Articles, Blog

How I Made It: Environmental Horticulture and Landscape Design


Thanks for coming most of you know me
but if you don’t I’m Mike Gonella the chair of the Horticulture Department and
teacher in the department, the only full-timer. I passed out these cards
that tell you about our program. I mean a lot of you like already know that we
have four degree emphases. You can get a an AS in environmental horticulture
with an emphasis in an ecological restoration or nursery management or
landscape contracting or landscape design. So we have a few students in here,
they’re probably covering the full spectrum of those things. So if you don’t
have any idea of the types of careers you could achieve and with that degree
the panelists are going to better speak to that that I would and definitely
they’re gonna say more than what’s on this card. But a little bit of
information like that on the back and if you’re already in the program and you’re
still wondering what kind of classes you have to take to graduate, we have
information online about that you can access through a link here and then
I have these little blue brochures over there they can tell you that. But
you’ll find out from the panelists it’s a it’s a growing field and labor market. The labor market reports show that
landscaping landscape maintenance, landscape design, nursery businesses are
still growing in Southern California area so there’s more and more jobs.
During the recession it was not as hard-hit as a lot of other disciplines
or professions even though people couldn’t remodel they still wanted to
change their landscapes and people always have landscapes to maintain. So I
know all of them, well Tyler least of all but, not not least interested– but worked
with them and Adam used to teach here and they’re all a great group of people
that really if I was gonna, you know, it makes me excited about horticulture
and landscaping – they’re all really smart, sharp, ambitious people who have
done really well in their trade and I admire them and I’m glad they’re
here. Especially because they probably just,
you know, got off a job and rushed over here so hopefully they’ll be inspiring
to you too. So that’s it. The program overview today is pretty
straightforward, we’re going to go ahead and I’ll be introducing our panelists.
They’ll be answering some questions that I throw out to them. I’d like each of you
to give a brief description about where you work and the type of place that you
work in. So do a brief description. Where we work? Yeah, where you work. I know you
work at your own company so maybe you can say that and what do you do there. Oh I work everywhere. We’re primarily building contractors but I still do
quite a bit of horticultural work and we’re from Santa Barbara to,
I’ve got a bunch of North County work. I’ve had projects that have run in the
Bay Area and down in LA and we’ve sent crews out as far as North Dakota. So it’s
a lot of opportunity if you’re in construction. The horticultural aspect of
the work that we do, I had to give up on as a main focus of the work early on in
the career because it was just not paying the dividends that I thought I
could get out of the training I had so Unfortunately the horticulture education
that I spent a lot of time on getting getting a lot of I don’t know excitement
about and whatnot sort of fell by the wayside earlier in my career that I
would have would have liked so nowadays I’m really trying to push hard to get
back as a full time landscape contractor and do more more with the with the trade
so it’s um it’s a great career I’ve loved it I’ve had 25 years of building
the business but we really had to branch out and do more general contracting and
masonry and that kind of thing just because I couldn’t quite I couldn’t
quite kind of bite off as a landscape contractor at least initially in the
local area it was a little difficult a little inhibiting so my story is a
horticulturalist as it supplements our business but it’s not necessarily the
main the main thing that that we do which is not to discourage any of you
guys from sticking with it again I just found that that early on I was needing
to pay the bills and get payroll made and I kind of fell back on the concrete
work and the carpentry and the things that I had been trained for prior to
getting my degree. That’s reality. Your company
installs the hardscape and does the planting and irrigation so there’s not a
bunch of different sub consultants you’re working with it’s like your
Foreman and and you guys do the whole installation it’s it’s nice on our end
that you have the whole package. I work at Ganna Walska Lotusland. It’s a 37
acre nonprofit botanic gardens. It started out as really a
nursery back in the late 1800s with one of the families that bought the property
story goes that they kind of wined and dined the local merchants that would
come into port and ask for seed plants cuttings anything that they can get
their hands on from different parts of the world and started grow these plants
at Lotus Land. Another person came in the scene that about the property and pretty
much was doing the same thing that’s how we ended up with such a great collection
of very mature plants that you don’t see around in this area. Madam
Ganna Walska bought it in 1941 she didn’t start cultivating the gardens until 1946
and she was intent on just collecting plants she didn’t have a horticultural
background so she had people or staff that
helped her with that aspect of it so we have a very notable cycad collection,
bromeliads, cactus… it’s a pretty cool place. I’ve worked a
couple other botanic gardens and uh the work at Ganna Waska Lotusland, it’s
really really something. A very special place to be right down to the woman that
designed it and cultivated and made it what it was so I’ve kind of worked
myself.. I’m in horticulture but I’ve worked myself out of the gardener
position which is good and bad. I do miss being out in the gardens a lot
of the times a lot of my my day is spent managing people behind the computer at a
keyboard or sitting in on a meeting but not discouraged you like Adam was saying
and getting into the industry, I got in it for the plants.
I always thought I’d be a greenhouse grower and once I took an internship at
Longwood Gardens I discovered people that were in the
industry for plants and and not just bulk plants and shipping things out but
really that unique plants in the industry and that’s what nonprofit
public gardens are about what are the Arboretum’s as well so, I’m glad I’m in it. So I worked for San Marcos Growers, have
been there 31 years. Excuse me, 36 years. Yeah a long time. I didn’t
start out as we mention as in at the top of the heap but came in as a production
manager I’d been working at a retail nursery in Santa Barbara at the time and
I was very interested in plants and we are a wholesale nursery. About
half our sales go to other nurseries and the other half goes to the landscape
industry the we’re seeing right here the contractors and architects and users
like the State of California parks and zoos, Disneyland –places like that. Botanic Gardens, thank you. We ship from pretty much the Mexican border up to
Santa Rosa where it’s burning right now and pretty much along the coastal
corridor and so we’re actually a trucking firm also. Have about 50
employees on that 20 acres. My day spent administering those 50 employees a lot
and and being a referee half the time and also writing for our database
that as was mentioned which developed a database in 1990 and got one
online with it about 1995 and it’s kind of grown ever since and it’s pretty much
kind of become a horticultural database we write about the plants we grow with
the ones we’ve grown in the past kind of as you know it started as an advertising
thing for us but it’s also kind of say information source and I still keep my
hands on the plants mostly a lot by writing about the plants and looking at
them and and we have about 1800 different plants in in the process of
growing and we try and propagate and grow most of them ourselves. Some of them we
do buy in. We do a little bit of breeding and but mostly it’s growing plants that
we have found or others have found for us and that’s about it. I went backwards. I
actually was at UCSB environmental studies and ecology major there. Graduated
in , well I thought I graduated in 91 but I couldn’t find a job and then ended up coming back to
City College to finish up a couple English courses to transfer back and to
get into horticulture I love plants and I guess according to my mom I
designed my first garden at age six and you know really enjoyed the curriculum
here worked at the life scape garden was the city college intern at Lotusland for
four six months and then also at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden was an
intern there and so really got to work under some really fantastic
horticulturalists when I was at Lotus land it was when they were switching
over to organic gardening and so it was a really really exciting time to be
there we’re really renovating the soil and and learning about the importance of
the soil and also you know the design and how these all these aloes work
together and how to give them the best the best upbringing if you will in the
soil and so I think that you know from there I ended up working at City Parks
Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens again I got into that position through the
through the Hort department here and worked at Alice Keck Park Memorial
Gardens taking care of the drought tolerant landscape there so got
intimately familiar with all of those plants and then happened to meet this
Landscape Architect Grant Castleberg who had worked on that park and since I
knew how to draft and I knew my plants they needed somebody to help out
planting plans and that’s how I got into the design end of things and so I got to
kind of, you know, Jerry sorta calls it paint with plants and so got to
be an artist where I would take these plants and and create gardens and for me
it was really you know the horticultural background and the sustainability and
sort of thinking about it from an ecological perspective.
where did all of these plants come from and am I gonna put them together and did
they come from similar parts of the world which is where his database comes
in handy so I can find out where you know where is this native – is it
comparable to something from New Zealand and it can I throw a California native
plant in there and can I make this little sort of designed habitat from
plants around the world into a garden that’s going to be resistant to pests
and and not take a bunch of water so it’s sort of how I fell into the into
the career and then they changed the state laws and so then I had to go back
and get a masters in landscape architecture so that I could get a
license and I think I was working for the firm for five years by the time
I went back and got the license or the degree then I got to work for Bob Perry
down in LA which was a great great experience and he literally wrote the
book on drought tolerant plants and so when the economic downturn hit
that’s when I started my company went out on my own and it was also kind of
coincided with the drought and so I really kind of found that niche and
drought tolerant you know sustainable landscapes and I still do a lot of
habitat restoration in fact I was working on a wetland mitigation
restoration plan right before I ran in the door so I still had my fingers in
and you know all of these things that I learned and I think the the foundation
here you know you kind of go on these crazy paths but but I think this this
program was the foundation of it for sure and I get to buy his plants and
have him install my work so it’s fun Thank you so Kimberly. since the mic is
there we’ll just keep it there and start with you and ask you what are some of
the key things that helped you achieve your career goals what kind of advice
might you give the students here if they want to go into the field and you know
what are some of those key stepping stones for you that helped you land
where you are today Gosh, I think I just worked hard and I really love plants
I was just have always been excited and passionate about plants and loved
working with them love taking care of love now designing with them so I think
I think having that passion and drive it’s not you know you work hard but at
the same time when you love what you do it’s not hard work so it’s to speak in
it it just flowed I think but I think a quest for always learning and and
expanding my knowledge and it feels like in this field the more you learn the
more you realize there’s so much you don’t know and so it’s always able to
grow and expand and learn I think that that’s important yeah I would second
that I’m just always learning and observe what’s going on around you I
mean there’s so many learning lessons you can do just walking down a street
and people always go well what should I grow you know and you always say well
look what your neighbors are doing look what’s successful look you know look
around you and I think that’s kind of how I got into it just looking at the
world around me and looking at plants and and liking them of course but I I
agree with you I’m constantly learning I’m still learning and I hope I never
stop learning about about the plants and as far as you know the well what I would
do and from this program or opportunities we have always looked
to this program for people to hire and that is something that we hired a number
of you out of it my partner from a many years for 35 years was a graduate of
this program and several the people are still working for us including my
current production manager is a graduate of this program so it’s you know it’s
something that you know we recognize there’s a lot of good learning going on here. Um, kind of the same thing just loving the plants and and I started out young as a
kid I was always outside doing something and and you talked about career and
finding your career. I felt fortunate that I always kind of knew my career
path. Always into the plants always outside doing something–
never knew I can go to horticulture until I got in high school and my I was
in FFA at the time and they told me you actually should go to school for horticulture
so I did that and just it was all about the plants mean a lot of times people
would say you probably end up liking people or like in plants one of the
people so I think sometimes that’s true well yeah just hard to work open mind I
didn’t like I said I didn’t think I’d go into public gardening didn’t really know
that much about it until I took an internship and when I got there I
realized this is where I wanted to be and just learning the plants I went from
the west coast to the east coast and learned a whole different plant palette
and now I’m from the east coast back to the west coast and I’m learning and
relearning everything that I knew before so the learning process is great and you
never learn it all and you’re always and things are always changing as well from
soil biology to new plants it’s just it’s an ongoing thing and and just a fun
field to be in and working in horticulture everyone’s been great it’s
just a great field to be in. I think all of our sentiments are about the same as
you’re caught with a bug when you’re young and it just stays with you forever
and some people are plant people and some people are not and that’s just, you
know, it’s not good or bad mm-hmm I was one of those kids that had to be called
in at dark because I was still messing around with some project in the yard the
neighbors got wind of me as a little kid and I started doing projects for them
and it just built and I can’t remember even from my youngest days I really
cannot remember not being employed in horticulture doing very similar stuff to
what I’m doing today so it just seemed natural even in college that I was
working and doing other things besides horticultural trades and skills but I
kept coming back to it you know that that even though there were other other
diversions out there that love of plant material and horticulture just wouldn’t
wouldn’t go away so you know and I don’t think it’s something that we’re that
you’re necessarily you know you’re born with that you have it or you don’t there
are a lot of people that later in life they really come into the horticultural
profession and they do quite well and they’re and they’re very happy so you
know don’t feel like if you weren’t born with with some religious fervor to be in
the plant world that it’s not for you you know. It it also it also affords me
the ability to do a lot of things that I want to do which in some careers is not
always as as readily available and what I mean by that is I can set my own hours
you know maybe these guys up here are are in that same place in their
profession but even when I was young it was nice to be able to if I’d needed to
get up early and go to work and get off early the the business afforded that
that luxury if you will. So it’s it’s nice as a horticulturalist is a very
flexible it’s like the plant material is never never going anywhere you know and
that’s the one thing I do like the most about our landscape part of the work we
do is it’s a lot more flexible and forgiving and you know building
somebody’s home or remodeling their their kitchen a lot of times those
timelines the desire to please and get people back in their kitchens or back in
their homes sometimes is not necessarily a fun thing and and you know pleasurable
part about what we do, but it’s very rare that anybody gives us a hard time about
landscape installation. So you talked a little bit about some things that you
prefer maybe don’t prefer about your work over the years what are some of
your favorite things maybe you could span on that a little bit more and some
of the things that maybe you don’t enjoy doing so much like you were talking
about personnel as opposed to working with the plants. So we’ll start
with you. Yeah I think it says it’s that that saying of affinity with plants is not
necessarily an affinity with people um I find that my interpersonal relationships
with employees and whatnot are probably the things I could do without. I’ve got about 55 that blows up to 80 employees and I spend a lot of
my time just putting out fires, tamping down personalities keeping people
working you know keeping people from stealing from each other, and that kind
of thing that’s really the negative part about running a business. The the
positives really I think it’s a you never stop learning and every day
there’s a new opportunity to learn something new and have a new discovery
and I find now that I take a much greater pleasure in that than I ever
used to when I was younger I wish I hadn’t taken that for granted but I’d
maybe been a little more open to the experience of everyday learning
something new and not just going through the motions. Same thing um
managing people. I have a great staff I mean the Lotusland staff is
phenomenal but and getting everyone to work together in a garden and agreeing
on how to prune a pittosporum, you know you have six different ways to do it and
sometimes you just have to set someone up or just walk away and let them hash
it out or pull five people off and let the one person finish it so that’s it. It’s
not really a negative but it’s a part of the industry that you have to deal with
for me sometimes it can be rewarding because you may get an employee who you
feel like you should probably just get rid of and you end up spending six
months of time maybe mentor them a little bit and they end up being a great
employee. So it can be rewarding as well, it’s they’re few and far between but it
can happen. And then the positive thing for me is just walking out on my office
and going into the garden I’m spending time with my employees because everyone
has a story or you know a life and you get to know them a little bit better. I
took arborum culture in college and one of the things I liked I haven’t been
in trees in awhile but one of the things I liked a lot was after either a storm
or something like that we were able to climb and do different parts of
horticulture that I didn’t do before that I didn’t study in but kind of
progresses I went along and learned by doing. Oh yeah just being in touch with nature I think going outside and and that
overflows into sometimes my personal life and hiking and camping and doing
things like that so I think overall the positive aspects of horticulture are
greatly outweigh the negative if there really are any negative for most people
and like I said before just the industry themselves everyone I’ve met in the
industry there’s been a positive experience. It’s a lot of fun. I wanted to
back up just a hair because something you said earlier about and you know not
not knowing that the horticulture existed for you early on and
there is a big movement right now and in Longwood Gardens as part of the Seeger
future which is really an important thing about just letting people know
that horticulture exists because I and I forgot what the exact figure was but it
was close to ninety percent of the high school kids have never heard the word
and and it was really kind of something eye opening to me and I actually started
more in environmental education than I did in horticulture and it wasn’t
really until I I took a class at UCSB by Bob Haller
it was a Botany 103 just kind of turned my world around and it can happen so I
mean I was like you know a junior senior in college before I really
you know got enlightened back to plants I know I was always involved in nature
so you know don’t give up immunity you want to change course down the road
you can always do it now that’s that you said that you were positive things again
there are dealing with the plants but also the people I I mean I I mentioned
that the difficulties and staff and such but they’re good people and and we have
an opportunity also to see quite a fair number of our customers that come into
the nursery and that’s always good. I mean I love to get their stories all the
talk shop and see how things are going so I think people are it’s a good in
that side of my business but the most enjoyable thing is really talking the
plants with with other people. To say I love it when I get to go to his nursery
and ask about plants and hang out half an hour talking about them. It’s
that’s great. Yeah it’s you know the the running the business part is is hard
doing the books and all that stuff because I do a lot of that myself.
I took that small business class small business administration class
through adult ed and wrote you know learned how to write a business plan and
do the whole the whole thing and and jump jumped right in. And you know that
part can be trying in the long hours but I do love what I do I love my work so
it’s sort of it’s sort of worth it. And Aaron here was one of my employees and
gave him his first job and landscape architecture and now he’s teaching here
at City College so it can be you know really exciting and rewarding to to see
people grow and flourish in that way. But I’d say my favorite part still even
though I’m a landscape architect is when the plants finally arrived on site
and I’m laying them out that’s still my favorite part you know
you know the expecting the farms and looking at all the hardscape you build
along with the garden and still the plants for me is my favorite part. And
it’s it’s it’s really fun just moving them around and seeing it all seeing the
garden finish once it’s installed is you know there’s a lot of a lot of gardeners
out there that could use help learning how to properly take care of plants and
how not to overwater them and I think there’s a huge meaning especially now
since we’re moving away from lawns and we’re moving into different types of
plants it’s like well you know a lot of these plants don’t want extra summer
water and there’s a lot I think the industry is changing there’s a lot of
opportunity there for people to get into that that portion of it and so it’s nice
when you when you find it one of your designs as being well-maintained that’s
that’s a really exciting. And it’s really sad when you see a design that hasn’t
been a garden that hasn’t been cared for. So when we start out in our careers some things happen because of intentional
choices that we make and some things just happen because they happen and we’re in
the right place at the right time and I would like to start with you Kim and ask
you were these folks here what are some things that you might have done
differently or what are you some things you are really glad that you did on your
career journey trajectory oh wow that’s a crazy question I’ve told this story a
couple times and people are always impressed by it
but I kind of you know had bought Perry’s books and was excited
about it and found out that he had a business near Cal Poly Pomona I just
moved there is looking for a job didn’t know anyone just wrote him a letter and
said you know hi I really admire your work, I’ve read your books if you ever need a drafter you
know, I sent him a little bit about myself I sent my resume and so he called me back
and said you know come on over let’s just chat so I went over and we totally hit
it off and just start talking about plants and kind of hanging out in
his backyard and at the end of the conversation he is like so you know how to
draft huh and so it’s kind of those taking those risks and and you know just
doesn’t hurt to kind of take that risk send the letter a knock on the door
pick up the phone whatever it is but the reward might be a good thing and you
know why not take that risk and why not put yourself out there because you know
if they reject you so what there’s something else down the road. Thank you that’s great
basically what you touched on was what we call it could be related to an
informational interview. So I mean you threw your resume out there you said a
little bit about yourself but you weren’t necessarily looking for a job
job you were just trying to make a connection? Make a connection, you know I had to make money somehow. Hoping something came of it. One of the things we encourage people to do if
you are interested in working for a particular place is to do an information
interview which we have a handout on in the Career Center and on our website. But
basically you’re not asking for a job you’re just connecting with somebody and
asking what do you do is kind of like what we’re doing here today and finding
out what people do people love to talk about what they do and love usually love
to help people and can spare 20 to 30 minutes to do that so we’d love to so if
anybody’s interested in that you want to connect with people of course we’ve got
great people here but we can also connect with other people and this
go ahead Randy well things I do differently I I kind of wish I had kind
of found my vocation a little earlier but what I didn’t but I when I did I
find did find it I started going Environmental Studies in botany and and
going to work at a retail nursery in town I got really into working with
plants and actually looking at the taxonomy of the class of plants and I
shared this with a older gentleman nurserymen who worked there and he and I
conspired we every day we we looked at all the plants in the nursery and talked
about them and I got to know that that the plants very well that way and
apparently impressed somebody that recommended me to a job out of the
blue because I got called by San Marcos growers they said I hear you know your
plants I didn’t know who they were and it was kind of an interesting situation
but it was you know it was worthwhile pursuing I think at the time nobody they
were brand new in the industry that have just opened up a new nursery and so I
took a risk there so I mean a little bit of risk but also the fact that somebody
that I had just been talking to in a retail nursery recommended me I thought
was pretty cool that’s you know that’s something I thank them to this day for
and I can’t really say what I would do differently I’ve been thinking about
that as Randy and Kim were talking and I can’t
I think the trajectory or somehow I was just lucky and what I did but I can say
and I had a couple really good mentors one especially Jim McDaniel I met at
Longwood and I think just meeting more people in the industry and if I if I had
to do it over again there were some people in the industry or Longworth
particularly that I I spent time with him and we’re still in contact with each
other but I think I probably could have learned a little bit more from some of
these individuals in horticulture I met Jim there and I stuck with him
pretty pretty tight and he’s helped me through
my whole career he was I think maybe he’s nine years older than me but he had
been in it he had been in and on the East Coast for quite a while and was pretty deeply rooted
in the industry and knew a lot of people so I was fortunate to hang on to him but
there are other people I could have clawed onto as well and and maybe I
would have done something different my trajectory but but uh yeah just hanging
on the people and and keeping a good contact with them I think it’s probably
one thing that I probably do differently or that hopefully I’m doing differently
now I’ll tell you guys what I’ve told the san luis obispo freshmen and seniors
and their Senior Seminar in their in their classes when I get the opportunity
the question usually comes up of what should we be doing and it’s something
that I did a little bit of and looking back now I wish I had done a lot more of
and that is number one accounting and small business management I think are
sorely missed in most people’s education the other thing I tell them that they
need to wake up and look around and and have an understanding that for the most
part in our industry there are two languages that we speak and just to have
mastery of English as the sole language and the way you communicate you’re
missing out on a pretty large amount of people that are quite knowledgeable and
have a very good understanding of plant material and and the business that
you’re in so if you’re passing by your opportunity
to take Spanish and you’re not fluent already I would get there so I had both
Spanish and this business and in school and and paid attention knowing that I
would need that and fortunately I grew up in a
predominantly mexican-american neighborhood in Los Angeles growing up
so I didn’t really have to worry about being able to communicate but I can tell
you that that I see the struggles in both of those areas and other people
that are in businesses related to mine now and I feel for them I feel for their
struggle and their anxiety over over missing those two skills but I’ll tell
you the one thing that I would have done different and I am so grateful that Kim
who I knew prior to her master’s and now after the fact I had the opportunity to
get a master’s degree in landscape architecture and passed on that in my
mid-20s and I regret that extremely so to this day I really wished I had
finished at Cornell and and it stuck it out because at this point I probably
wouldn’t have had any business setbacks and the experience of having stayed out
in New York a little bit longer would have I think paid dividends and and as a
lot of people in this business can attest to it may not seem like a degree
or a certificate or an accomplishment or an award at the time is not meaningful
but looking back over the the breadth of your career again not getting a master’s
degree I think is was a mistake had I not gotten my Bachelors of Science at
Poly and I think that would have been a mistake and I not gone and studied in
Australia that would have been a mistake so you know not everything was not every
opportunity was squandered but I did miss out on a couple so even here at
City College I know like I recognized a lot of you in the classroom today,
don’t give up. Finish even if you’re a class away get it the next year but
but stick it out and get that that associate degree it’s going to be worth
everything to later in life and you may not know that now but it certainly will
be later in life how many of you are considering striking out on your own
eventually someday you’d like to be your own company between your anything so
yeah some really good words of wisdom here Randy can you talk a little bit
about your how you started out at San Marcos sure yeah I like I mentioned I
was working at a retail nursery and kind of a cold called into San Marcos grower
and I started as a production actually production shipping manager which meant
I Drive and drove the truck – I mean with a little bit of a small energy back
then and eventually worked my way up production manager about 1991
I became general manager of the nursery and got some ownership of it worked on
that with the it was a at the time it was a that was founded by a woman named
Marsha Constance still this day it’s our queen of the nursery but she has no
ownership in it but she started it and with the idea of starting a nursery that
was going to supply trees to Santa Barbara beautiful what you might all know is a
organization here in town that supplies the trees to the city of Santa Barbara
the unusual tree so we started as a tree nursery what I brought with me was kind
of a general knowledge of Mediterranean plants and California native plants
particular and so we expanded on that and really I’ve worked at increasing the
palette of the nursery in that direction interestingly in the last 15 years it’s
actually gone a slightly different matter we still grow a lot of the same
plants but we’re also adding a great deal of succulents to that index which has
become kind of a standard now in the nursery trades as so many of us kind
of look at these plants as being kind of the future water conserving nature that
they have and so we were kind of a balance we’re a bit about 30% plants we grow
now are succulents and but the other ones like what is going out of our palette
really has been maybe the non water conserving plants we’ve dropped our
water garden lines for example we used to do a lot of more tropical plants and
actually water lilies and things like that so we’re still growing a lot of the
Australian and South African plants of you know that make up a lot of the
Mediterranean plants as well as California native plants that’s kind of
my route up to San Marcos Growers. Thank you um Kim I was
wondering if you could share about your experience in your area and tell
these folks here if you feel like there is enough work in Santa Barbara–
can somebody support themselves and where do you see that occupation going
and Landscape architecture. Gosh every every one of my friends that has a firm
right now is looking for somebody I’m looking for somebody and they’re just
they’re arent enough landscape people out there designers
people that you know have a degree in landscape architecture and a lot of
people who get degrees in landscape architecture don’t know plants and so I
think starting off with horticulture and then getting educated in landscape
architecture as a bachelors or masters is a really good way to go because they you
know the architecture it’s about design it’s about you know using space and you
know sort of you know there’s inside architects and we learn how to be
outside architects and plants are just one part of it and so I think learning
about the soil and everything you learned here is really important so I
would say right now I know at least three or four firms in town that are
hiring so I know there’s jobs in Landscape Architecture and and it seems
like a lot of the contractors I work with everyone is just so busy right now
and everyone’s trying to hire I think there’s a big market right now for
people who know how to properly take care of and water plants. Program
irrigation controllers that’s a huge it sounds kind of silly but nobody knows
how to properly program irrigation controller so I think there’s there’s a
lot of niches out there and there’s a lot of opportunity to you know in my mind do good to you know bring positive things to the community
and help all of us conserve resources and I think there’s a lot thanks
would any three of you like to respond to that question as well as far as
marketability right now for these students. That’s all I ever talked about
in class you did bring it up early on no I mean that’s really when I was here in
the construction and the irrigation classes it’s all I ever really wanted to
talk about and of course the class material that the potential the
opportunities the the reason why people fail that are doing this and how to not fail again being able to tell a client or a potential employer that you
have finished the program at City College is a huge leg up on somebody
that comes to me that says I’ve worked for my dad okay who’s your dad is he
farmer is he a contractor is he a gardener administer what does that mean?
you know which is again I’ve taken in young men and women that have done all
that that have come from a variety of backgrounds and and invariably the
people that have a little bit more experience in have a higher level of
education they literally start on a ladder and a higher rung so that’s
that’s the first important part the second thing that Kim hit the nail on
the head when she said we just need people to be able to program irrigation
controllers okay so the state of California in particular has taken upon
itself to highly regulate the landscape industry much more so than any of the
other 50 states in the Union and I mean much much more so however the state of
California also offers for the green industry probably the best opportunity
to sustain yourself as a self-employed person okay so if you are intelligent
understand the rules and regulations and what I mean by that are how to manage a
smart controller how to install something as simple as a backflow
preventor properly how to perform work that is code compliant all of those
things will give you a much better advantage in the marketplace word does
get around and spreads fast is a small community you know people like me that
have the opportunity to pick and choose subcontractors they work for employees
they have to recommend people to jobs at Lotusland to recommend people the jobs
at San Marcos growers we really want to promote the men and women in this
business that are talented get some talent and that’ll help a lot. Marketability. Adam talked about more education and managing people or our
County and that was something I didn’t think of and that’s that makes yourself
more marketable as well I thought it’d just be everything else
grower and I wouldn’t have to manage to getting people and I got kind of moved
into this position but you know just keeping your mind open and
and when you’re looking for a job you may be looking for one specific type
of job that you want to do you may find yourself in another situation doing
something you didn’t think you’d be doing but liking it it’s just another
something put on your resume and then to do well and do the best you can with
the knowledge you have and and moving up from there but yeah just
spread your fingers out as far as you can and try and try and touch as much as
you can right while you’re young especially and yeah I get experience well you’re talking about young people
so my my company is we have over 37 years old now 36- 37 years old and an
ageing workforce most of my management staff is my age or older and
we’ve kind of had a couple retirees and we looked at you know the younger
generations and we’ve hired at a program like this and always and one of my most
recent hires was someone out of the mount sac horticulture program which was
a propagation manager and then recently we hired into our sales department
someone that had a certified nursery certificate which is a great thing to
have it’s not I don’t think there’s any nurseries in Santa Barbara that do
this but quite a few of the nurseries in Southern Califonria and Northern California do
it it’s it’s a pretty extensive thing it’s a certificate and those are all
positive things and we look for those kind of things in
the employees we’re hiring and I was quite happy to find this guy with that
certificate so but definitely out of this program I’m looking at this program
all the time where we do post jobs to this program and I think there’s a it’s
a great great program to hire from thank you With that will open it up for
questions and anybody just go for it soil science people skills people skills
I would say if you’re interested in design, art! Watercolor painting.
understanding color theory understanding space and light contrast that’s that’s
really important our landscape architecture program we actually
took sketching classes and watercolor oil painting just to get that that
creative side and then also there’s the whole science the background and science
of understanding soil chemistry and you know if you get a soil test how much
nitrogen do they need to put in and are we low on sulfur you know just
understanding what a soil test means and going to a site seeing something sick
just having those diagnostic skills beyond just knowing the names of the
plants and watering again I think those are some some important things but yeah
with design really I think art and color and space understanding space how
people use space how people enjoy gardens understanding exposure Sun
and shade just all those different components everyone I’ve worked with has
had bachelor’s degrees with that I had a bachelor degree in something else and
just had a degree from here when I started in Landscape Architecture, again because I could draft in new plants so there might be you know
I would think with the design-build firms maybe there’s probably some more
opportunity depends I think on the on the type of company maybe you can speak
well there’s also APLD Association professional landscape
designers so you know there there is I mean there’s certain things an architect
you need architect to do wall Heights and things like they did recode or putting
things out to bid you know that you really need to be a licensed Landscape
Architect for but there are a whole slew of people that are doing landscape
design like residential stuff mostly that can do it and you know what no you
want them you want them like yeah I can answer that question
so historically about 25 years ago the Landscape Contractors Association and
most of the licensed Landscape Contractors in the state pushed very
hard to have written into the CSLB that’s the state license boards language
that as long as the design stayed within house within the firm you could in
essence design anything you want with the exception of habitable space garages
swimming pools a few other items that were generally in the purview of the
architect and the landscape architect about 20 years ago the Department of
Consumer Affairs decided that they were going to sunset the landscape
architecture licenses being unnecessary this was unfortunately in my opinion
supported by the landscape contractors and fought by the architects and the
landscape architects in other words they wanted to say basically why do you need
a landscape architect’s license when you’ve already given landscape
contractors this power to do design-build
and the architects have always said well landscape architects and landscape
contractors there’s such a mix mash of of the licensure that they weren’t as
supportive as they could have okay so I say this is important because
unfortunately and again this is my personal opinion but unfortunately
mm-hmm the the design-build capability of a licensed contractor is high it’s
too much I think that the license is taken too far and that you’ve got too
many landscape contractors doing too much without not just the training but
without maybe the time in the you know and the experience on paper and it it
unfortunately pushed a lot of the landscape architecture into commercial
and into certain jurisdictions here locally for instance homeowners
associations require you to have a landscape architect on the plan in order
for them to even consider it okay but short of that it’s almost like a license
to steal and I say that being that thief that person that does the design bill
okay so you have to get your landscape contractor’s license and at that point
you can design anything you want but you can no longer sell that design to
another contractor or to another client in other words they can’t hire you
specifically for the design you get paid for that and then you get moved off the
job you’re basically obligated to stay and
finish it otherwise you’re not supposed to be able to charge for the design no
that makes any sense but this is this is a very misunderstood aspect of of the of
the way that the License Board code is written if you will you know I think
it’s important personally that we have a good distinction between landscape
architect’s and that requires about six years of combined training whether it’s
working for another landscape architect going to school having some experience
as a contractor having some experience as a landscape designer but generally
just as a landscape a private landscape designer towards the actual license
you’ll only get two years of you know if you’re out by yourself and you’ve got a
business it’ll only get you about two years and the other four you’ll have to
go out and work for somebody else like Kim you
to come back to City College and pick up another year go to a place like Berkeley
Cal Poly Pomona or San Luis and get a four-year degree to pick up a few more
years but they’re very it’s very difficult they’ve made it much more
difficult than it used to be did you find that it was when you first started the
the path to landscape architecture was a little shorter and straighter than it’s
gotten recently when I when I graduated Well you could apprentice, you could apprentice under somebody. now you have to have a degree. From an accredited program. they said that that they said but but
the the getting the actual sorry landscape architecture license that C
27s those landscape contractors with experience could petition the Department
of Consumer Affairs to sit for the LA tests and I was like that’s insane and a
guy that I was working with a lot named Brad Bartholomae actually did that and
he is a licensed Landscape Architect but since then that law has changed so I can
no longer in the position I’m in now being like one year short I’d have to
beg him for a job and go work for her and she’d have to basically sign off
that I’m a capable Landscape Architect before I could sit for the test however
let me just back up on a very limited basis if it’s just plant selection and
plant design and minor hardscape development I’d say you’re safe but even
Landscape Contractors get sued left and right for making mistakes and and we
always have our license to fall back on our contract that we’ve written to fall
back on but as just a landscape designer with no professional licensure to
protect you you won’t get paid one and two you’re likely to be
sued and lose so I’d say you can do it and on a small scale you’ll probably be
fine but at some point you’re gonna have to at least get a landscape contractor’s
license and and most recently the craziest thing they’ve done now is
they’ve approve landscape contractors to do swimming
pool construction and design which I’ve also found to be somewhat out of the
range of most people that have never seen or touched rebar and concrete so so
it’s it’s just whoever lobbies the hardest in a way gets there you know
gets their agenda pushed forward if you’re going for a certain type of a
career in design a masters would make sense but I don’t think it’s necessary
Cameron who works for me he went to Berkeley and got a bachelor’s in
landscape architecture and you know he’s great and so it’s really yeah I I don’t
think it’s absolutely necessary it just was the path I took but I think the the
bachelors definitely is and it you know in my opinion the UCLA design program is
great but it’s a certificate program and if you’re going for three and a half
years why not go an extra quarter and get a degree so that that seems like a
you know I think you get a more rounded education that way there’s some really
good programs and considering the cost of getting a master’s degree I think you
know I would say start with the the bachelor’s try out the career see how
you like it and then you know if you need that advanced situation then then
go for it I was just in the position where you
know I’ve been the you know the grocery manager with IV food co-op forever with
a with a bachelor’s degree and wanted to do something different so that’s where I
went. You know Arcadia I guess a lot a lot of
the firms in town are hiring in around 20 between 20 and 25 bucks an hour
depending on your experience. I think if you’ve got you know number years under
your belt you can make sixty to eighty thousand some of the firms in LA people
are making you know 100-110 the municipal jobs landscape architects for like
universities and cities they all make around 90 to 120 thousand so it really
it can it can vary but the thing about landscape architecture is you know I
carry 4 million dollars worth of insurance and I pay a lot you know
there’s there’s a lot yep you know general business insurance and liability
insurance and unhired auto insurance and I’m very well insured so there’s you
know being an employee of a company there’s that it’s nice to just try it
you know test drive it and learn the ropes from somebody else and then go out
on your own which is kind of you know I got to see somebody you make some
mistakes and learn from that and you know so I kind of run my business a
certain way and it’s it’s good to kind of get that you know work from somebody
else and an apprentice under somebody and you know really really learn the
ropes that way being under someones wing I think is a good option it seems like
it’s growing um I would say habitat restoration definitely definitely
habitat restoration I think it seems like permaculture is becoming more more
mainstream and it seems like a lot of people in Santa Barbara the homeowner
level are looking for that you know so they can come in and kind of help them
with their their food gardens and and that sort of thing I think there’s a lot
of interest there and I don’t know that there’s a lot of people providing that
that service as it becomes more of a private industry
driven trade there’ll be more employees more more positions available but up to
this point it’s been predominantly a government or a municipality driven you
know restoration think the work that’s happened around UCSB and whatnot that’s
more institutionalized but now that you know like a place like Decker’s when
they were doing their building and their their design they really had to do a lot
of consideration for them environmental related work so as the private sector
picks up the amount of work I see that as being probably the new frontier for
horticulture is trying to put you know trying to take the horticulture out of
horticulture to go with more of the natural non manipulated environment so
it’s like we’re going to manipulate the environment to be a non manipulated
ecosystem when you’re done you know and those majors didn’t exist when when in
the late 80s when I was in school and now even art department the
environmental horticulture department used to be either the ornamental art of
horticulture departments or just the horticultural departments so you taking
on the environmental even onto the name and the study of the what do you call it, a a skill– the
trend– I think is an important indication that we’re moving
in that direction. I think Seavers got what thirty-six eighty eighty acres of
habitat restoration for the Ocean Meadows right now there any people
they’re just starting to plant and the Cheadle Center for what is it –
Biological Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration CC BER out at UCSB so
they’re turning the Ocean Meadows Golf Course back into the upper Devereux
Slough and there’s you know they need irrigation techs and they need people just
out in the field planting maintaining monitoring what’s what’s growing what’s
not growing working on their adaptive management plan to you know switch gears
and there’s the Ormond Beach wetland plan that’s going to start going in
that’s six hundred and forty acres of coastal restoration so there’s a oxnard
plane yeah so there’s I I think as people are starting to understand the
implications of sea-level rise and how fragile coastal environments are there’s
a big push right now to expand wetlands and to make our coastal wetlands and
river mouths and Creek mouths more adaptable and resilient to that to
sea-level rise and where are the migratory birds going to go so I think
that’s going to be at the forefront if you’re interested in that.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *