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Landscape Design as a Career: Getting the Green





Synergistic_Linguistics
I didn't mean to become a business woman. Honestly.

I got into the gardening business because I, like so many other people, "like plants." I was fresh out of college and my English degree wasn't exactly raking in cash. "Besides," I told myself, "I need the sun and the fresh air." For those that are snickering at my choice, you're right. Jobs with "sun and fresh air" actually mean "exposure and blistering work."

So I started as a counter girl, ringing up plants, soil, seeds and tools, watering the thousands of specimens in stock, and answering the endless barrage of the same basic questions. I worked outside when there was ice on the ground, or rain soaking everything I was wearing, or temperature climbing over 100 degrees farenheit, and days so humid that you'd be ringing your socks out before lunch. Ah, the great outdoors. Still, I loved the information, and I had a blast with the other nursery workers.

This plant store also had a landscape design department. After only a year as a counter girl, the position of "landscape designer's assistant" opened up. Everyone working in the plant nursery was gunning for that job. I've never researched so hard. I'd already proven I was a hard worker, now I had to prove that I was smart and organized enough to be the assistant of a man who was a whole lot of the first, and absolutely NONE of the second.

I turned in a revised resume. I dressed sharp for the interview. I asked TONS of questions. I smiled through my sunburn and chapped lips when I was on shift, and cracked jokes with everyone. I pretended to have more confidence than I really had. I got the promotion.

Suddenly I was indoors seemingly all the time, and a full 3/4 of my job was clerical. The rest of the nursery workers were quick to tease about my new, "cushy" job. But now I was logging overtime 'til the janitors showed up. The deadlines weren't just tight, they frequently snapped. Before this, I'd never been yelled at over the phone 'til the earpiece died. But the designs were good. Damned good.

I started doing designs myself, rather than waiting on my boss, who was spectacularly bad at deadlines. I started directing the crews, because he showed up late when the surf at the jetties was good. He noticed. They promoted me. Again. I'd only been an assistant for a year.

I moved to a new city, started designing for a larger company, on a more lucrative pay scale. But that company was...well...unstable. So, finally, I acknowledged that I had something of self-starter about me. So I opened my own, one-person company.

Yes, it was hard. Yes, I felt like the laughing stock of my peers. But I wasn't. And the money for designs was VERY good. Landscape installation companies hired me. Homeowners hired me. Apartment complexes tried to hire me, then realized I didn't work for free. A bump in the road, but not too bad.

I worked from my apartment, because I only met my clients at their homes, businesses, or at plant nurseries. The money was ridiculously good. I kissed a good chunk of my debt goodbye, even student loans.

That whole story was a preface to the question:

I've never met any other landscape designers that didn't take classes on it., then become a landscape architect. Anyone out there in the gardening/landscape business?
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