Ask a Question forum: Professional Advice for an Aspiring Landscape Designer

Views: 606, Replies: 15 » Jump to the end
Name: Alexandra M
Metro-Detroit (Zone 6b)
Image
alexmac13
Sep 15, 2014 6:03 PM CST
I have so many questions and I'm not sure where to begin. I'm looking for advice on becoming a professional Landscape Designer and any input is welcome. I am a 21 year old living in Michigan. I have experience with plants and I'm currently working as a plant merchandiser for a plant vending company with a contract through lowes hardware. I create the displays and put out featured products. I pull plants past bloom or with diseases. I help answer general questions about our perennials and annuals, as well as houseplants, succulents, cacti, bonsais, etc. I also worked for a renowned greenhouse and helped with seed and cutting planting, pruning, and sales. When I'm not working I am constantly reading about gardening and looking at landscape design books. I am very creative and currently go to school for psychology. I only have a few college credits and was apprehensive to proceed with my major. After a lot of thought I have decided to pursue my master gardening certification and I want to get my bachelors in Landscape Design. The reason I don't want to go into Horticulture is because I am more creative and I have little interest in chemistry or biology or intense sciences. I do a lot of my own gardening including ornamental and native gardening and organic vegetable gardening. I even built my own cold frames and raised beds and I'm looking into greenhouse design. My long term goals would be working for a botanical garden or founding my own garden or landscape design company focused on sustainable gardening and small scale agriculture.

I can't go to Michigan State because of distance and my current student status but I found out that oakland community college has an associates degree program in landscape design or landscape horticulture and an online program through the university of art academy offering a bachelors in arts in landscape design. Do you think an associates degree is sufficient in today's competitive job market? Or should I pursue my online bachelors degree? Any advice to get started? What are my most valuable educational opportunities?
Name: Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Plant Identifier
growitall
Sep 15, 2014 6:07 PM CST
One of the best things you can do as a landscape designer/landscaper is to become proficient at identifying and distinguishing plants. Sorry to say it but the trade(s) is given a black eye by the many landscapers who can't tell, for example, a spruce from a pine, and worse.
[Last edited by growitall - Sep 15, 2014 7:53 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #699949 (2)
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
Image
jvdubb
Sep 15, 2014 6:16 PM CST
Welcome alexmac13 ! I don't have specific advice for you regarding your question. But I can tell you that I have my bachelors in psychology and oh what I would give if I could go back and do it all over again! Then again, back then I did not know that gardening and designing my beds would be such a passion.

Also, I am in southeast Michigan, east of Detroit. My neighbor up the street is a horticulturist working for a nursery and he is very active in landscape design. His son also works in landscaping. I could ask him if he would be willing tell you about his experience.

Glad you found ATP! This is a great place for education!
Name: Alexandra M
Metro-Detroit (Zone 6b)
Image
alexmac13
Sep 15, 2014 6:28 PM CST
Wow, I wasn't anticipating such a quick reply! Thank you!
I purchased a couple of reliable books on plant identification and such. I would say I'm really quite good at identifying ornamental plants, especially because of working at a greenhouse where I needed to go out into the field and bring specific varieties out for restock. I deal with popular varieties of trees and shrubs working in a garden center but I could use some more work on identifying other tree varieties though. Thanks!

And I feel like psychology and gardening go hand in hand. It would be interesting to form a therapeutic gardening program, much like some of the wilderness and agricultural rehabilitation centers out there. I would love to speak to your neighbor about his experience, I live in Ferndale and I haven't met any professional landscape designers but I see how prominent the service is especially around me in the pleasant ridge area. Thank you for the support.
[Last edited by alexmac13 - Sep 15, 2014 6:29 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #699965 (4)
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
Image
Leftwood
Sep 15, 2014 7:26 PM CST
As I remember (circa 1989), Ferndale was one of the well to do areas of Detroit. Of course, you'll need to do a lot of homework before taking the big plunge. Definitely talk to landscape design professionals. Have all your ducks in a row, so you can ask meaningful questions that you won't take up a lot of their time. Unless someone responds here that is in the profession, take our advice as such. As Growitall says, there are a lot of nit-wits out there who call themselves professionals, and turn out great designs on paper, but when it comes to actual implementation, fall short because of a lack of knowledge of live materials.

Horticulture therapy has been in practice for decades, but really, that neither here nor there. It's a very good thing.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
Image
greene
Sep 15, 2014 8:40 PM CST
Welcome!
I'm not a professional either. But I'll add my two cents worth.
There was a time that I thought it would be a good career. You will need lots of education and tons of experience.

To get an idea of all that is entailed read the job description.
http://www.michigan.gov/documents/LandscapeDesigner_12772_7....

Putting a plant into the soil is not a major part of a Landscape Designer's day.
I worked for a living at a different occupation to support my hobby of gardening.

Good luck with your education.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Sep 15, 2014 8:55 PM CST
It does seem to me to be a part-time profession up North, due to the fact that you can design, but you sure can't install your designs for at least half the year. Any ski resorts nearby where you could work in the winter? You'll be worked to death in the spring and summer, though.

Down here, where it's possible to garden year 'round, you can make a living at it.

As for Hort. Therapy, I know several Master Gardeners who work on different programs like that, one for troubled teens, drug recovery etc. and another for older people with depression.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Sep 16, 2014 6:23 AM CST
Elaine - up here on the "frozen tundra" we can plant from February through December and we have had trees installed in December. We usually don't plant during the hot months since it's much more difficult for plants to adapt and root well during that time.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Birds Butterflies Dog Lover Cat Lover
Image
Weedwhacker
Sep 16, 2014 7:33 AM CST
No, no, no Arlene -- the "Frozen Tundra" is ONLY in Green Bay!! Hilarious!

Welcome to ATP, AlexMac13 ! Like Greene (and others here), I'm not a professional -- just an avid gardener. I just wanted to add that there are lots of areas involving horticulture that you might pursue; one that I find quite exciting -- and which could really be a great thing for Detroit, in my opinion -- is making use of old unused buildings (like factories) for hydroponic growing of food crops in urban environments.

Otherwise, in terms of landscape design -- perhaps you can find an established designer to work with and learn what is actually involved; there's nothing like actually working at something to find out whether you want to take it to the next step.

I wish you great success in whatever you decide to pursue -- and I hope you'll stay around and let us know how things are going for you Smiling

"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
- John Powell / Cubits.org - A Universe of Communities
/ Share your recipes: Favorite Recipes A-Z cubit
C/F temp conversion / NGA Member Map
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Plant Identifier
pirl
Sep 16, 2014 7:57 AM CST
Right, Sandy! I love the UP no matter what the weather. I have been to Green Bay as well...when Vince Lombardi was the coach. Yes, I'm THAT old!

Alexandra - good luck with whatever you decide to do in life.
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
Cinta
Sep 19, 2014 11:51 AM CST
I have no idea but can tell you what I see what the landscapers do in my area year round. I do not know if the courses include total design outside of just plant material.

In my area the landscapers decorate for the holidays Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. after Holiday, Fall design including hardscape. They work year round with everything outside looking attractive including when we are buried in snow they even have a crew to remove the snow. They do more than just planting a garden for summer view only.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Sep 19, 2014 12:32 PM CST
Wow, Cinta that sounds fantastic. Good that they, and their crews have found employment year 'round.

Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
Cinta
Sep 19, 2014 8:26 PM CST
dyzzypyxxy said:Wow, Cinta that sounds fantastic. Good that they, and their crews have found employment year 'round.



They would have to or they could not survive. We only have 4 months of sunny hot weather.

The Corn Husk Fall Decorations is my favorite although they do some nice Christmas decor not to over done and it is classy. They come out through out the winter and clean the snow off the hardscape that is in the garden. Move the hardscape depending on the amount of snow. One year we had snow every day it ended up being 3' in the garden areas. I saw them move a concrete garden ornament up on bricks to raise it so it was visual until the snow melted.

They have a price list that you can choose specific service or specific holiday or complete package that you pay a set monthly fee for the year. I should add it is not cheap. They make a good living all year long.
Name: Jean
Prairieville, LA (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier The WITWIT Badge Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
Moonhowl
Sep 19, 2014 9:25 PM CST
Alexandra, here is some info from the Detroit training center. I have friends here in Louisiana that take courses at the Dept of Forestry and obtain their licenses from the state. Many of them work for nurseries, arborists and a few work for landscaper designers. A couple have opened their own businesses.

http://detroittraining.com/

http://detroittraining.com/landscaping-program/

and this is a home study/on line course:

http://www.scitraining.com/Gardening_Landscaping?AF=GN0145&g...
Name: Wes
Ohio (Zone 6a)
Image
Wes
Sep 20, 2014 5:53 AM CST
Welcome! To ATP Alexandra!

I don't have a good answer for you either but from the sounds of your post you're already off to a good start with a career in the field of your liking. Best of luck! I completely understand your question. I pondered the same in my late 20's with a client list that consumed for than 40 labor hours per week. Scheduling, billing, and more were all done in the wee hours. My only "free" time. We have a great turf management program here through OSU. Didn't appeal to me due to relocation and actual subject matter. Landscape Architecture seemed to lean towards the drafting and engineering that didn't really appeal to me or my plans for a career. It would have been a great choice as would be a lean towards horticulture. Given the choice today I would be asking exactly what you are, betting some folks with more to offer will chime in as days go by.

I know myself well enough that I'd likely be doing exactly what I doing now working the labor end. With your age, experience, and enthusiasm any of your choices will give you options. I've known folks with degrees in engineering to make good in the field in regard irrigation/drainage and even particular plantings associated. Working with concrete companies and landscapers just the same with other options that are always in demand.

Again, best of luck!
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
Image
greene
Sep 20, 2014 6:23 AM CST
I agree with @Wes. I studied architectural drafting and yes, having knowledge of that is necessary to be able to properly design a property. Doing all the necessary paperwork, cost analysis, drawing/drafting and research requires time indoors - away from plants.

It's always been my opinion that a person must work at something for at least 40 hours a week to earn the money to do what you truly love to do.You need a vocation which can support your avocation and one which allows you the free time to pursue what you love doing. It is a rare thing indeed when a person finds a career which is completely fulfilling. You may want to find a career at which you earn enough money to fund your hobby (plants) and later expand the hobby into a small business.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Ask a Question forum
You must first create a username and login before you can reply to this thread.

Today's site banner is by dirtdorphins and is called "Dianthus 'Nyewood Cream'"