By Richard Angell, Great Lakes Landscape Supply
I have received quite a few inquires as to how I got my start in the landscape industry, so I thought I would take this issue to share a few of my experiences and things I learned working in this fabulous industry. With over 52 years in the Green Industry, I feel fortunate to be doing the things that I love to do, while working with wonderful architects, builders and landscape contractors, many of which have become my best friends in life. To be able to express myself freely, and to have equal respect with my peers is a fabulous feeling, and with that responsibility I believe we need to be stewards of our environment and to leave the landscape better than we found it. Let me try to explain my design philosophy; when I was doing Design/Build landscapes, “I viewed myself as an artist who paints living pictures.” Simply the best feeling in the world to create one-of-a-kind projects and to watch them grow and prosper.
WHY/HOW did I get inspired to become a Landscape Professional?
I grew up on a multi-acred Black Augus farm in North Lansing, where we raised all of our own corn, wheat, oats and alfalfa to support a 150+ herd, and there I learned to work and get things done when the sun was shining. Farming has more in common with landscaping than you might think. I learned how soils behave and are affected and enhanced by moisture. Understanding how soils and hydrology work together or against each other is the key to successful projects. I started studying Architecture in my college prep courses in high school and went on and studied Architecture for two years in college. Then, I was hired at Michigan State University in 1971 to work in the Site Construction Division of the Grounds Maintenance Department and also worked in the Office of Campus Park and Planning. During this time, I received my Landscape degree. At that time, I was mentored by some very brilliant landscape architects who were very passionate about what and how they designed landscapes. I was taught that each landscape design blends the principles of art and design with knowledge of horticultural and construction materials, and that the goal of landscape design is to successfully integrate natural and man-made environments together, taking into account the relationships between a building and its function, purpose, surroundings, topography, along with its specific site requirements and plantings.
WHAT are the best strengths a landscape designer should have based on my experiences?
I believe the best skills a landscape designer can have includes being able to visualize the final product that they are building before you even break ground. Then, coordinating with the other trades on the site to ensure that the design intent and the client's vision is transformed into a thoughtfully designed, aesthetically pleasing and useful space that complements the surrounding environment and adds long term value to the property. Being able to bring the project in on time, within budget and safely executed is also a major strength.
WHAT are the main skills that every landscape designer should try to perfect as I have learned?
Listening to the client, understanding the expectations, creating beauty that endures and is aesthetically appealing and offering the best value to the client, and, meeting the expectations of the client. You need to learn to balance beauty in the age of green…using environmentally sensitive landscape practices to leave the land better than we found it. Harmonize with native flora and develop a welcoming experience while using the best updated knowledge and technology, which you can receive by being involved in the Northern Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association.
WHAT have I learned from being in the Design/Build side of the industry for 48+ years that I am now bringing to the supply side of the industry?
I believe to effectively run a project and to have it completed successfully there needs to be a positive interaction between the owner, architect, contractor and the supplier and they all need to be in tune so that the end results for the project are reached and the owner's expectations are met. My understanding of the contractor side of the industry has helped me help other contractors make their project’s run more smoothly. I believe I bring my contractor brain to the supply side of the industry knowing and understanding why, when, and how a contractor wants the materials handled and shipped to their site in a timely manner. Remember, “Along with the creative design must come performance, the Details become Important, the Communication Essential, and the Professionalism Absolute…”
“Life is an Adventure, Enjoy the Day…”
Warmest Regards, Richard J Angell, ASLA, CGIP NMNLA President