Public landscaping can involve small, medium or large jobs. The work can involve planning, site preparation (earthworks), hard landscape construction, soft landscape installation, garden renovation, conservation and garden design.
Scope of Work
Public landscaping can involve small, medium or large jobs. The work can involve planning, site preparation (earthworks), hard landscape construction, soft landscape installation, garden renovation, conservation and garden design. As such, those working in public landscaping are often required to have a more all-round knowledge than those in the private sector, with a better understanding of plants and planting.
Those working as public landscapers may be employed by local councils or governments. Some may have a long-term position or be employed on a long-term contract. Others may be employed for a short-term contract over the duration of the design and construction of a specific public garden, or the restoration of a historic garden or other landscape.
There are opportunities for people to progress from basic labouring roles through to foremen, managers and designers.
What You Need to Learn
Horticultural science - Fundamentals of taxonomy, botany, ecology, soils, health management
Plant knowledge - Plant selection, species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of many different varieties, and weed species
Plant cultural techniques - Planting, plant establishment, feeding, transplanting
Garden design - Taking measurements & site information, drawing plans & sketches, principles of garden design, use of features & components
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
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
Starting a Career
Some public landscapers get into this field start with little to no training or experience, often starting as a general labourer assisting a landscape contractor, learning on the job and progressing as they learn. Those who have had little formal study may find gaps in their knowledge that need to be filled and this knowledge may be slow to come when working alongside someone and facing similar challenges each week. They may do well to seek out study courses which address those needs. In particular, they should focus on addressing the areas listed under ‘what you need to learn’ above.
Others may take qualifications in horticulture and landscaping before embarking on a career in this field. What is important is that any study undertaken is relevant and of a high standard. It should be provided by reputable course providers who have qualified staff who are able to give up-to-date feedback. Employers are keen to take on those that can demonstrate a solid foundation in horticulture and landscaping and eagerness to continue to learn more through experience and further study, whether formal or informal.
Some ways to get started are:
Getting a job with someone else (e.g. a landscape contractor) to gain experience
Beginning as a labourer with a council maintaining public landscapes
Starting your own landscaping business and tendering for public landscape projects
Progressing a Career
With experience it is possible to become increasingly technically competent. At some stage though; you need to be moving beyond doing the work, to supervising then managing it. Beyond this, it is possible to get more involved in the design side of things. It really depends on the individual and which roles they hope to ultimately fulfil – management or design, though it may be possible to undertake both these roles depending on the size of the workforce.
Large government or council departments offer an excellent opportunity for career progression starting as a labourer and progressing through to more technical or supervisory roles. Those who apply themselves and display a good attitude will advance well. It is also important to continue learning. It is always good from the point of view of career advancement to seek out study courses which address deficiencies in learning. In particular, people wishing to make a good career in public landscaping should focus on addressing the areas listed under ‘what you need to learn’ above.
Those who have worked in public landscaping are in a good position to move to other areas of horticulture if they so wish, or related industries.