Landscaping As A Career – Breaking Out

The “Career” of landscaping has evolved so vastly during my own experience. In Vancouver, in 1971, “landscapers” were literally not a recognized trade at all in that town. Of course, in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Florida and other Sun-friendly environments, “landscaping” was a long-respected trade. But in more Northern climates, these persons were more commonly referred to as “gardeners” – and not particularly respectfully. Things then changed because budgets began to include the inclusion of the outdoors in building plans – and they became  mandatory. A 5% principle attached soon and the trade swelled with participants.

As time has gone on, many projects included much more elaborate gardens and outdoor premises as Landscape Architecture also began its own forward march in expertise and ability. An entirely new range of materials began competing and technologies of irrigation and waterproofing became essential findings which allowed a near-exponential expansion of “the possible”.

Pretty cool place to make, eh?

Once we’ve covered the “hard” portion of the trade, as was done so last post, we come to the nexus where someone seeks to improve his position in life. No one will or should impair a young person’s urge to uniqueness and achievement should they get restless about their lot in life. We tend to underestimate the peer-pressures facing 20-somethings as friends and acquaintances apparently pass them by on the graded social scale. They hear it from home, at pubs and on the job maybe most of all. Facing a gigantic pile of rocks in a driveway, scheduled to be relocated by 4 PM on a 100 degree day, is not the same as a vacation in January in Lahaina, Maui.

This is the point at which I ask anyone just how serious they are about a career. It might be the single most opportune time to ask one’s self the same question. In the end, serious movement requires serious actions. What I offer here is a rough guide on how to accomplish the next step for those who wonder. There are just a few tactics available, the truth is, and taking them seriously is what this is all about.

Take the trade seriously

Our minds don’t automatically cease operations simply because we have a wheelbarrow in our hands. (While tempting and oddly satisfying for its simplicity). The purest path to advancing in any trade is to acquire knowledge about it. In landscaping, this opens up far more realms of study than one might believe. For example, relevant Electrical aspects of landscaping include Low Voltage Wiring from Hot Voltage Transformers; waterfall/swimming pool/to tiny electrical bubble rock pumps; the timers, moisture sensors, irrigation valves and even audio aspects of patios and back yard privacy enclaves. All of these items and concerns have been at least parts of landscapes I have designed and installed, if not most of them included on every single one.


The term is a latter-day term describing the constructed structural elements of landscapes, from patios and walls to gazebos and fencing (carpentry). Owing to the outdoor nature of the work and the search for durable products and materials where landscaping resides – in the weather – cement products are often a huge feature, representing an outsized group of products requiring certain inescapable preparations. The entire notion of “Compaction” – as well as the quite specific materials and tools to complete their installations – figure largely here, even for carpentry projects. I have seen projects and even companies rise and fall over their comprehension of the entire premise of “compaction”.

Plants and Trees

It’s too easy to say plants are an essential part of any good landscape because it’s not always the case. Many landscapes any more have taken on spare-looking/minimalist characteristics not just attributable to our unique position as serious water-users for gardens, but also attributable to a tangential notion of some very creative designs. There is incentive – yes – in designing a less water-hogging landscape. It is a responsible move in the face of our looming water scarcity issues. But many of these edifices stand on their own as gorgeous landscaping – just without plants.

And having said all that, a thorough knowledge of plants, plant behavior and their afflictions and favorite moments is an absolute must for any landscaper. Here such concepts as ideal soil conditions, shade, traffic and the acidity produced over time from rooting and the breaking down of leaves or needles all converge with water needs and even drainage to produce a world-view of plantings at a basic level.

And even this disregards the even-more-essential elements of blooming, leaf structure and color, shape and eventual size. In fact, when all is said and done, we will forever and always return to these basic factors of any plants we use. Expert choices make expert results.


To a certain degree, we have already addressed this above. But it well behooves avid students of landscaping to try and understand the reasons for certain design elements. “Foundation planting”, “mass planting”, “specimen-planting”, the use of grass, hardscapes, lighting, water in a landscape all have a certain place which should fit with the rest, no matter the current fashions.

Differences in design are as numerous as differences in their purposes. Back Yards are often the result of a search for privacy and contemplation.


Public spaces, on the other hand, are nearly the opposite – with celebratory edifices such as public fountains, prominent features like statues and art works and even especially riveting sculptural/landscape elements built together to simply draw attention and interest, supplying something unique and impractical for our everyday lives. In public space, predictability is over rated by a huge amount. People seriously want to share amazement – most truly amazingly beautiful things are simply designed to share.



Lovejoy Fountain



Meat and Potatoes

Here are other categories it well behooves an aspiring landscaper to appreciate:

Soils –

Machinery –

Labor Relations –

Client Behavior –

Maintenance –

Sales  and Customer Satisfaction –

We’ll address these next time.





3 thoughts on “Landscaping As A Career – Breaking Out

  1. This is a great series. I am a manager at a small family business and can relate to much of this. I love the thoughts on foremen- they are really that critical! I am already looking for one I know I will need NEXT YEAR. Thanks for your perspective.

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