06 May 2010

Love Albrecht Howard Gives Away All the Secrets You'll Need in "So You Want to be a Garden Designer"

The book, "So You Want to be a Garden Designer", is part career counseling, part friendly encouragement and mostly detailed information that will help any plant lover make the decision to become a garden designer.

Author, Love Albrecht Howard, left corporate life to become a garden designer partly to be available to raise her child. She had tired of the confining nature of working for others and needed to be more creative in how she made a living. Over the past 15 years Howard has learned a lot and now wants to share it.

The subtitle of the book describes the bulk of the contents, How to Get Started, Grow, and Thrive in the Landscape Design Business.

To become a successful designer you have to have a passion for plants but that's just the beginning. Other skills you have to be comfortable with include: Use computer design software, be self directed and selfdisciplined, supervise teams of subcontractors (masons, carpenters, electrician, etc.), help owners identify the garden design they would enjoy and then make that become a reality for them.

You also have to be willing to work all summer and every weekend that the weather is good. Then there are the mosquitoes, busted underground pipes, tree trunks and other problems.

The first question to ask a prospective client is what gardens they have seen recently that made them want a designer. And, then, you have to resist the temptation to answer their question, "What would you do if this were your yard?"

Howard said she found clients to be entertaining, clueless, sadistic, lovely, cheap, punishing, grateful, and endearing.

Prepare by taking seminars and reading books to learn the rules of garden design.

Travel to gardens, study magazines, and apprentice with a local designer. Learn the vocabulary of soil - not dirt, foliage - not leaves, shrubs - not bushes, focal point, view line, safe footing, privacy screenings, etc.

Customers want flowers that bloom all summer, lawns that need no mowing, sun loving plants for the north side of the house, and shrubs that actually look good trimmed into cube shapes.

Learn about workhorse plants that provide erosion control, wind breaks, deer diversion, tapestry hedges, as well as poisonous, invasive, foundation and bedding plants. Then there are lawns to understand: lawns for children to play on, neighbors to envy, and low maintenance ones.

The principles of sustainable landscaping are critically important so that you and your clients are not fighting nature. Understand how to devise chemical free landscapes that use half the water.

Pathways, walls and fences distinguish a garden. Stone and rock work can create a garden without huge beds of flowers to care for.

Outdoor living spaces such as patios and decks have so many variations of size and material that they take considerable time and attention in design work. The size has to match the house and the purpose. Decks usually need stairs or terracing.

Water features can be part of a designer’s job or a niche business. Whether it is a fountain, bog, koi pond or waterfall, water transforms a garden.

Irrigation, drainage and lighting are part of any landscape plan. Hazards such as spiders, power lines and ticks are part of implementing that plan.

Howard provides tips on defining your business, marketing, small business basics, project estimates, how to get paid, working with plant nurseries, subcontractors, the design process, how to take measurements and tools.

So You Want to Be a Garden Designer is a good resource for anyone considering following Howard's path into the profession. It is a 400 page hardback with some photos of projects. $30 retail and $20 online. Timber Press www.timberpress.com or 800-827-5622.

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