Walker, yes, Horticopia is a plant encyclopedia and an excellent presentation tool. You are able to put in specific criteria for the job you are working on and get plants that will fit your needs. You have soil type, sun exposure, herbaceous or woody, height, width, water needs, flower color and times, leaf color and so much more. The more information you give it, the smaller the list it will create. You can make lists for clients, yourself or any other reason. With Horticopia you are able to create PDF files and print them or burn the information to a disc and if the files are small, even email them. You have the option of creating files with just pictures, photo and data or a list, all in botanical or common names. You can even select the photo from those given or add your own. The data sheets can be customized to give full information or just enough to interest your client. The version I am using contains almost 9000 plants with data and they now have additional photo portfolios available in woody and herbaceous materials. They have also created portfolios for indoor plants and water gardens if so needed. So yes it is a plant encyclopedia, but you can use it for so much more. I use it daily and it has made my business better and easier.
Green Elegance, networking is the key. Get out there and meet and greet other folks in the green industry. Call some designers or architects and meet with them. Explain your needs and see if they are compatible with you. You may be happy with one person or you may employ several for different types of work. Talk with other installers and find out what they do. With high end residential, you will find many design/build firms, but not everyone can afford to keep a quality designer on the payroll and will sub it out. Those that have worked with a good designer should be able to tell you of increased budgets and much better designs than had they done them in house. If you are good at what you do, stick to that, and bring in the folks that are good at what they do and create an alliance that will benefit all of you.
Having good art schools is important, but not as important as horticultural knowledge and landscape design training. I believe this is the most difficult art form. The canvas is always changing, weather, seasons and surrounding landscape growing, and your medium is constantly changing, you have seasonal interest and growth just to start. If you would like to design, go for it, but get an education first. You may be able to find night classes or a local college may offer professional education short courses during the slow season. Not sure if Texas ever gets a really slow season, but check around for programs. If you attend trade show, seminars and classes, network with everyone there. You are bound to find help and camaraderie at these events that will enable your business to elevate to the next step.