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How Long Have You Been At It?

16 years ago

There is such a diverse group frequenting this forum, I thought it would be interesting to review our backgrounds.

If you are a professional, how long have you been at it?

If you are an amateur how long have you been seriously gardening?

Skipping over childhood seed-planting, houseplants, and limited container planting, DH & I laid out a garden in the back of the first home we owned in 1979. So that's 27 years of observations, reading, neglecting, obsessing, making mistakes and getting lucky. 27 years sounds like a lot, but not when you are a hit-and-miss amateur with major distractions. After all that time, I only now feel like I'm beginning to grasp what makes a successful garden. Although, looking back at that first tiny garden, I think it was quite nice considering how little I knew at the time.

How 'bout you?

Comments (16)

  • Saypoint zone 6 CT
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I also started gardening about 1979, at my first house. I started with divisions from my mother's garden, then started exploring. About 1984, I was dating a guy who had a friend who worked at a nursery, and the friend started dropping off quart pots of perennials I had never seen or heard of before. Probably pilfered.

    Because we moved around a lot during the past 12 years, I had a chance to experiment with the landscaping at each new location, and also to learn about the plants inherited with the new (to me) homes. I've done a lot of work to my present home with the help of two different professional designers, a feel that I learned a lot from those experiences. Two years ago I decided to go back to school to study landscape design at the local community college, and hope to start working in the field in the next year or so.

  • Brent_In_NoVA
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Prior to purchasing my home back in 2000, I had little gardening experience. I had played around with vegetable gardening, grew some annuals and herb, and planted a mail-order pre-planned garden. I enjoyed gardening, so my basic "plan" was to randomly stick perennials around my yard. ;-) Then one day it hit me...well...actually it hit my house! It is an odd story but somehow a visitor across the street lost control of his car while backing up and hit the front of my house. The overgrown yews sacrificed themselves to take the brunt of the impact, but that left me with an empty spot to fill.

    When I do something I like to do it right, so I started reading and investigating garden design. I became hooked! I starting thinking about other areas that I could plant and how I could improve my existing plantings, and about all the wonderful shrubs and trees that existed. I stumbled across Garden Web (looks like I registered in May 2004) and that elevated my obsession with gardening to a new level.

    So I guess the short answer is: about 4 years.

    - Brent

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  • mjsee
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Since we bought our first house in 1984. Planted my first mixed perennial bed in the fall of 1984--and that was all she wrote. I've been obsessed ever since.


  • PRO
    Nell Jean
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    In 1964, my MIL let me layer limbs on her ancient azaleas to plant at our first house, which had a row of ligustrum across the front that passed as 'foundation landscaping' with an arbor vitae on each end. Bagworms took out the ill placed arbor vitae and a neighbor took the ligustrums when we pulled them out with a truck. It's all been uphill since.

    The next year, the obstretrician was distressed because I lost weight, pregnant with no morning sickness. I was digging a vegetable garden in red clay by hand with a mattock.

    Forty years and a hundred purchased books later, I'm still digging with that same mattock. The handle's been replaced.


  • barefootinct
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Spent my childhood in the veggie garden, the flower garden, and in the woods. I was pulling weeds and planting peas before I could read.

    ...Long gap when I concentrated on scholastics....

    In 1989, after graduate school, as newlyweds, dh and I had our first garden at a community plot. When we "robbed" our first potatoes and cooked them up I actually cried with joy. We brought our first zucchini to my mom's house (2 hours away) to show it to her. Kept at the community gardens for many years while we rented.

    When we bought our first house about 8 years ago, I became much more interested in perennials and landscaping. I literally read everything I could get my hands on. I still read way too much about gardening and plants. I hound the local nurseries (just as I hound GW). My friends say that in the spring my eyes glaze over unless I'm talking about gardening in some form. I've planted gardens for friends and neighbors and family as gifts.

    I just developed an interest in shrubs late this winter when I began to plan the rejuvination of the "foundation plantings" for our 1950s ranch. This has started a whole new gardening related obsession and this is what brought me to the wonderful world of GardenWeb.

    Here at the Garden Web, and especially at the Landscape Forum, I feel like a complete novice. I have so much more to learn.


  • bahia
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Literally since I was a child, I have always had a fascination for growing things, and wanted to help my dad plant flowers in the garden. Even in nongardening play activities, I would dig up weeds in the garden that I though resembled miniature trees, and would plant them in the sandbox when I created miniature cities, freeways and houses. I also loved to draw from an early age, and had a certain fascination for drawing cityscapes on hillsides, I wish I had photographs or kept some of the drawings, but they are all just memories.

    1979 is also a formative year for me, when I had gotten my degree in landscape architecture and made my way down to Brazil, where I eventually met Roberto Burle Marx, fell in love with the country, the language, the people, the music, and of course, the landscapes and plants. Fast forward two years to regretfully having to come back to California, and my first professional job and work in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Another dose of tropics, with a distinctively different flavor, and again, a passion for all things South East Asian. A year later, after travels to Indonesia and Bali in particular, it was back to California once again. Actually stuck around for a change, but took a job change working for a multinational engineering firm doing landscaping for an international airport in Saudi Arabia. From there, another job stint in Asia, working in Hong Kong, and then eventually another job actually working in Saudi Arabia, on a palace for the favorite son of the favorite wife of the King. This palace contained an exact replica of the Alhambra. From there, another half year of travelling to Sri Lanka,Spain and Portugal, England's Kew Gardens and the Chelsea Flower Show, South Africa, and now back in California once again, trying to make sense of all these various influences in designing gardens here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I love what I do, and feel fortunate that I get paid to do it...

  • plantman314
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Started mowing lawns in grade school - 1988
    First job at greenhouse - 1992
    Left greenhouse for garden center - 1993
    Promoted to manager of gc & started taking hort classes at juco - 1995
    Went to State U - 1996-2000
    Interned for Top 5 commercial grower - 1998
    Went back to nursery as manager & started doing freelance design - 2000 - 2003
    Worked as install foreman - 2003 - 2005
    Full-time as designer - 2005 - present

    I's say pro status came quickly after working at the garden center. I dove into books, read the tags of the plants as I watered them, did i.d. sketches during lunch, went to every seminar I could find, and asked a lot of questions.

    College was a blast, but working is where I learned the trade, and I learn more and more every year.

  • jake
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    It started when Mom planted half the 70x100 lot as a veggie garden and the rest of the lot and yard were perennial and annual beds. Veggie garden included potatoes, corn, beans, peas, carrots, lettuce onions, and just about everything else we could eat.

    Mom was a perennial grower and weeding these beds helped me to make the decision that Id never have flowers or any other plants that needed weeding or special care.

    Well times have changed !!!

    I started doing residential designs in the late 70's and eventually I got tired of the question " ... now that we have a new house what should we do to landscape it?" Buy a tree and plant it green side up.

    I made the decision to go to the community college to study landscape design and taking all the plant I.D. classes they offered. Doing the college stuff the wife kept looking over my shoulder and she too started taking the same classes a couple semesters behind me.

    Finally graduated w/ degree in horticulture, major in landscape design and minor in nursery and garden center management.

    Have been using this college knowledge for the past 10 - 12 years and got into ornamental grasses 8 years ago.

    Retired from my day job to pursue design work full time. Free lance and not obligated to a nursery to sell their specific over ordered plants.

    The perennial whacko (wife) has a 20x50 perennial bed, we have 5 beds w/ grasses, dwarf conifers and the whacko is starting a "white" bed containing flowers, roses, conifers (pale blue colors) and vines that have white blossoms.

    A few of these plants are night blooming which makes the neighbors really think we are nutty when we are in the white bed during the middle of the night.

    Short version  it started 50 years ago and hasnÂt come to an end yet. IÂve just changed directions and mind set a little.


  • annieinaustin
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    From one of the amateurs, also determined to keep learning:

    As a kid I followed Grandma around her tiny but incredibly productive Chicago garden, and observed as my parents turned their treeless, flat acre into one filled with maples, burr oaks, evergreens, fruit trees, perennials and many kinds of flowering shrubs. After we were married, my husband & I planted tomatoes and flowers around rented places, while working toward owning our own house & garden.

    In 1973 we bought our first house, and discovered that in this town the library had a lot of books on gardening and landscaping, very cool! Each of our moves brought different experiences, and over the years I met wonderful, generous gardeners, took some non-credit courses in horticulture and landscaping, spent 4 years as a horticultural volunteer for our city and worked on projects like a pioneer garden and a butterfly garden. For one of our Illinois houses we made a large front garden and were asked to be on several garden walks. A couple of years after we came to Texas I joined a garden group whose members have fun working on projects in each other's yards. There's a lot of cooking involved, so it was once described as an Eating Club that gardens to work off the calories.


  • rikinark
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My trip was round about. I retired from a career in the Navy, during which I designed numerous landscapes and small gardens for myself and friends. After creating my first true garden in 1980, I was hooked on gardening as a hobby, with no idea landscape design would eventually be my profession.

    With no degree upon retirement from service, and the ability to finally aquire one, I had choices. I chose the most enjoyable of my hobbies. I enrolled in the landscape architecture program at the university, and graduated (years later) with a BLA, and minors in horticulture and creative writing. I had dillusions that I would travel and write about great gardens throughout the world. Didn't happen.

    I have never been happier in a field of work. I work in a firm, designing commercial landscapes and public spaces, and feel often like it's a dream that I'm sure to awaken from to find myself in a "rack" aboard an aircraft carrier. I look forward always to the next day, and what opportunities it will hold.

  • marcinde
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I started working for my brother when I was 14. Worked with him till junior year in college when I started my first landscape business at 20. Sold the business, moved around the country, and worked on crews in MA, OH, and CA. Actually worked as Senior Landscaper at the Salk in La Jolla, CA- loved it, but at 23 had more attitude than sense. Burned out on the industry, moved to Phoenix and worked in sales while studying interior design. I got back to landscaping when I realized how much I enjoyed the little bit of designing I was doing for friends. I hired on with a big, crappy company doing high-volume designs and sales. The wife got a job in VA, so we moved here and I've been designing for a great little company here. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop- the owners are amazing people, all the customers are happy, the crews are top notch, and I get pretty much whatever I need to do my job- software, art supplies, books, etc.

    So, 16 years. And to relax, I work in my yard.

  • miss_rumphius_rules
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Since I was 10 and my dad built me a round stone garden by the mailbox. I nurtured weeds and annuals not knowing the difference. From then on I've had a garden more (large-several of those) or less (on a balcony in Brooklyn and another in France) everyplace I've lived.

    Several careers, continents and decades later I feel fortunate to be able to create gardens for others.

  • chelone
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I was introduced to the fun of gardens when I was a toddler; have early memories of daily looking for early croci with Mum. Staring with wonder at the delicacy of Father Hugo's Rose, the Osmunds, wild LOV and native Jack In the Pulpits that were all over our woodland back yard in MA., listening to peepers and frogs.

    Later, learning how to properly plant and tend to windowboxes outside my northern NH apartment... and delighting in the fact that they flowered copiously until frost BECAUSE I took the time to fuss and tend to their needs. I learned then and there that everything depends on the soil and the selection of the proper plant for the location.

    And, for the past 15 years, here at our home where bugetary constraints have forced us to read, experiment, screw-up, laugh, and try again. Some things "work", others have failed miserably. We've committed unpardonnable sins (black plastic edging, RR ties) but as with anything you do by yourself/for yourself sometimes just seeing something that has bothered you transformed to something that pleases you accords you the ability to accept the things your budget requires.

  • biscuitZ5IA
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    This seems like a good place and time to jump in and introduce myself, having lurked for a little over a year.

    First gardening experience was in a community garden plot while I was in grad school in the mid 80s- I think back and have to laugh at the near-disaster that was! but boy did I learn alot. Have had veggie gardens here and there, now and then, at rental places or friends' houses, but was always looking at books about perennials. I bought a house about 18 months ago and started dreaming about planting all those plants I've read about. That's when I stumbled upon you guys-- and thank goodness I did! Reading posts on this forum already has been so tremendously helpful and educational. Thanks to all of you! I haven't done much with my small yard yet other than learn about, and learn to take care of, what was already here. But when I do start to modify existing plantings and add new ones, my efforts will be informed by all that I have read here. So thank you again for opening my eyes to all the nuances of a well-"designed" garden.


  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Pretty much all my life. Came by it naturally - British parents. Dad tended the veggies, Mom the flower gardens. I received my first plot of my own when I was 7 and haven't stopped gardening since (and seven was a VERY long time ago :-))

    Have always had a design bent. My first degree was in architecture but who knows with certainty when you are 18 or 20 if that is the correct route? Should have realized then when I took a botany class as an elective and spent more time putting together my field notebook than I did on my design presentation boards. Didn't put it all together until middle age and another career intervened that I could combine my two primary passions - gardening and design - in to one very fulfilling vocation. Haven't looked back since.

  • prairie_love
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Like so many of you, I started with plants when I was very young. I remember my grandmother had the green thumb - she always had petunias that were gorgeous. Of course, many years later, I know the reason they were so gorgeous was that she dead-headed every single day. Yuk! I hate deadheading petunias, they're so sticky!

    I was in 4-H and there was a "home beautification" project I was in. Mostly just planted flowers - annuals and perennials around the home. But I started learning varieties and care of these. Then my family moved to a hobby farm. My mom and I had some veggies then and, through the soil conservation program, planted trees as windbreaks. We ordered about 200 trees and planted them all. I spent that summer driving around in the truck with a huge watering barrel on it, trying to water all these trees. The next summer, for some reason the ditch company expanded the ditches and over half of my trees were uprooted. In the end it was a good thing. This was back in the '70s and we didn't know much about invasive plants - the majority of the trees we planted were Russian olives! My mom and I still laugh about this - about all the work that led to nothing and ruefully, about how stupid we all were to plant Russian olives.

    After college, I lived with my brother for a few years while I was in graduate school. He and I had a very successful veggie garden.

    Then I got married (20 years ago now). We lived in a succession of rental houses - always houses, not apartments, because of dogs. At each house I had a few veggies, mostly tomatoes, and as many flowers as I could jam into the ground without doing major sod removal. I remember one house in particular. The landlord almost never came by the house. One summer day, after we had lived there a few years, he came by. I had tons of impatiens in the front yard. He was stunned. I don't think the house had ever seen flowers before.

    Eleven years ago we bought our first house here in ND. It was new construction and looked every bit like so many that people post here on the forum, except it didn't even have the requisite meatball shrubs because I asked for a blank slate. We "hired" the local nursery designer to help out. This was one of those deals where you get the plan for free if you buy your trees from them. No problem, we needed trees. I did not like the designer, he didn't listen to my requests (and put the soon-to-be-outlawed lythrum in the plan against my wishes), but he still had some ideas we liked and incorporated. I spent seven years with that house, and learned a lot (for example, I will never again put orange and pink together). It was not a knock-out landscaping, but I think it was pretty good for someone who knew nothing about design.

    We moved to our current home four years ago. Some of you may remember my first post to this forum. My first reaction was "oh my gosh, I get to landscape 20 acres, this is going to be SO fun", dreams of magazine-worthy gardens, garden tours, etc filled my head. I immediately began planning all the things I wanted - a 3 acre native prairie, 12 acres of native, but enhanced woods, huge veggie garden, flowing perennial beds, etc. Within two years I was panicked. My thoughts now were "oh my gosh, I HAVE to landscape 20 acres, I have no clue what to do!"

    Now I've slowed down. We are taking it a step at a time. Last year, and continuing to this year, we are concentrating only on the front yard. We hire out jobs that we don't have the expertise or equipment for. You all have provided an enormous amount of help. Ideas from threads, not just my own threads, pictures, philosophy, etc. I have begun to learn to think differently about the landscaping. I have become more observant. I am starting to think about how everything fits together. It's fun again because we have learned to only do what we can. We don't have to do it all in one year. Or even in five years (which was my original intent). Thank you all for the help.

    Sorry for the long saga. The short answer is that I have been growing veggies and flowers for about 35 years. I have been trying to fit them into a design for about 10 years. I have learned to appreciate that landscape design is far more than putting a few perennials along the foundation of the house in the last two years! Maybe in another 10 years or so I will be able to say I know something about landscaping.

    Thanks to all.

    Ann (complete amateur)