Avery Armstrong is a landscape designer on the Salisbury team. Avery has packed a lot of experience into her years in the industry, thanks to her pure passion for her work. We chatted with Avery to find out more about what drew her to landscape design and her advice for first-time customers.
Can you tell us how you got into landscape design?
I’ve been landscaping for quite a few years, even though I’m relatively young. I started at a local garden centre as a nursery worker because my granny worked there at the time, and I thought it’d be fun to work with my granny. My job was to lift bags of soil, but because I hung around the tree and shrub department so much, eventually I was moved into the nursery department.
Because the nursery I worked at was an affiliate of a landscaping design company, I got to see so many blueprints come down from the design department that I realized landscape design was a real job opportunity that existed. Because of that, I immediately applied to NAIT and went into the Landscape Architectural Technology program.
From there, I worked at the City of Edmonton’s Park’s department for a summer, and I did a week-long internship at an engineering firm. Then, before I had even officially graduated, I was working at another residential landscape company in Alberta, and now here I am at Salisbury.
What drew you to landscape design specifically?
I’m a very type-A kind of person, so I like planning things and organizing, but I’m also really into horticulture. I just graduated from the Master Gardeners program, like the one Kevin [Napora] has. So I’m really into horticulture, really into planning, and I love the outdoors, so it all kind of adds up nicely together.
Can you tell us about your favourite project you’ve taken on?
There was this lady who was getting her yard done, and she really wanted a very intense planting plan. At my old company, I was the plant nerd, and this customer really wanted a very intensive planting plan. She wanted to have a different colour every week flowering, she wanted edibles, she wanted a bunch of rare plants that she heard about in passing once from an article, and she wanted to see if I could find them for her. It took a full year and probably 12 different revisions to finalize this planting plan—and her yard wasn’t huge! She wanted one of everything, so I was trying really hard to make it not look crazy but also include everything she wanted. But she was so nice, so that’s why it was one of my favourites. I loved the end result.
Where do you draw your design inspiration from?
I guess I’ve always learned from every experience I’ve had doing a model or doing a design. I try to be aware of the trends, too; for example, I know modernism is really trending right now. But what always ends up inspiring me is the English cottage gardens. I like the look of an unruly meadow of flowers. I really like that naturalized style, but not a lot of people go for that because that is very high-maintenance, as I’m learning in my very own garden!
I also tend to be a very “swoopy” person when it comes to design. I like soft lines and swoops, and I like things to look very organic. I will not use a trigonometry kit when designing because that’s just not how I work. I know some people that really like squares or circles and making things look very logical in how they’re organized, but it’s the Earth, and the Earth is not logical, and nothing lines up. So that’s kind of what my designs end up being like.
What advice do you have for people looking to invest in their first landscaping project?
I always tell people that landscaping is a renovation—it’s a type of renovation for your home. So, because of that, you need to be aware of your budget, and you also need to be aware of what you like. I absolutely love when customers come to me with a Pinterest board or clippings from a magazine, or they can walk me by their neighbor’s house and show me why they really like what their neighbour did with their yard.
Obviously, I’m a designer, and it’s my job to understand what you’re saying and then turn it into a picture, but it’s so much easier, and it always ends up working better if a client has done a little bit of research on their end in terms of what styles they like, and what kinds of colours or themes they do or don’t like. Sometimes clients just come up to me and say, you know, “make it pretty.” But what I think of as “pretty” may not be what the customer had in mind.
Now that you’re working in the industry, are you still as passionate about landscape design as you were when you enrolled at NAIT?
Yes, I can’t emphasize enough that this is the career for me. This isn’t something that I’m doing as a stepping stone for something else. It sounds really cheesy, but once I realized that landscape design was a career, it was like an epiphany. In high school, they tell you that you’ll “figure it out” and you’ll find your job, and not everyone does—but I did. It took me a little bit of trial and error, but I found it.