Salary: The wages are often hourly because the work is seasonal. Pay also depends on the province of work or area of expertise. According to a 2012 survey of its members conducted by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, a landscape foreman/supervisor earned $19 to $22 an hour, while a non-student labourer earned about $15 to $18. Supervisor positions can pay as much as $42.50 an hour, the CNLA says.
Education: The CNLA says there are several ways to train as a landscaper, either through certified training programs, apprenticeships or postsecondary degree and diploma programs. Check out this infographic for more information. Some people also learn the skill on the job from others, without having to obtain a formal education. The CNLA says there are 986 Landscape Industry Certified individuals across Canada, holding one or more of four designations, as technicians, designers, retail horticulturalists or managers.
The role: "Our job is making things look pretty," says Jeff Pope, owner of Rakes & Ladders in Vancouver. He said being a landscaper is not just about planting flowers and seeds, though. Landscapers need to know what plant species will grow together, and in which plant hardiness zones, to ensure the garden they're working on stays lush longer. "It's tying everything together," he says. Landscapers also need to be able to plan for the long term. A sapling needs to be situated in such a way, for instance, that it's still going to be in the right space as a mature tree decades from now.
By the numbers: According to the 2011 National Household Survey, there are about 16,700 "landscape and horticulture technicians and specialists" in Canada. About two-thirds are employees of companies such as nurseries, tree farms, garden centres, and landscaping installation and maintenance contractors.
Job prospects: Good. The majority of employers in this sector are facing a critical shortage of skilled employees, according to the CNLA. Still, Mr. Pope says the work isn't as plentiful as it was before the 2008 recession, when people were spending more money to beautify their properties.
Challenges: It can be hard to manage the expectations of clients, Mr. Pope says. "Sometimes people want things done yesterday." Mr. Pope says any good landscaping firm is often booked well in advance, especially during the busy spring and summer months. For people doing the labour, the weather can be a challenge, too. It means planting and cleaning up when the sun shines and the rain pours. It can also be backbreaking work. "You need to be physically fit and properly dressed," Mr. Pope says.
Why they do it: "It can be very artistic, and very satisfying," Mr. Pope says. Another bonus is that, unlike many professionals, you can actually see the results of your work, which can include the installation of paths, arbours and stone walls – as well as flowers, shrubs and trees.
Misconceptions: Landscapers aren't green thumbs who couldn't get a better job elsewhere. "It's a profession." Today, he says more people respect and appreciate the work of landscapers – and understand that it's not something everyone can do well.
Give us the scoop: Are you a landscaper in Canada? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.
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