Working in the Public Landscaping Industry
Like the private landscaping industry, public landscaping can involve small, medium or large jobs. The work may involve planning, site preparation (earthworks), hard landscape construction, soft landscape installation, garden renovation, conservation and garden design.
Scope of Work
Public landscaping work can be more varied than the private sector.
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.
Employment may be found through 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.
The types of places where public landscapers work include:
- Public gardens
- Government owned stately homes
- Playing fields
- School grounds
- Grounds of museums, art galleries, and hospitals
- Station carparks, roundabouts, and verges
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, correct usage, maintenance & repair of 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
Some public landscapers get into this field start with little to no training or experience. They may work as a general labourer assisting a landscape contractor and learn on the job.
It can take time to learn skills this way, so formal study is a good way to fill gaps in your knowledge.
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. If you do choose to study, you are much better off taking courses through reputable course providers who can provide expertise.
Focus on addressing the areas listed under ‘what you need to learn’ above.
Learning takes time. You need to analyse information, absorb it, and rehearse it. Being presented with a combination of different types of information helps you learn. Courses that provide written information, video, and audio are ideal.
Employers are keen to take on those that can demonstrate a solid foundation in horticulture and landscaping. They are also interested in those who show eagerness to continue to learn more through experience and further study.
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
Developing Your 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.
However, it depends a lot on what you want out of your career.
You may go down the path of management or design, or maintain an interest in both.
Large government or council departments offer an excellent opportunity for career progression from labourer through to more technical or supervisory roles.
If you apply yourself and display a good attitude, you will advance well.
But it is also important to continue learning. You can do this by seeking out study courses which address deficiencies in your learning.
Anyone who has worked in public landscaping is in a good position to move to other areas of horticulture if they so wish, or related industries.
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