Tag Archive for: Arizona Horticulturist

I was asked this question 10 years ago by a woman in the human resources department as I was filling out new hire paperwork for my new job.  At first I was taken aback.  But, the evidence was irrefutable….I was wearing pink nail polish and I was a horticulturist.  

horticulturist job

Bougainvillea, Gold Lantana and Purple Lilac Vine adorn a feature area along the golf course.

And so that was my introduction to what turned out to be many years at a very fulfilling job working as a horticulturist for two golf courses, and for the surrounding community areas.

horticulturist job

The golf courses were bordered by a national forest, (yes that is a national forest in the background), and an Indian reservation, so much of the surrounding area was untouched and just beautiful.

horticulturist job

I set to work right way, designing and planting new landscapes  everywhere I could find bare, boring areas…and there were quite a few.

My job was not without it’s challenges…..I was the only woman in a department of 38 men, besides the secretary, which was not always easy.  I had to earn their respect before they would do what I asked.  Also, sometimes I would have to act braver then I was when the guys would show me snakes they found as well as huge grubs they dug up.  I would pretend it was no big deal to me, even though I cringed inside.

horticulturist job

I managed all of the landscape areas, but thankfully, not the turf areas on the golf course.  I had a crew of 4 men, which included my foreman, who had followed me from my previous job.  

Although my favorite part of my job was designing and installing new landscape areas, I also was in charge of the maintenance of 100’s of trees and plants as well.

horticulturist job

I did have unfortunate mishaps such as losing a large saguaro in a torrential summer storm and the Palo Verde tree below.

I used to dread going to work the days after a summer storm.  I would spend hours deciding what fallen trees could be saved and those that could not.  It was always very sad to see some beautiful trees lost.

horticulturist job

Riding in my little golf cart around the golf courses and community was always so much fun.  I typically spent 1/2 my days in the office and 1/2 outdoors.  The weather was usually very nice to be out in.   In the winter, the golf courses would be covered in a layer of thick frost at times and golfers would anxiously wait until it melted so they could start golfing.

For the most part, summers were nice too, although an occasional day over 114 would hit.  Those were hard, because the crew would have to continue working outside, so I would have the crew work on pruning trees so that they could stay in the shade – I always felt guilty that I had an air-conditioned office to retreat to.

golf course

Some landscape areas did not have an irrigation system, so were planted with succulents and hand-watered twice in the summer.  Washes lined with river rock ran through many of the areas, like the one above, which would rapidly fill with water after a summer storm.

golf course

After placing the plants that were to be planted, I would often join my crew in digging holes and planting.  Did I already mention that this was my favorite part of the job?

golf course

New Planting of Valentine and Rosemary

I was given the opportunity to present landscaping seminars for the local residents and was absolutely terrified my first time, but soon learned to love speaking to groups. **People who meet me find out very quickly that it is hard to shut me up when I talk about plants ;^)

golf course

I left this wonderful place to work for a landscape design firm, where I could focus on what I enjoyed best – designing and installing landscapes.  My community was running out of areas for me to create new ones.  Sadly, the area above was one I did not get to before I left.

golf course

I realize that I have shown this picture in previous posts, but it was my favorite landscape that I worked on.  It is a hummingbird garden.

As I looked back on the places I worked as a horticulturist, this was my most favorite job.  I loved the people, the landscapes, the beautiful desert setting and I miss the beautiful, large trees that I would drive by each day on the golf course.

Okay, so back to the HR lady’s nail polish comment….I told her that I did wear nail polish, but that I also wore gloves when working with plants, so it wasn’t a problem.  I also wore make-up and curled my hair, which I guess was not what her picture of a horticulturist was ;^)

‘Boss’ For a Day…


That was my first thought when I came out to Arizona as a young bride over 23 years ago.  Brown mountains, strangely shaped cactus and words like ‘javelina’, ‘dust devil’, ‘haboob’ and ‘gila monster’ that meant nothing to me were soon to become part of my new world.

Southern California

I grew up in Southern California.  I loved the beaches, the beautiful tall mountains, the rolling hills and the trees.  I had spent two years attending college in California and my dorm room had a view of the ocean and I could see the Channel Islands on a clear day.  My entire family lived in California and I was sure that I would never leave.  But, then fate intervened….I fell in love with an Arizonan.

Before I knew it, I was married and driving across the desert to Arizona.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I thought Arizona was pretty in kind of a stark, prickly way.  I mean, who doesn’t like how cool Saguaro cacti look?  But, I was homesick for the bright and dark green colors that had been a part of the landscape I had grown up in.  

What Planet Have I Landed On?

There were trees, but not as many as I was used to.  Areas of grass were more limited and were bordered by concrete curbing.  The rest of the ground was covered by small rocks, called gravel which came in different kinds of colors.  And people placed large boulders in the landscape on purpose.

Strangely shaped cactus

Strangely shaped cactus

Once my eyes had adjusted, I realized that the desert was quite green.  But the green colors were much more subtle with hues of gray and blue mixed in.  Coming from an area with dark green plants had made me temporarily blind to the green beauty of the desert.

My oldest daughter in our backyard

My oldest daughter in our backyard – 1992

I had dabbled a bit in gardening in California while growing up, but nothing serious.  What made me a gardener was the purchase of our first house in Phoenix.  We bought a home with a large yard which included 3 mature citrus trees, 3 roses and 10 California Fan Palms and I had no idea what I was doing.

My second oldest daughter

My second oldest daughter and friend playing in the irrigation water as DH watches. Berms along the edges keep the water from running out into the street. 

Even more interesting and this is an Arizona thing – our front and backyard was irrigated by flood irrigation.  We would open a valve in the backyard and water would fill the backyard to a depth of about 4″ high and then flow into the front yard.  My children loved playing in the water, especially in the summer.  I loved the price – only $56 for an entire year back in the 90’s.

My neighbor's garden

My neighbor’s garden.

With my newly inherited garden, I wanted to learn all I could and bought gardening books only to learn that they really did not apply to gardens in the desert.  For example, just because a book, (written and published on the east coast), says that a particular plant can be grown in zone 9, does not mean it can survive the heat of our summers.  I learned the hard way.  So, I decided to go to our local library and read all I could on desert gardening.  After that, I was hooked.  I took out some grass and planted a perennial garden in the front and also planted 40 roses as well.

My thirst for knowledge did not end and I was at a crossroads in terms of deciding what I wanted to do in terms of a career.  I had two years of college under my belt, but needed to figure out what to major in.  It was then that I decided to get my degree in Horticulture.  I have never looked back and absolutely love what I get to do.  And the rest they say is history…. 

Strangely shaped cactus

Hiking through the desert with my four youngest children.

They love the desert as much as I do.