Max Kanter

...continued from Member Highlights.


Do you still see a place for the “mow and blow” model?

MK: Yes, I think there’s still a need for keeping the outdoor living spaces clean, but only if  manual and/or electric equipment is used. I’m all for keeping the hardscape spaces usable and clean. Other than that, the plant care should be left to trained gardeners who spend extended periods in the garden, as opposed to less than one hour a week.

This work is detailed, rigorous, time consuming and at many times, thankless.  What keeps you coming back?

MK: As you all are aware, gardening is most definitely humbling for everyone in the process, but we believe it doesn’t have to be so painful. Why do we keep coming back? While I can’t speak for all of our gardeners—as each has their own reasons—for me, I do it for the plants, the pollinators, the birds, and the bugs. It’s the raw moments: when seeing a praying mantis land on your shoulder, while seeing two flirting hummingbirds whiz by, as the light catches deep greens of our evergreen Chaparral shrubs. If the plants are thankful, the clients will be too.

What are the top three suggestions you would give to designers when they are handing over the care of a garden to you?

MK: My first suggestion is to better educate the homeowner on maintenance expectations. The homeowners need a clearer expectation of how much maintenance is required. A 3-year plan is hugely helpful to give homeowners a sense of what to expect in terms of plant care, soil and watering maintenance. We help create these plans, but the expectations need to be set as the garden is installed.

Second, I suggest taking clients on hikes or nursery visits to the Theodore Payne Foundation in Los Angeles or Tree of Life in Orange County. It’s super important for homeowners to have a strong education on natives and climate appropriate plantings.

Third, encourage the homeowners to do some of the gardening themselves. The landowner should be out in the garden at least once a week, inspecting and enjoying. Taking note on what’s taking on new growth, noticing any pests, areas of bare soil, etc. They should all have their own felcos, watering container, and trowel. It may seem weird to put the homeowner to work, but humbling the homeowner will make the process so much better for everyone!

Why did you join APLD? How did you hear about it?

MK: My good friend and colleague, Jacky Surber, encouraged me to come to the 2017 APLD Garden Tour. On the tour, I met several members and made a great connection with Pamela Berstler of G3, a sponsor of APLD. Jacky was very encouraging and I’m grateful she introduced me to the community of sustainable landscape professionals. Learning from seasoned professionals and people who speak my language is not only valuable and helpful, but it’s so enjoyable too!

How can we see you and your team in action?

MK: Come garden with us! I laugh, but I’m not kidding. You’re all welcome to join us garden for an hour to see how we work. We’re a fun, loving, talented and diverse group of Angelenos looking to make an impact on the land. We love having guests help us!

Are you reading anything inspiring right now?

MK: I am! I’m reading a book called The Wizard and The Prophet by Charles C. Mann. It’s about contrasting environmental visions of Norman Borlaug (the Wizard) and William Vogt (the Prophet) and battling views on how to create a food system that could feed the exploding populations of the 20th Century. The thematic parallels to how we landscape our urban environment are immense. These are all questions of land use and the natural environment. The dueling conversations are about control and order vs. abundance and nurturing. Book club anyone?