Adventures of a Landscape Designer – The End of a Chapter

landscape designer

First of all, I would like to thank you all for bearing with me as I have taken a trip down memory lane recalling my adventures as a landscape designer.  Your comments have been so much fun to read.

Some of you may be wondering if I am still a landscape designer.  Well the answer is both yes and no.  I no longer work only as a landscape designer.  But, my work as a horticulturist does involve some design work from time to time which I love.

Why am I no longer working only as a landscape designer?  Well, there are a few different reasons.  

landscape designer

First of all, I did enjoy parts of my job, including meeting with so many different people and helping them to realize their goals for their landscapes.

I loved seeing the successful completion of a job.

And lastly, my fancy office with the black granite desk.

I know, you are tired of hearing about my fancy desk by now 😉

landscape designer

Now there were some aspects of the job that I really did not enjoy.

The first part was the emphasis on selling.  Now I have nothing against the sales industry.  But I found out that sales is not my strong point.  Ironically I did sell quite a lot, but that was largely because of my passion of beautiful gardens.  But, I do not like it when a salesperson tries to do a hard sell with me and I definitely did not like the emphasis placed on that in the company.  Besides, I was not good at it, so I rarely attempted it.

Secondly, hardscapes were highly prized by the company.  Now hardscapes are those items such as patios, built-in BBQ’s, seatwalls, firepits and fireplaces, just to name a few.  Sometimes, trees and plants never entered the equation.  I have nothing against hardscape, but I preferred gardens full of plants with just a few hardscape elements.

Thirdly, I would spend a lot of time working with a client, producing a landscape design, only to have them cancel later and have nothing to show for my effort.

Lastly, the recession hit and the home builder I worked for declared bankruptcy and eventually went out of business.  And so in one year, I had created over 200 designs and only 50 would ever be completed and so hours of work was wasted and I would not see any money from them.

So, by this point in my career, I was at a crossroads.  I was very burned out by the amount of time and effort my job required and I had very little to show for it at the end.

So, I took off a year from working.  I am embarrassed to admit that even my passion for plants was affected.  I did the minimum in my garden, but did not receive any joy from it.

About one year afterward, I began to feel my interest in my garden begin to return.  And so, I started my blog, which I have enjoyed so much.

At that time, I began working as a horticulturist again, but with myself as the boss.  Now, I work quite a bit as a garden writer, speaker as well as a landscape consultant.  

landscape designer

I do still create landscape designs from time to time. It works out perfectly for me because I can control how busy I am while ensuring that I have enough time for my family.

Do I regret my working as a landscape designer for a home builder?

No.  I learned so much from that experience.  It not only made sharpened my landscape designing skills, it helped me to learn me more about myself and what I really wanted.

So, one important thing I learned is that life is about the simple pleasures – like taking time to stop and take a roll in the grass…..  

roll in the grass

Thank you again for following my short-lived career as a landscape designer.


I do plan on sharing stories of my early career as a horticulturist, working on golf courses.

Adventures with coyotes, snakes, destructive storms, monster grubs and being the only woman working in an all-male environment are just part of what is to come 🙂  

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
12 replies
  1. Desert Dweller
    Desert Dweller says:

    Wow…again, similar experience, less the nice desk. But I got my LA license, and continue on. Which is what I best do rt now!

    A *professional* maintenance company, as another business, is a crucial add-on to good design.

    Thanks for that insight.

  2. Elephant's Eye
    Elephant's Eye says:

    Your loss, our gain! I am delighted to realise I have shared your return to loving plants as you started blogging. Your passion for plants that shines out of this blog, makes it really hard to imagine that light could ever have been dimmed.

    This is almost like reading the chapters of a book … might you … make this into a book one day?

  3. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    I enjoyed reading about your personal experience as a landscape designer. In my mind i always thought that would be a perfect job, but what you do now sounds even better. We all need time to roll in the grass!

  4. Liza
    Liza says:

    It's a wonder you had any time for yourself or your family! I'm glad you're back in the plant world.

    Oh, and they lied about the high temp today – it only got to 3 degrees. Brrr!

  5. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    Well, Noelle, I'll have to go back and read your series, as I'm returning to the blog universe just in time for the tail end. Sounds like you learned a lot — and used it to craft a life that was more to your taste and used your passions and talents more fully. I'm so glad you didn't lose your love for gardening completely, but only needed a rest — and then started this blog!

  6. Rosey
    Rosey says:

    Dear Noelle,
    You are such a talented lady…It is wonderful how you share your knowledge with others.
    It is interesting to read about your career as a landscape designer.

  7. Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ
    Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ says:

    Due to my love of plants, I took a job for over 4 years in a family owned garden center selling and tending the greenhouse plants. By the time I moved on to another career choice, I was totally burned out on plants, especially houseplants. Of course, there was also a big emphasis on selling plants and associated items and that's not my favorite job either. Thankfully my love of plants came back, but it took quite a number of years. It is very reassuring to hear your similar thoughts and feelings. Thanks, Noelle!

  8. Grace Peterson
    Grace Peterson says:

    For me, another frustration, besides the ones you mentioned, is creating a garden for someone who doesn't really garden. As you and I both know a garden is never finished. To create something that won't be maintained by someone who also has the vision is a real shame.

    Great post!

  9. Gail
    Gail says:

    Noelle, Sometimes we make these interesting, adventure filled detours until we find the right road. I am glad you found the road you want to take~with plenty of grass to roll around on….gail

  10. Rose
    Rose says:

    Hi, Noelle! I'm catching up on all your adventures in landscape designing this morning, and it's so interesting. I wouldn't have thought that you would have to know so much about rocks and hardscapes as about plants, but now I can see why. I'm sure this was a great learning experience for you as well. But I think working for yourself and helping clients without having to push for sales sounds like the best career of all…even if you had to give up that granite desk:)

    Hope you are staying warm–I can't believe the low temps I've heard about in Phoenix!

  11. Gardens at Waters East
    Gardens at Waters East says:

    I appreciated you openness and comments about your life change. Mine was a very different journey and change but looking back it was the healthy thing to do. At the time it all gets cloudy and confusing when confronted with a big change, but the eternal optimist in me say, "you know, shutting this door will allow me to look for a different door to open". So life goes go on, and because of the job stopping for me, I got into gardening as a great creative hobby. And, I have learned to live on a lot less than what I thought I need to survive. I am enjoying living, friends, etc. No doubt you will too. Your personality says that to me. Jack

Comments are closed.