Most professional garden designers have some training in horticulture and the principles of design. Some are also landscape architects, a more formal level of training that usually requires an advanced degree and often a state license. The importance of Hebrew can depend a lot on whether or not you would like to seek out work in a Hebrew speaking community.

Sample Gardening Courses:

Thank you to Joshua Hyman, Landscape Designer, for this interview.

Give a brief description of your field
I do landscape design, which means I build, refurbish and maintain gardens. I build gardens from scratch using my own designs, expertise and professionalism, and I refurbish existing gardens to make them more efficient, cost effective, and with a good flow of all the natural elements – stone, wood and water. I create symmetry and draw a rhythm from our surroundings, interpreting an area and giving it a natural appeal. In addition, I do maintenance for existing gardens and I also build pergolas, patios, decks, rock gardens, ponds, waterfalls, stairs, and beautiful types of lighting. I build everything connected to the outdoors.

How long have you worked in this field?
I’ve worked in landscape design for 20 years.

Did you work in this field prior to making Aliyah, as well?
I owned a restaurant for three years in Charleston, but before that I worked as a floriculturist at the Chicago Park District – I designed seasonal shows and public gardens, worked in greenhouses and the conservatory, and gave tours and lectures for the conservatory.

What experience do you need to get into your field?
My first degree is in ornamental horticulture, which is the study and science behind growing ornamental outdoor and indoor plants, as well as greenhouse management. This degree is helpful for anyone involved in working in greenhouses, the retail and wholesale sector, working for growers and interior landscaping.

It isn’t necessary to have this type of degree in order to work in landscape design. However, it is definitely necessary to work as an apprentice. No matter what you study, you should be an apprentice minimally for one year; ideally, for two years.

What skills or experience do you need to build the business that you have?
You need a tremendous amount of patience and understanding – first, for your employees and second, for your clients. You are going to need to keep all of your employees happy, and you will need to read your clients very well and understand exactly what their demands are – and whether it’s even worth working for a particular client. You need to be very organized and know how to prioritize.

You also need a sincere professionalism and exude the confidence that you have “a handle on the matter.” Know how to answer questions in every area; you need to come as a professional and let clients feel that they’re in good hands. Even when you don’t know the answer, you can give people the confidence that you will find out and assure both clients and employees that everything is under control.

What type of training should someone making Aliyah come to Israel with, in order to break into your field?
It is good to have basic background in horticulture and experience in landscaping. If you worked in landscaping in America, you can do well here, but you will still need to spend a short amount of time (maybe six months) just working outdoors under Israeli conditions. It’s hot and rocky! It’s an adjustment, and you may find you don’t perform as well.

Does it make any difference whether you studied in Israel or abroad?
Academic study can be done in any country, but it is important to work in Israel as an apprentice and understand the cultural requirements of every locally grown plant. Understand how things grow here – it’s a whole different flora. After I made Aliyah, I spent a year and a half working with people in different types of greenhouses and with different types of landscapers, before I broke out on my own. Just as an example, it took me a whole year to learn irrigation systems in Israel; I hadn’t studied irrigation systems in America.

While you’re working as an apprentice, make sure you’re tuned into everything you’re coming in touch with: Learn how and when the plants flower, the diseases that affect them, how deep the roots grow, how tall the plants grow, whether they need water. At a certain point, you will learn how to read the climate very well, so that when you start building a new garden, you will be able to read the area that you’re going to refurbish or build from scratch, and then you can decide how to develop it.

Is your field different here than in the U.S.? If so, how is it different?
Many things are different: The ground here is harder. You need to understand irrigation systems better – everything is dependent on that. You also have to understand the flora you’re working with; certain plants that thrive in America simply won’t thrive here. Of course, you also need to understand the mentality of the people, which is a challenge in and of itself. There are also different styles of doing things here – the types of materials that are available. In the U.S., people use wood chips everywhere as a cover, while here in Israel people work with stone. We have a LOT of stone. You need to be more creative with the existing supplies.

Regarding language skills, the importance of learning and speaking Hebrew depends a lot on where you are working. If you’re working in a community with Hebrew speaking clients, you will need fluent Hebrew.

What is the range that one can expect to receive, for work in this field?
For a basic garden with grass, trees, rockeries, irrigation systems, the basic rate generally starts at about 150 NIS a meter.

What are the upcoming areas of specialty you would recommend?
Xero-scaping is very popular. This is a type of desert landscaping that actually requires little or no water. Xero-scaping involves working with native client flora that need very little water to thrive. Many of the gardens that I’m building just don’t need a lot of water, period. Cactus, rosemary, lavender, junipers, carob trees – there is a whole slew of really beautiful plants. It is important to become a specialist on those plants that really thrive here.

Is there a professional organization in your field?
There is an organization called Irgun L’Gananut V’Nof B’Yisrael (Organization for Gardening and Landscaping in Israel) that offers seminars and lectures throughout the year, with information about new irrigation systems, new computers on the market, etc. It is important to attend.

Regarding keeping up with new trends, I am also very careful to attend landscaping shows and expositions, to see the latest developments in the market. It’s very important to keep up and know what’s changed and what’s new.

What recommendations can you offer Olim who are looking to work in this field?
You really need to have a tremendous desire to do this. I’ve worked with Olim before, and some have worked out very well but some just lose patience. The majority of my work can be very menial; you’re turning over the soil and building trenches and running irrigation lines, and it is really hard work. But at the end of it all, you see what you’ve done, building it piece by piece. Once the whole area is workable, you start bringing in beautiful plants, grass and trees. In under a week’s time, if it’s all organized correctly, a typical garden can yield beautiful results.

How do you feel about working and living here in Israel?
It’s a real challenge, yet it’s also a thrill! Nothing worthwhile in life is easy; and this involves particularly hard work. Last week I worked in a really desolate area. I was able to take this challenging site and turn it into a beautiful oasis. The project was in Maaleh Adumim – you’re right up against the desert, in hard rock soil. We were able to break up the soil and bring in new stones and green grass. In the end, it was magnificent seeing this transformation. It was a serious challenge but in the end the challenge yields a tremendous thrill.

Thank you very much to Joshua Hyman for participating in this interview. You can reach Joshua at [email protected].

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