Hi everyone, my name is Phil and this is my first entry for GardenDrum. I am a landscape designer and I love what I now do! That must reflect on people, as they already ask me “Why do you have so much energy?” The answer is “I love it!” It’s funny because if you ask me “How did you become a landscape designer?” the answer’s the same…
I think having the energy for it has really helped me over time, as there’s no written formula for becoming a professional designer to set you on your path, especially becoming one who has consistent work, anyway. There are some prerequisites that will get you there faster, and they are becoming more recognised as the industry and public now take landscape designers more seriously. These are to study a landcape design, landscape architecture or horticulture course at a recognised institution. The second is to go and work for an established designer and really start to understand how they do things.
The keys are knowing plants, gaining computer aided design skills, planning skills, and understanding construction methods, building regulations and council guidelines. You will learn the methods at school, but you will learn how to put them into practice by working with a landscape design company.
I guess at this point you’re asking, “But how can I get work with a designer? And how did you?” Well, that comes back to the part about energy, and actively seeking advice and asking questions. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t ask questions! Whatever you do in life, there’s someone who has it done it first and someone who can show you the way! Go and talk to them…If you’re at the point where you’re about to finish your course, start making contact with people and let them know that you’re ready. Send emails, make phone calls, don’t be scared!
I’ve learnt from and had the blessing of meeting some brilliant designers and landscapers over time, whom I’ve learnt from and respect, and it all starts from actively seeking to engage. You also need to push to actively look for opportunities within the industry to show people what you can do – eg – a garden show. It won’t happen overnight but if you really want something in life, you will get it.
Becoming your own company is an obvious progression in this profession – and seems like the hardest progression. It takes time and money as you need to slowly build your own name for yourself. “How do I do that?” you’re saying? Good question. Well there’s a few things…you need to advertise, get a website, etc in order to increase public awareness.
But, more importantly at the start, you need to engage the industry and let them know what you can do and why their established companies should get behind you. Just remember that the work’s already out there and there are a lot of people with proven methods in getting it. So it comes back to networking and building relationships, as you can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t know who to speak to about using it, or how to engage with them, it’s gonna be a tough gig. I wouldn’t have got halfway to where I am if it wasn’t for a lot of help from others. It starts from belief in yourself and bridges into others adopting the respect and trust in you. You can slowly build your name but the alliances you make will earn you the most to start with.
One benefit that we are lucky enough to have as an industry and as designers to promote ourselves in Melbourne is the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (I hate calling it MIFGS) and this is definitely a source that I have been thankful for, and have benefited from.
I have been lucky enough to create three different gardens over the past three years for the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show, which has helped me to develop and start to build a name for myself.
The first garden I was involved with for the show was an Achievable Garden entitled ‘Boy Wandering’ for Swinburne University in 2011, which was a great way to enter, and isn’t regarded highly enough by students, I feel. There should be students battling to secure such a prize opportunity to interact at this level, when there is such a high standard of show gardens and exhibits surrounding these small gardens. These gardens are 5m x 3m and are a great way to introduce yourself to the industry and the public. It might be nice to see a mentoring program awarded to the winner to undergo with a professional in future events.
The second garden I created for the show was ‘The Gift’ in 2012, which came through a yearly competition run by Landscape Victoria, in which students studying a landscape design related course can enter, and the top four are chosen and awarded a 6m x 6m garden at the show. I have seen first hand that it is something that many students anticipate and enjoy the chance to enter. The reward through this competition to build a designer garden gives students a chance to step up and say a bit about themselves as a designer – a chance to take a risk! It’s also great to see how the public and industry get behind the up and coming, and take fond interest in seeing the four built gardens and the fresh talent that’s coming through. Through this garden I gained a lot of the relationships and building blocks in setting up my own design business.
These connections helped me to gain a last minute opportunity to create a third garden, just recently, at MIFGS 2013, featured in the show garden category and entitled ‘Cube-ism’, presented by Gardenworld, Semken Landscaping and me. I was engaged through IMG and The Landscape Design Studio only 8 weeks prior to the show to make a garden happen. “Why?” you ask. Well it all comes back to making the right connections and not being scared to take risks. We were able to make it happen, thanks to a lot help from the industry, and the garden became all that I dreamed of and a really nice progression to build up to so far.
Welcome to my blog…