme and brand. The property's character is what our team strives to adhere to, truly understanding each of our client's expectations. Our clients are informed about what we do and how we do it so that we can better adhere to their visions. There will be no “pretend clothing” in our processes.
Over Agave’s thirty years in business, we have seen immense changes in the types of landscaping around Phoenix. There was a time when I drove around the valley and noticed very different scenery from what is here today — lush lawns, or plants shaped into balls and cubes like in Disneyland. Part of the reason for this is that people came from different parts of the country, looking for what they were used to seeing in their landscapes at home, and architects and nurserymen were only too happy to oblige. Trees like Sissoos, Pines, Bottle, Eucalyptus and Ficus were planted but would often freeze in colder temperatures, unable to transpire in our desert heat, or have invasive root systems because of our calcium-rich alkaline soils, which led to cracks in walls and the upheaval of curbs and sidewalks. It also seemed like there was water running constantly during the day, creating clouds of mist that would quickly evaporate.
However, I drive today looking at different parts of the valley, I can see the ways plant pallets and landscape design have changed from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and all the way to our current day. Agave and our veteran landscapers have been a big part of leading in these changes and new technologies over the last 30 years. For us old-time landscapers, years of experiments and mistakes led us to understand our desert biome and how cultivating these landscapes requires different approaches. We learned how to use water technology such as water-saving controllers, pressure reducing emitters, and targeted drip systems for more efficient irrigation, due in part to drought and pressure from water authorities. Now, we see reduced lawn areas, replaced by colorful granite or artificial turf. Our contemporary plant palettes are now sustainably trimmed to show their incredible bloom through each season of the year, matching our vibrant Arizona sunsets. A few new tree varieties that have been refined and are better adapted to fit our urban environments have been added to our overall palette of material, which we know works.
Over the years, I’ve also carried the lessons of the emperor’s new clothes with me, pledging to not allow Agave or our clients to be taken advantage of — a philosophy that is clear in the example of central control irrigation systems. We built many large communities, like Sun City Grand and Anthem, where architects and irrigation gurus convinced developers to buy and install hundreds of the latest state-of-the-art controllers, which had unit costs upward of $10,000. The systems had many issues and unfortunately landscape maintenance companies were never trained on how to operate and maintain them, rendering them no better than $1,000 stand-alone clocks; they are now antiquated and being replaced again. The lesson here is that it is important to understand why you purchase materials and equipment. Some communities do not need a central control system if they, for instance, have cheap effluent water, or have minimal turf and water needs, or if they have all native plant material.
Overdesigned systems also come with overpriced maintenance services. I went to a pre-bid recently and the property manager said they want to change out all their controllers to the latest new controllers that use cloud optimization, but in the same statement said they have cheap effluent water and they wanted to make sure the property stayed very green. They, like the emperor, wanted what they were told was the best, but did not realize there was no reason to spend the homeowner’s money. Each decision a community makes has many impacts, from aesthetics and functionality to budget. We all spend money, but what is most important is to get value for what we do, and value comes from experience and knowledge and sometimes blunt conversations. At Agave, we offer our expertise in pursuit of value, and will always advocate for our clients to avoid taking the same path as the emperor — after all, we know “invisible clothes” when we see them.