Tree Foundation of Kern

Landscape Designer or Garden Consultant

To plan environmentally sound yards and home gardens

Many landscape and garden designers have transformed a personal passion for gardening into a career that sustains them, adding beauty and enhancing the environment wherever they go. "If you love to garden there is nothing more satisfying than design work," said California landscape designer Suzan Mopper.

Practical experience, a wealth of knowledge and an eye for beauty are the only requisites for a career as a landscape and garden designer although an ability to market, network and establish a client referral base is essential to a steady career.

"You don't need a formal education. You do need an extensive working knowledge of plants, design principals and climate," said Karen Phillips a wildlife garden specialist in Weldon, California.

In addition to a strong background with a variety of plants, a knowledge of irrigation systems, soil and climate requirements and changing trends in gardening are essential to the work of the landscape designer. Relying on a sometimes intuitive understanding of both people and the landscape, the garden designer must unravel each client's preferences and ultimate vision for the garden and then manifest that dream.

Phillips said clients often prefer to do the planting work themselves and want to decide on the final selection of plants. By providing design sketches, plant lists and maintenance instructions, Phillips acts as a mentor to clients encouraging them as they begin an adventure with gardening.

Making the change from gardener to landscape designer often means spending a little more time indoors working up designs, compiling plants lists and tracking down suppliers sometimes from around the world.

Keeping up with changing trends in design, plant use and materials requires ongoing research for the landscape and garden designer. Phillips takes many of her cues from nature and spends a great deal of time exploring wild areas looking for new plant combinations and then translating what occurs naturally into beautiful settings for her clients.

Roger Boddaert, a landscape designer in Fallbrook, California, began studying ornamental horticulture and landscape design in college but eventually decided to forego a degree for hands-on experience working as a groundskeeper in an orchard. From there he worked with various landscape companies until starting his own business.

"Every day offers a new adventure," Boddaert said. He sees his career as an opportunity to "make people happy through the art of making a pleasurable exterior environment and open their eyes to the glory of nature."

Requires: No formal education but talent, experience and on the job training. Start up costs are minimal

Salary: Can make between $25 per hour and up to $100 per hour.