Best way to LEARN

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by jason72g, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. caseysmowing

    caseysmowing LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,137

    Don't want to get off topic but I don't think any book or amount of teaching is going to make me a artist. Somethings are just natural for people and some people just need a little help to go from good to great.

    To help with your situwation I think you got all the ideas already, school,work for another company, practice on friends and family,sub it out and help the sub, and learn as you go. I like the sub it out idea because I can't take the pay cut to work for another company.
  2. green connect

    green connect LawnSite Member
    Messages: 39

    I've hired a designer who is really good and just rolled it into the cost. That way you know you're installing a high quality design and will get more referrals down the road. Went to school for it and worked for others, but realized I just don't have quite the imagination as some people. Definitely know your plants though.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Can anyone name P. AllenSmith's, 12 points of design???

    Are you able to look at a design that you like, and explain why it works so well??
    and conversely,,,
    are you able to explain/describe what you don't like about some designs or lack thereof?
  4. holmesgts

    holmesgts LawnSite Member
    Messages: 41

    The best advice I can give is simply spend time studying landscapes that appeal to you. Not in books but in the field, books don't give you a good size perspective. become very familiar with the types of plants you see and how there used, how big they get, do they loose there foliage in the winter, do they prefer shade on sun, will they tolerate wet or dry soil conditions, when do they bloom, do they get berries, does the foliage change color? These are all things that impact how you will use them in a landscape. You will probably be surprised to see that you don't have to be familiar with hundreds of different types of trees and shrubs maybe just about 30 or 40 will give you a solid base to work with in your region. Once you learn more about what you working with and how best to use the plant material to accomplish your goals then it comes to creativity and that is something you either have or you don't. Your customers will let you know.
  5. Chris Feenan

    Chris Feenan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 60

    1) Go to landscape nurseries. Spend as much time there as you can learning the plant material. Decide what looks good to you, but also find out the mature size of things. If you were to spend 4-6 hours each at ten different landscape nurseries, it would take you ten days. You would learn far more this way than you would ever learn from any textbook. The texts have plant material that is from other regions, and almost never contain any of the exciting new cultivars. Ten days and you will be able to recognize everything there.

    2) Spend ten more days driving around in areas where there is a lot of the type of landscaping that you want to do. First, sit in the truck and draw what you see. decide what you like about it. Be bold. Walk up to the house with your camera and snap a few pics. If the homeowner comes out, be polite and apologetic. Tell them that you are trying to learn landscape design, and that their landscape is beautiful. They will be flattered and almost anyone will say "OK". If they ask you to leave, apologize, and leave. I have done this for thirty years, and no one has ever reacted badly. You may be surprised to get a few jobs from this process.

    If you do this, you would be done in 20 - 30 days. Your confidence will be high. Try your hand at design. Offer free designs to everyone that wants one. Your first few will teach you a lot about your mistakes, but you will get better and better at it as time goes on.

    I have two masters degrees in Forestry and Education. I am a NYS Certified Nurseryman too, so learning in the conventional manner - with texts and coursework, is quite familiar to me. But I have never seen a landscape design text that will teach a beginner anything that is useful. Learn plant material that is sold and used in your area by seeing it and touching it. Learn landscape design the same way. You know what looks good to you. Analyze why you like it, and copy those same design elements in your early work. Later, you will develop your own style, but for now, stick to what works.

    You will also see a lot of work that sucks. Sit and look at that too. Figure out where the designer (probably a homeowner) went wrong and endeavor to avoid those mistakes !

    Good luck !

    The guy above me posted the same advice at the same time. He includes more advice than I about learning plant material - great advice - take it.

    Also, you don't need to "name " P. Allen Smiths 12 points of design because you can read them right here. What value is memorizing them ? it gives the teacher something easy to grade. For the rest of us, read these 12 pts of design as you are staring at a half empty design on your drawing board. it may trigger several good ideas !
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2012
  6. cpllawncare

    cpllawncare LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,659

    So far this is what I've done.

    1- Read read read, I read everything I can get my hands on, including here on LS.
    2- Work with my subs, they have been great to work with.
    3- Take a Master Gardnerer course, it also helps with marketing.
    4- Get on good terms with as many of your competitors as possible, most are willing to answer questions.
    5- Network with people in the industry as well as local business groups, they can point you in the right direction on business matters.
    6- One I haven't done yet but want to, take horticulture and turf management classes.
  7. cpllawncare

    cpllawncare LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,659

    Feenan, That's what I find myself doing all the time also, I have taken many a pic of a landscape I saw and liked, I then go to the nursery and try to learn about all the plants in that landscape, it's amazing how many you will remember, of course you soon find out that there are probably only 50 or so that are always used in your region. If you can know 50 plants you will be able to at least talk like you know a little bit.
  8. ebassett

    ebassett LawnSite Member
    Messages: 48

    Agreed, anything can be learned. Some things require a 'knack', but for the most part practice pays off. Find peers and authorities, educate yourself on contemporary trends in the industry and apply yourself diligently. Progress in this industry takes time, and useful contacts, but you'll get there.
  9. jason72g

    jason72g LawnSite Member
    Messages: 88

    I don't know that I'm talking about the design part of it mostly. I'm talking about the execution and technical side of it. How would I learn the most basic techniques such as building a 2-3 foot dissapearring wall on a slope with stones, etc?
  10. holmesgts

    holmesgts LawnSite Member
    Messages: 41

    The best way to do that is to start as far out as you are going with the wall. Usually most disappearing walls are rounded or at least they round back into the hillside on the ends. You have to keep the ground leveled both left to right and front to back, this way the stones sit level. some people may slope them back slightly, depending on the wall but level is fine.
    As you level out the dirt along the run of the will you will notice that, to keep the soil leveled, you have to dig deeper and deeper into the hillside as you move into it. At this point you step up to the next level and run that first row back into the hillside.
    You simply repeat the process until you get to the desired height.

    It is very important to keep the wall level as you work, you can do this with a four foot level or a string line.
    If you use a string line you have make sure its level. Either shooting the elevation with a builders level/ transit or use a water level or if your good you can use a 2X4 a level and a builders square.
    You have to pack the dirt under the wall you may even want to put some type of aggregate base under the wall.
    You will have to put some type landscape fabric between the wall and the dirt used for back fill to prevent the back fill from washing out through the cracks
    And last but not least you may even have to put some type of drainage behind the wall usually a french drain.
    Smaller walls aren't always as demanding in regard to the aggregate and the drainage. but keep it level and use the landscape fabric

    A lot of what I learned was from the sales reps. where I would buy the materials to do the work. Usually these folks are real helpful as it is in there best interest to sale you as much of there product as possible.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012

Share This Page