Thursday, February 04, 2016

What's happening to Horticulture as a trade?

I'm at a loss. I'm trying to figure out what is happening to the vocation of horticulture.

Attending Landscape Ontario Congress this past January, I specifically stopped to look at the horticulture job postings, even though I was not interested in changing my current position.  I like to get a scope of what sort of trends are happening within horticultural employment.

Perhaps it was a bit sparse at that time of year, but for me, it seemed too meagre in comparison to all the, landscaper forepersons,  landscape team member,  landscape maintenance worker positions posted. I was hard pressed to find many 'Horticulturist' or 'Gardener' postings at all.

Why is this happening?

I get the whole - bring the inside out, for the 'outdoor living' aspect of landscape trends. Yet, the distinct absence in trained, qualified horticulturists is quite alarming for me. Especially since I lead a team of what I hope will be "knowledgable" staff year to year.

I can't help but think that North Americans are using the term landscaper too much. To me, the word 'landscaper' encompasses too broad a term when dealing with our outdoor spaces. It's been widely adopted, because the various vocations concerning the installation and maintenance of gardens outdoors can be limiting to earning a consistent living. That's my estimation, anyway. If I were to say I was a landscaper to a client, I then could add to my list of abilities outside of gardening: turf maintenance, carpentry, masonry, etc... possibly snagging more than one job.

Yet, aren't we hurting horticulture and the other trades by hiring "landscapers"? Aren't we losing horticultural trades distinction by not hiring hopeful apprentices? Any one with a gas powered hedge trimmer or string trimmer is getting hort based jobs now. Anyone claiming they have "gardening" experience are getting the horticulture jobs out there.

When trying to explain to strangers, what it is that I do for a living, many people cock their heads to one side when I say I am a horticulturist. I have to break it down that I grow plant material and tend to gardens.

If I were to say I am a horticulturist in the UK or Europe, most people would nod in understanding. Here, it's a sad state of having to explain oneself all the time.

Hmmm. You don't see Stone Masons or Carpenters or Arborists losing their niche. They have certification, or have apprenticed for many years to develop their skill. The proof is in the pudding. Well so do horticulturists.

Please, the next time you seek gardening maintenance, invest in Horticulturists. Invest in those of us who have been educated in horticulture and deserve a good living at it. Invest in the future of horticulture. Get more bang for your buck because of those of us that LOVE and respect horticulture as a true trade. We know how to manage your gardens properly. Reduce the need for landscapers who can do any job on the cheap. Allow us to make your outdoor living spaces thrive!

Rant is over.


  1. Nice post/rant! I agree with you that many (potential) clients do not know the differences between landscapers/gardeners/horticulturists and, so, are not willing to pay for the differences. It's more a case of "make my property look tidy so that the neighbours won't complain" for the least amount of money. That's ok too, it's simply a reflection of the market. Our (I'm a gardening business owner like you) challenge is to attract and provide the value for those who appreciate our knowledge and skills. Have faith, they are out there!

  2. I feel your pain. I am a horticulturist and a landscape designer. One of the most frustrating things is someone slapping a landscape decal on their truck and planting whatever just to make the job look good at the moment and not giving any thought to the plants size or requirements. I have customers that berate me because I will not plant a Little Gem Magnolia in a 2' space by the front door just because the person down the street had it done and it looks great or they saw it done on HGTV. Just because someone can dig holes and lay flagstone does not give them the knowledge to design and choose plants. I hear so many times I will just get my yard man to do it or my yard man said your suggestions will not work. Most people never research and trust the guy with a shovel. My skin crawls when I drive by new homes and see the mess that the unsuspecting home owner is inheriting. Also, I have found that it is almost to impossible to find anyone with plant or garden product knowledge to hire. We can hire people all day long to push a mower etc. My passion is gardening and customers know that when I wait on them. We are a dying breed. Sad but true.

    1. You and I are on the same page. I press on, hoping to prevent us from becoming a dying breed, my friend!

  3. I have never been out of work and I've been in the industry well over a decade. I think that all of the companies I know already have a great Horticulturist and hang on to them. It's not anecessary industry or a job with high turnover. We tend to stick with the companies and clients that know and respect us. Rarely seeking unsolicited employment or new jobs. All of the young students I know own studying horticulture get taken on by masters or people highly skilled to study under them and eventually take on their clients.

  4. We're trying to do just that, at the School of Professional Horticulture, at NYBG. Great article!

  5. Loud and clear Heidi. You're certainly right that the distinction is much clearer here in Europe, and thanks to the prestige of events like the Chelsea Flower Show in London it's forever clear in the minds of the public just how much of a skilled art developing beautiful gardens is.

  6. Great !!!! i already have a quite large garden, good machine and a pack of gardening tools, should i invest into these things? People in Uk and Europe will love this job

  7. Horticulture is difilcutl job if you haven't skill and hardworking. But it's not a job with high turnover.


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