We ask landscape professionals, all at different stages in their careers, to tell us what inspired them to follow a career in landscape and what advice they would give to others. Their answers show the breadth of talent, experience and passion across the profession. They explain how they trained, what is important to them about the profession and how they would recommend it to others.

Johanna Elvidge is CAD Manager for Marshalls PLC and is in the first year of the MA Landscape Architecture at Leeds Beckett University.

My background in landscape: where it all began

I blame my Mum for the fact that I’ve always had a love of plants. But the first time I got to study them was at high school, where I was able to do a BTEC horticulture in place of another GCSE.

After that I left landscape/horticulture behind and did a degree in 3D design, which led to me managing a production department making bespoke motifs for swimming pools. Then I worked in renewables designing large-scale commercial solar installations for longer than I care to say, until that sector took a bit of a nosedive and I decided I needed a career change. I like to be busy!

I started working for Marshalls PLC and it has been brilliant. I work as a CAD Manager but I mentioned that I’d been thinking about doing a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture and they’re sponsoring me to do it!

I’ve almost finished my first year at Leeds Beckett University and it’s great. The things I’m learning are really beneficial in my role at Marshalls, and it’s just generally a really interesting and varied course.

Getting the gig at Gardeners World Live

Marshalls have trade gardens at shows every year and sponsor events like the APL awards at Gardeners World Live and it’s thanks to this that I’ve just had a very busy but exciting few months.

Because of my 3d design experience (which includes product design and making things for production) I was asked to do the manufacturing drawings for the bespoke pieces to be made for the Chelsea Flower Show trade garden in 2018, and to design the stand at BBC Gardeners World Live that year too.

I must have done ok as I was asked to design the stand at Chelsea this year (we got 5 stars, wayhey!!) and also to design the one for GWL again too. I was really really happy to be asked to do this, it’s a lot of work and responsibility but you get to design something that’s actually going to be built and seen by thousands of people and that’s amazing.

I did the drawings pretty early for Gardeners World Live – they have to be approved and there needs to be enough time to allow anything bespoke to be made. These were done in February.

The brief was to showcase the Marshalls as a Great British Brand and to illustrate the wide variety of products that we make/produce, so I thought about walling, and driveways, and paving, and our bespoke offering, and kerbs and cladding… there’s a lot of scope!

Marshalls have their own build team for shows, and I know from working with them at Chelsea and GWL last year that they are meticulous. I call their boss The King, so it follows that they’d be The King’s Men, right? Even though they’d already seen copies of the design, I made sure I sent them the drawings a few weeks before the event so they could use them for the build.

Project Diary

I’d previously had a meeting with the waterjet chap, Allan, to sort out the copings, the cladding strips, and the Marshalls logo detail that was to be cut for the front wall of the stand, and sent him the CAD drawings I’d done for him to manufacture to. I’d also worked out the quantities and ordered the stock.

28 May: Work starts, with the turf lifted and the all-important tent (tool storage etc) pitched. The site was marked out ready to start.

30 May: Kelly in the ops team sorted out the delivery of the stock, and this was the progress on day 2. The walling was in place for the cladding (we clad wood walls for shows, it’d obviously be block wall for a ‘real’ job).

31 May: Tree holes dug and driveway install started

2 June: The driveway was finished at the weekend – it’s looking FAB!

3 June: I sorted the plants out (I’d bought more at the weekend) into crates ready to take down to the NEC on Weds. We’d had a few extra dutch trolleys of plants delivered to Chelsea to use at Gardeners World Live and these had been transported to our temporary nursery at the end of the Chelsea Build.

5 June: Been down to the NEC with Kelly and the King in a sprinter van full of plants. I met some students from Solihul Academy who had arranged to have a chat with the King’s Men about working in landscaping. It was good to see them and I hope they enjoyed their time with us. The Made in Britain Flag was installed later that day.

6 June:  More trees delivered, as the ones from Chelsea hadn’t travelled very well. They just weren’t up to standard. Cladding finished on one of the planting beds and on the walls.

10 June: Drove down to the NEC again with Kelly, some trowels, secateurs and the obligatory bag of Haribo Tangfastics to combat Kelly’s travel sickness. Spent 8 hours planting and got soaked to the skin! Thanked the King for his advice to take dry clothes for the journey home.

11 June: King’s Man One (yes, they are numbered, and it is in order of favouritism..) finished putting the bespoke copings on the planter, and everything was cleaned up ready for press day on the 13 June!

I received good feedback from the people who were staffing the garden for the show, despite the weather, which was fairly terrible for the 3 days. Designing the trade gardens, creating the planting plans and designing then doing the manufacturing drawings for the bespoke elements is great.

Why choose landscape?

Working in landscape means I have such a varied job – some days I’m at my desk helping Marshalls customers to visualise their garden projects by creating 3D drawings, other days I’m out on site measuring up for bespoke stone items. It’s certainly never boring!

When people ask what I’m doing at Uni and I say Landscape Architecture, they ask if that’s like gardening, or geography… and I explain that it’s all about the creation of space.

Spaces for people to enjoy and places that evoke emotion. When you design spaces you think about everything, from the way people will get from A to B, what you‘d like people to be looking at, where they’re going to sit – and what on! You not only design the space, but everything in it too, to the smallest detail.

It is really surreal when you get to stand in a space which only existed in your imagination. I am not sure I will ever get used to that feeling.