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So You Want to Be a Garden Designer: How to Get Started, Grow, and Thrive in the Landscape Design Business Hardcover – March 25, 2010
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The garden design profession appears to be expanding, as many self-taught gardeners are entering the field. Howard suggests an apprenticeship to help build the necessary skill set, learn the terminology, and transition into the business. Offering the basics, Howard leads with chapters delving into horticulture and the green industry. Structural tips and know-how to help explain the creation of paths, walls, and fences follow, and Howard sheds light on aspects of materials and legal issues that apply to patios and decks. She covers elemental details with regard to water features, a pool, and even a spa, as well as irrigation, drainage, and lighting, while more in-depth chapters survey the occupational hazards and offer business advice. Her personal story enlivens the writing and illuminates many subtle yet essential aspects of the profession. Readers who are considering taking the leap will appreciate Howard’s guidance and encouragement. --Alice Joyce
“Albrecht Howard offers a wealth of knowledge gained from real-world experience, along with the basic guidelines to help ensure the fledgling business does well financially.” —Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries Newsletter
“The garden design profession appears to be expanding, as many self-taught gardeners are entering the field. . . . [Howard’s] personal story enlivens the writing and illuminates many subtle yet essential aspects of the profession. Readers who are considering taking the leap will appreciate Howard’s guidance and encouragement.” —Booklist
“With joblessness at an all time high, many passionate gardeners fantasize about designing gardens as a second career. Give your daydreamer this practical book.” —Boston Globe
“For anyone with dreams of making their living working with gardens, So You Want to Be a Garden Designer is the book for them.” —Bookwatch
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But almost as quickly as their tone turns dreamy, they snap back to reality. There are just too many buts. "But I have a well-paying job!" "I don't know enough about plants." Or most daunting of all, "I wouldn't even know where to start".
Love Albrecht Howard has crafted a thorough and detailed guide to getting past all those "buts" and getting into a career you'll love. She's got suggestions for how to start out slowly if you can't afford to leave your day job, how to build your knowledge and professionalism, and suggests ways of handling common situations as a designer.
Of course, along the way you'll learn the unvarnished truth about what it's like being a landscape designer. We all have horror stories of clients who think designing with plants is like designing with objects - that we should be able to specify no-maintenance plants that will do well without water, in poor soil, with deer and dark shade - yet flower all year long!
Albrecht Howard shares her professional tricks on designing for tough conditions, as well as for communicating the possibilities to clients. And she shares the pitfalls she's found as a designer and advises you on how to work professionally through the expected and not-so-expected adventures you'll have as a designer.
If you know what knowledge gaps you're missing, it's not too hard to figure out how to gain skill at specific aspects. But so much of the value in this book is in teaching fledgling designers what they don't yet know they need to learn. These are the tricks most of us learn after years of mistakes, and Albrecht Howard shares her experiences honestly so that new designers won't have to learn from the school of hard knocks the way the rest of us did.
Now - two things you should know about this book. One is that it's full of text. Not a lot of pictures. This is great if you're really motivated to read her stories and learn from her experience; it's not fluff. But if you're expecting photos of gardens or illustrations of different materials, how-to photos, or just want to skim through casually reading bits here and there - this probably isn't your book. Invest the time to read it properly and you'll find your time well-spent.
Thing number two: While it has a lot of value to established designers (I've been designing for seven years and I adored the camaraderie of finding out how similar her experiences have been to my own!), this book is much more about how to begin the process of becoming a designer than about the specifics of building and growing your business. It's not a marketing or business book, it's a how-to-approach-this-thoughtfully-as-a-career book. You'll still need coaching from your local small business administration on how to do all the nuts and bolts involved in starting and running any business.
My take? This is an awesome book that will help you figure out whether this is really a business you want to be in, and if you do, she'll hold your hand and help you feel confident and professional tackling your first jobs and getting started as a designer. And if you're already a designer, like me? Read it just for the client stories! I laughed, hard, and felt so much better knowing I'm not alone...
(EDIT September 1, 2010: It's occurred to me that while the business practices Howard espouses are perfectly legal in her state, it might not be obvious to people new to this field that laws vary wildly from state to state.
The business practices Howard advises, such as overseeing a landscape installation as a general contractor without holding a contractor's license yourself, and taking 50% of the bid price for installation prior to the start of the job are both very illegal in CA, where I live. Here, designers cannot subcontract out the installation of the design unless you hold a general contractor's license. Just wanted to urge people new to the business to call their own state contractor's board to find out the laws in their own state and not take it for granted that all of the business practices Howard advises will be applicable to you.
This is a small part of the book, though, so shouldn't detract from your enjoyment or the usefulness of the book.)