Two Heads Better Than One

By Jim Sollecito

Jim Sollecito, right, pursuing bonefish in the shallow waters of Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Photo courtesy of Larry Beneventi.
Jim Sollecito, right, pursuing bonefish in the shallow waters of Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Photo courtesy of Larry Beneventi.

I love my work. I’m passionate about it. Even now, starting my 46th year in business, I cannot wait for spring to begin.

I am an outdoors-in-nature kind of guy. When I am not designing or installing landscapes, I am outdoors doing something.

Coming out of college, I never even thought about applying for a job, or even taking on a partner. My goal was to own my own business, to be in charge. I went at it alone. The triumphs would all be mine, along with the mistakes.

I made plenty of mistakes but always tried to learn from them so they would not be repeated. That strategy was fine when I had my whole lifetime ahead of me. Not so much at this stage of the game — the sand at the bottom of the hourglass exceeds that yet to fall. My efforts need to be smarter and more calculating, because I’m not that young anymore.

There is poetry in fly fishing, as in the design of a well-thought-out landscape. I like poetry. I find it in interesting, low-maintenance landscapes, and also when pursuing bonefish in the shallow gin-clear water of Cuba.

This is not blind casting into an area that might hold fish, hoping for the best. This style is evaluating, hunting and then fishing for a specific target. It is quietly stalking then accurately yet delicately presenting a fly 70 feet away.

Plus, this is a very sustainable sport — all catch and release. That is unless a predator like a barracuda or shark ends the game early by grabbing the fish as you fight it. That’s all part of the ecology, too.

Shortening the learning curve on a variety of waters, I have learned over time not to go it alone. I enlist the services of a professional guide, someone with local experience that does this kind of thing on a daily basis.

They are aware of current conditions, what is happening at this specific time of this specific year, and understand my goals and work within that framework. Which flies are working? Where are the fish located? How do the tides and phase of the moon affect the bite? Where do I fish to avoid those toothy predators?

Keep in mind the wind strength and direction and my range of casting ability. A good guide will calculate all these big and little things. The result will mean the difference between bending a rod with something interesting on the business end or desperately flailing away at the water while calling out to a variety of deities.

I have experienced both. The teamwork method is far more satisfying.

Taking a cue from that, consider these two approaches to doing your landscape improvements this year. You can buy a bunch of shrubs, take them home, cram them into your bed space and hope they look good, and go at it alone. Or, you can meet with a trained, seasoned professional, discuss your site’s opportunities and constraints, and include compact forms of thriving, low-maintenance plants in complementary colors and textures that appeal to you. Work within your budget. Your designer can help you stage it out and advise you in the science of success.

With this second approach, you will invest your money wisely with the result you want, using newer and better plant varieties than you might have considered.

After all, two heads are generally better than one. Trust me on this one.

Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in NYS. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at 468-1142 or