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I am a stay at home wife and mom and I have been focused on learning more about landscaping and garden design mostly because I love it. There are some local companies that do landscaping but I think their designs are super outdated and I can do a better job of creating unique designs. Armed with that confidence and some example gardens of friends I would like to start doing this professionally.

The specific questions I have are below:

1) Has anyone in the group done this transition or is the only way to get some certification/courses before you can become a professional ?

2) Would it be better to partner with an architect for this ? or advertise by myself ?

  • Landscape architect. – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 5 '19 at 15:18
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    Yep, I did the transition from secretarial work to design/landscaping what feels like centuries ago, but I did do some home based certificated courses first, then later, went to Horticultural Ccllege to get my M. Hort, at the same time as doing general gardening (including planting) work in other people's gardens as well as my own so I could learn from experience too. One piece of advice - you really have got to know your plants in order to design properly – Bamboo Nov 5 '19 at 16:20
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    In North America it's tough to make a living just doing design. Landscape firms will offer a "free" design knowing they will make their money off the markup on labour and materials. Most homeowners are very attracted to an all in one package of "free" design and installed. – kevinsky Nov 5 '19 at 18:51
  • I agree with the previous comment, and should have said that - I just used to use the same local general building firm to carry out the hard works post design acceptance, then plant myself. You need a good building team... I;m in the UK, where pure design work is also hard to come by - and not actually very satisfying, really, I prefer design and hands on,. – Bamboo Nov 5 '19 at 20:24
  • Your local parks and recreation department likely has volunteer jobs that could prove useful. They'll also get you tied in with the local community of plant people. If you are lucky enough to have a college or university nearby, they're usually in need of folk to handle greenhouses, gardens, and trees. You'll get lots of good experience and lots of good contacats through university. Many cities also have "master gardener" programs, Dahlia clubs and the like. All of these are windows of opportunity. Take some. Plant people tend to be very nice. – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 8 '19 at 6:08
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Launching any artistic venture is a highly risky strategy if you are seeking income rather than internal reward. There are many people in the industry and the distribution follows the power law - a very tiny fraction will be very good and earn significant income, and a large segment will get little business and earn little to no income. Discouragement is almost inevitable unless you have some significant specialist advantage in knowledge or experience.

Approaching a professional architect again will likely not be successful unless you have that special thing that will help to raise the team professional offering rather than dilute it. The "special thing" then becomes your product offering, while the garden design is a nice addition for the customer even if it is the main motivation for you.

One way to start, in addition to establishing a reputation on sites such as this one where you can demonstrate your background knowledge and skills under your own recognizable name, would be to take some of your best work to date neatly rolled in a tube and show it to landscapers in your area. Generally these people have investment in capital equipment to get the final job done and produce designs at the customer's request. Some customers don't need a professional landscape architect and will be content with someone less prominent. The thing about the landscape business is that is it highly seasonal so in spring it might be handy to have someone who can take the overflow design work so they can get back to repairing equipment and keeping the business functioning at high speed. Someone skilled and reliable who can take on the extras and help please the end customer could quickly move to an important position. That way you establish your name and reputation and could eventually become independent.

Good luck!

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    To add to Colin's excellent advice, you might be able to be hired on as the Designer at a landscaping firm or plant nursery (I worked at a nursery that also ran a landscape installation crew; the nursery's designer drew the plans that the crew installed, using plants available at the nursery). As noted by other posters, though, you're going to need credibility and a portfolio in order for this to happen. As a side note, I do know of one designer who was a Master Gardener and leveraged her contacts there to get work. – Jurp Nov 5 '19 at 19:44
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A friend of mine was moderately successful at it. She was in a symbiotic situation with a very large garden shop. She was independent but the shop provided her office space. I think she had a degree in botany. When shoppers had questions about plant uses and landscaping they were were referred to her ; Most of the shop people were basically clerks . She would make landscape plans that would use plants available from the shop. She would draw-up landscape plans ; if the customer liked it , she would make sure the right plants got to the job . She also did some supervising of garden shop people that did the planting. She worked long hours in spring and early summer. She had the advantage of knowing the condition of the stock in the shop and could encourage use of shop inventory. She had been doing it for several years when I met her so I don't know exactly how the arrangement began. Like many small businesses , she had to work to meet the customers requirements; There was no "I think I will draw a landscape plan this afternoon and stop at dinnertime".

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