Landscaping skills: Plant knowledge

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In my previous blog, the Top five landscaping skills, we looked very generally at the skills landscapers have, and look for in their teams and the future employees they are recruiting. On the back of that I wanted to explore in more detail, some of the specific knowledge and skills that many landscapers have, which make them true professionals in the industry.

A landscape project brings many elements together to form the completed space, over the next few blogs we will consider some of these aspects in turn, to demonstrate the broad range of skills they have.

Let us begin by looking at plants. This could easily be a specialism on its own, which many landscapers and professional gardeners focus on. What really makes this a unique skill is that you are dealing with living products, that each have specific needs and requirements.

Choice….so much choice!

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew estimated there to be nearly 391, 000 known plants in the world, thankfully we don’t have to know them all! But BALI members value the importance of plant knowledge in their staff, with 84% citing it as essential or important, and 42% of employers expecting their employees to ‘be able to identify between 100-300 plants’. A reputable landscaper will have developed their plant knowledge through training and experience, to be able to advise and choose the most appropriate plants for the project they are working on. This is influenced by several factors, the size of the space they are developing, because plants grow, the soil they are working with (what type it is and the condition it is in) and the aspect of the project (which way it faces, prevailing wind, weather as well as light levels). All of this impacts the choice for which plants are chosen as they will all have preferences.

What, when, how?

Once the area has been evaluated, the fun part begins with the plants themselves and what they do. Landscapers will consider plant types, this could be trees, shrubs, perennials etc often as a mixture. What often directly influences which plants are chosen is their seasons of interest, like what time of year it flowers, produces berries or has the most colourful leaves. Overall plant dimensions are essential to make sure the chosen plants will fit into the size of the landscape project. This is all done to make sure that the client has an interesting range of plants that complement each other and provide interest at key points throughout the year.

Room to grow

Once the appropriate plants have been selected, checked to be healthy, they will then be brought to site ready to be planted. Landscapers will carefully position the plants ready to be planted, making sure that growth rates and dimensions are considered, ensuring they have space to grow and develop in the future. If they are creating a mixed border, then along with colours and season of interest, heights are also considered to make sure that all the plants can viewed and appreciated.

Successfully planting

So, the most appropriate plants may have been chosen and correctly placed out, but now comes what may well be the most important aspect of the job, to correctly plant out the plants to ensure they grow in their new environment. 56% of BALI members stated that they considered ‘good planting skills’ as essential to their business. Even if you have chosen the most appropriate plant for the situation, if it’s not planted correctly, you limit its chances of establishing itself and growing.

It doesn’t stop here

The planting is complete, the new space looks spectacular, but it doesn’t end here, remember those that plants are living, they aren’t going to sit still, and we want them to grow. Because they are living, like us they can experience health problems and need food and water. When landscapers provide aftercare, they bring with them a knowledge of how to deal with potential pests and diseases, feeding and watering (especially in the first year after planting) regimes, as well as when and how to prune each of the plants.

Anyone looking for a career in the landscape industry will almost certainly be dealing with plants in some form or another, even cutting grass! And it’s certainly one area that you never stop learning in. If you are considering training and education, again, most courses will be looking at plants and it’s a skill that landscapers are certainly looking for.

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