Planner - Developer

Green space in and around cities is valuable for the health and well-being. Governments and business gives increasing emphasis on the provision of plants and natural materials in construction of new projects. There is also a lot of interest in greening up existing architecture and vacant land in urban environments.



Scope of Work

Planners can be designers, builders or consultants on any type develop therapeutic landscape. These may be:

  • Feel Good Landscapes - Parks, school grounds, home gardens
  • Functional Landscapes - With disability access, sensory gardens, designed for therapy activities
  • Environmental Landscapes - Modify temperature extremes, sun/wind/rain protection

Work can include planning new landscapes or retrofitting old ones: Parklands, tree lined streets, creating green walls, roofs or landscapes, biophilic landscaping - supporting building contractors or developers.     

It can include measuring up sites, surveying, discussing the client’s brief with them, producing designs and drawing up plans.  Other roles include making use of climatology data, assessing and understanding soils, having building knowledge, creating planting plans and liaising with other professionals as part of a multidisciplinary team.  

Planners may work freelance, or be employed by a landscaping, building or other business. Some may take on multiple roles such as planner, designer and supervisor. To work in this area requires project management and design skills, and planting knowledge.  


What You Need to Learn

  • Garden design - Taking measurements & site information, drawing plans & sketches, principles of garden design, use of features & components
  • Building science - Understanding stresses and loads, cement & concrete mixes, depth & width of foundations, construction techniques
  • Materials - Types of materials, characteristics of stone, clay, brick, timber, different paving, fencing & walling materials
  • Project management - Overseeing small to large scale projects, ordering materials, arranging labour & equipment, planning
  • Earthworks - Surveying, drainage, flood mitigation
  • Tools and equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, operation -using it correctly, maintenance, repair machinery & manual tools
  • Plant knowledge - Plant selection, species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of 500 to 1,000  different varieties, including trees, shrubs, toxic plants, turf and weed species
  • Risk management - Assessment of risks & hazards, biosecurity, damaging plants, on site safety, alarms & drills,  first aid kits and procedures 
  • Human well-being - Understanding of health, physical and mental well-being


Starting a Career

There are different ways to begin a career in landscape planning and related roles. Some people may transition from already established careers, such as:

  • General labourer in landscaping or construction
  • Garden centre staff or nursery man
  • Gardener - Home or professional
  • Town planner
  • Architect

Some people may enter into horticultural planning without any relevant prior experience. This means it’s essential to start gathering useful skills and experience through networking, volunteer work, and more. Pathways include:

  • Volunteering for a local gardening club
  • Volunteering for a plant society
  • Helping on local clean up and re-vegetation projects
  • Volunteering for garden restoration projects
  • Talking to people at trade shows and fairs to find out about opportunities for work

Having built experience it may be possible to get more involved in design. It can be helpful to take on study part-time whilst working to advance into design or planning type roles more quickly.  


Progressing a Career

It is very important to keep your knowledge and skills updated so that you can keep informed of industry changes and innovations.

Those with a background in general horticulture may find that they are lacking in knowledge of healthy landscapes or landscape design and construction. Those with a background as planners may be lacking in knowledge of horticulture. Regardless of background knowledge and experience this is very much an evolving area of expertise and the boundaries between different roles is sometimes a little obscure.

Anyone working in this field will benefit from accruing new knowledge and skills. This may be achieved by attending seminars and workshops, joining trade associations and networking with like-minded people.

Whenever you find gaps in your knowledge, it is a good idea to undertake further study. Any courses taken should be through reputable course providers who have experienced and qualified tutors. In-depth courses which reinforce learning are far better than quick fix courses where little of the information is retained.

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