Success Stories

 

Success Story Raleigh Adams

Why did you choose UCLA Extension’s Horticulture & Gardening Program? What was it about this program that drew you to it?

About three years ago, I enrolled in an Introduction to Wine course through the Extension program in order to advance as a waiter in the restaurant industry. After completing that class, I became a waiter at one of Los Angeles’ top restaurants in Santa Monica.

That experience gave me the confidence that UCLA Extension produces results. I always had a personal interest in the diverse landscape and sunny outdoors of Southern California, however, I had little technical training. I enrolled as a certificate student in order to enhance my already existing interest in landscape design and to establish myself as a competitive candidate in the near future.

What is/was your favorite course and/or instructor in the program and why?

I completed the Gardening Practices and Techniques class with Nancy Harrington. I enjoyed her class simply because of the real-world exposure to landscape design. The field trips our class took to the sites and nurseries where she and her crew work were particularly enjoyable.

How do you plan to use the knowledge and skills you have acquired through the Horticulture & Gardening Program? Professionally and/or personally?

I have already started to work with one of my classmates in residential design. Our first project was a small home that needed additional landscaping before the house was put on the market for sale. The real estate agent was so happy with the work we did on the home, he promised he would call us again for his next listing.

Do you have a favorite plant or genus?

I’m learning to love Asparagus Fern, or some people call it Foxtail Fern. It has a really amazing lime green color to it, holds up well in California sun and kind of looks like it belongs in an aquarium or under the sea.

Where is your favorite botanical place to visit?

Every UCLA student should visit the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden. It sounds cheezy but it’s an amazing oasis in the middle of the urban city.

Did the program provide you with the skills and knowledge you expected?

So far, yes. I have several more classes that I’m looking forward to but I’m very encouraged and optimistic about the future.

What advice would you give to incoming students in the Horticulture & Gardening Program?

A lot of different careers and lifestyles fall under the umbrella of Horticulture & Gardening. As a new student, the amount of possibility and opportunity can be overwhelming. I would advise anyone new to embrace the possibility of where this course of study can take someone. Don’t be hesitant to try lots of different things. A more precise goal will reveal itself as you progress through the courses that make up the entire program.

 Success Story Michael Green

Why did you choose UCLA Extension’s Horticulture & Gardening Program? What was it about this program that drew you to it?

I joined UCLA Extension’s Horticulture & Gardening Program because I wanted to get serious about gardening and forge a new career path. I had been gardening for years and wanted to add education and expertise to my self-taught knowledge.

What is/was your favorite course and/or instructor in the program and why?

I was inspired by several of the courses – especially Soils and Plant Nutrition taught by Gretchen Renshaw who elevated the subject from “dirt” to “soil”. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her class taught me how soil sets the tone and foundation for so much of what we do in horticulture.

How do you plan to use the knowledge and skills you have acquired through the Horticulture & Gardening Program? Professionally and/or personally?

Personally, the knowledge I’ve gained from the program affects the way I look at the natural world. I can’t drive down the street without noticing (and commenting) on the condition of our street trees – and I thank Pieter Severynen and his Basic Arboriculture class for that new awareness. I’ve made several new friends through the program – people who share my passion for gardening and for exploring a second career. And thanks to the program, together with one of these new friends we are starting a landscaping business.

Do you have a favorite plant or genus?

Since moving to California I’ve fallen in love with the idea of native plants – and especially Deer Grass or Muhlenbergia rigens – which is a perennial grass that is drought tolerant, easy to care for, and provides a graceful architecture to the garden.

Where is your favorite botanical place to visit?

I love visiting gardens and arboretums that label their plants so I can learn and see the plants “in action”. The Huntington Botanical Gardens, the LA County Arboretum, and the Natural History Museum’s Native Garden all have well-labeled gardens and provide great learning and inspiration.

Did the program provide you with the skills and knowledge you expected?

The program provided the skills, knowledge, and confidence to transform a hobby into a profession. There was practical knowledge, like a hands-on pruning class with the wonderful Nancy Harrington, as well as strong foundational classes like Botany, Plant Taxonomy, and Plant Materials that really provided the framework for my knowledge and confidence.

What advice would you give to incoming students in the Horticulture & Gardening Program?

I’d advise incoming students to supplement each class with additional books, podcasts, and you tube videos so you can really immerse yourself in the subject matter and discover the niches that turn you on.

 

Success Story Mark Harelik

Why did you choose UCLA Extension’s Horticulture & Gardening Program? What was it about this program that drew you to it?

I wanted a comprehensive education in the use of plants in the landscape, but also with a scientific foundation. There are many organizations that offer very good classes piecemeal, such as the Theodore Payne Foundation and the Los Angeles Arboretum, but I had larger goals of establishing an alternate career path, and since I’m a working professional in another field, my time was constrained. The evening/weekend schedule of the UCLA Extension program allowed me to fit it into my calendar on an ongoing basis.

What is/was your favorite course and/or instructor in the program and why?

Gretchen Renshaw in Soils and Fertilizers is so enthusiastic and engaging. She quickly created a team out me and my classmates, and her experience in teaching combined with her candor and sense of delight in the subject, created not only a positive experience, but promoted a sense of quest which still resonates with me today.

Also I want to give a shout out to both Tom Rau, whose knowledge and design expertise gave us a lot of avenues to chase down; and Darlene Pickell whose knowledge base is vast. Both of these instructors are experienced professionals who gave us a lot of practical guidance in both aesthetics and business.

How have you used the knowledge and skills you have learned through the Horticulture & Gardening Program? Professionally and/or personally?

I have used my UCLA education to establish a small landscape design business, with clients that I met after joining the certificate program. I should note that I have made many design mistakes, but I always knew how to recover from them, thanks to my UCLA education. I also established a network of both professional colleagues and friends, to whom I can run crying.

Do you have a favorite plant or genus?

I am a freak for CA natives. I carry these plants in my heart: Leymus condensatus, Heteromeles arbutifolia, Lepichinia fragrans, Abutilon palmeri, Baccharis piularis, Salvia mellifera, Stipa pulchra, Eriogonum giganteum, Salvia ‘Desperado’, Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’, Cercis occidentalis, Quercus agrifolia. These appear time and again in my designs, especially in the current age of lawn turf replacement.

Where is your favorite botanical place to visit?

LA Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens

Did the program provide you with the skills and knowledge you expected?

Due to the relative brevity of the courses, we were presented with an abundance of knowledge and brief exposure. It requires great self-motivation to follow up and reinforce the exposure we’re given on any given aspect of the subject at hand. There was a certain amount of hands on work, such as Nancy Harrington’s The Art and Practice of Pruning, or David King’s Urban Food Production, but I really hungered for more actual field experience such as planting, maintenance, and more design experimentation in the classroom.

What advice would you give to incoming students in the Horticulture & Gardening Program?

Be sure that you are self-motivated and ready to talk as much as listen. It’s a very interactive program. I would say it’s for lay people and professionals who come to the class with motivation and direction, rather than a sit back and listen attitude.

 

Success Story Sophie Tong-Try

Why did you choose UCLA Extension’s Horticulture & Gardening Program?

I chose the program for several reasons. For one, the class schedules accommodate working professionals like me who work during the day and don’t have a lot of free time. The tuition is affordable enough and the campus is near to where I live and work. I am also a UCLA alumni so I already knew going in that the program would live up to my expectations.

What is/was your favorite course in the program and why?

That would be General Botany for Gardeners with Instructor Valerie Wong PhD. It was the perfect beginning into the horticultural world. The course was evenly paced and well-balanced with a good amount of studying, assignments, including plant drawings (which were my favorite) and field trips.

What traits exemplify a great instructor and do you have one in the program you would like to mention?

Professor Wong was great. She was engaging, funny and passionate about her mission to teach and inform. She treated the students as equals and interacted with us in a way that we could relate to, and not just to her but to the subject matter. The knowledge we gained from her is knowledge we are easily able to share and apply beyond the classroom.

How have you used the knowledge and skills you have learned through the Horticulture & Gardening Program? Professionally or personally?

Personally, yes. Plant taxonomy and anatomy for me were extremely fascinating topics and allowed me to become more familiar with my plants and how to grow and care for them.

I’m also much more ambitious in learning about the environment on a global scale.

If the phone rang right now and someone offered you your dream job, what would it be?

Own and operate a store in Los Angeles that specializes in selling plants ideal for apartment dwellers. The store will also serve as a sanctuary for homeless cats.

Do you have a favorite plant or genus?

Orchids. I love orchids!

Where is your favorite botanical place to visit?

LA Arboretum. With its expansive and diverse collection of plants, it feels like an escape to nature. We had the pleasure of visiting here as a field trip with Instructor Wong. The peacocks are a plus!

What advice would you give to incoming students in the Horticulture & Gardening Program?

None. They already made the right choice.

garret websiteSuccess Story Garret Tam-Sing

What brought you to the UCLA Extension Horticulture & Gardening Program? 

I acquired a 50 acre coffee plantation in November 2004, twenty percent or so of the plantation had plants that were under performing.  For 9 years, I sought advice from local experts with no real results.  Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands and educate myself so that I could make sound horticultural decisions and articulate them to my staff and crew, so I enrolled in UCLA’s Horticulture & Gardening Certificate.

What is/was your favorite course in the program?

This is a difficult question, because all of the courses in the program are very important. The 7 required courses were vital to the overall understanding of horticulture and plant care.

I would have to say that two of the required courses that I didn’t want to take were the two that made the biggest difference and rounded out the program perfectly for me. Plant Taxonomy and ID and Plant Materials for Landscape Use were my biggest fears but they quickly became my favorites.

Who is/was your favorite instructor?

Another difficult question. I was extremely fortunate in this program because I liked every single Instructor, and because I had a good relationship with all of them, I learned a lot.  All of my instructors were so giving, patient, and willing to share their knowledge and had great intentions of promoting horticulture.

Gretchen Renshaw – General Botany, Horticulture Pest Control, and Soils and Fertilizers. I had Gretchen for my first 3 classes. These classes really set the foundation of the program.  Immediately after, I was able to provide direction and guidance to the plantation manager to start building better soil.  I gained a better understanding on how a plants grow and how they function.

Darlene PickellIntroduction to Horticulture, Plant Identification and Taxonomy. The Plant Taxonomy course was important to me because it taught me the various varieties of Coffea arabica. It is so important to understand the genus and species of these plants in my business because they all produce different coffee cupping results.

Wendy GlombPlanting Design for the Home Gardener and Building a Garden Ecology with CA Natives. The Design class was important because we put everything on paper with the mature dimensions of the plants, the hydro zones, and placement in accordance with the climate/sun. The design drawings and plant color chart will always be something I remember.  Very positive instructor, good energy, and inspirational.

Nancy HarringtonGardening Practices and Techniques, and The Art and Practice of Pruning. As I prune on the plantation to this day, echoes of Nancy’s voice and direction are still in my mind. “Think before you cut!”

Tom Rau– Plant Materials for Landscape Use. One of the most important classes in the program.  This class really tied all the other courses together, preparing for the final exam and walking the UCLA Campus on my own really made me understand the importance of plants in the landscape and how they are used.  It was an amazing class, we all worked really hard for it.

What advice would you give to incoming students?
  • Incoming students should know that it’s ok to not know anything about horticulture. This program will provide the student a friendly and safe learning environment in the care of instructors that are professional, giving, and patient.
  • Enjoy learning at one of the best educational institutions in the world, being on campus is a wonderful experience.
  • Know that there is a reason for the program curriculum. This program will provide the essential tools for one to succeed in horticulture, landscaping & gardening.
  • Begin the program with a purpose of what you want out of the program, and what you will do after the program with the knowledge and skills you gain.
  • Have fun spending time with the instructors, meeting your classmates, and since every class has field trips to horticultural places, make the effort to become one with the places and professionals.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your instructors for career guidance in the Horticulture field. The Instructors will provide their best guidance and direction for your success.

lisabradySuccess Story Lisa Brady

What brought you to the Horticulture & Gardening Program?

I enrolled in the Horticulture program because I had recently made a career change and started a garden design business. I really wanted to learn as much as I could about the world of plants as I am passionate about this subject and I knew it would bring confidence and credibility to my work. Which it has!

What is/was your favorite course in the program?

I really enjoyed General Botany because it gave me a great foundation to understand the classes that followed, I thought it would be my least favorite and even though I found it very challenging I took so much from it. I also enjoyed Gardening Practices because it was very hands on, and Taxonomy was also a fulfilling class and gave me the tools to communicate with other professionals in this industry with confidence.

Who is/was your favorite instructor?

It is not so easy to pick a favorite because I truly enjoyed all of my classes and each instructor, but if I must I would say Valerie Wong and Nancy Harrington.

Lisa Brady GardenWhat are you doing professionally these days?

I am continuing to grow my garden design business and I am also pursuing more education so that I can eventually take the certification exam to become a certified arborist.

If the phone rang right now and someone offered you your dream job, what would it be?
I cannot say what exactly my dream job would be at this moment, –it could be many things-which I am open to -I only know it would involve working alongside other inspiring, creative people who are passionate about their work.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself working as a champion of trees and the environment, and continuing to use my creative gifts in some capacity that makes a positive contribution.

Do you have a favorite plant or genus?

This is a hard question because every week I have a new favorite plant or tree but here are the top 3 for now:

Cypripedium acaule ‘Lady’s Slipper Orchid’
Cedrus deodara ‘Deodar Cedar’
Sequoia sempervirens ‘Coast Redwood’

Where is your favorite botanical place to visit?

Santa Ana Botanical Gardens, Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens

What advice would you give to incoming students?

If you immerse yourself in the work/assignments you may discover other areas of interest that may surprise you, like I did. I never started the program thinking I would want to pursue becoming an arborist.

What book are you currently reading?

The Meaning of Human Existance by Edward.O. Wilson

 

 

Julie Deamer

Success Story Julie Deamer

What brought you to the Horticulture & Gardening Program?

I loved gardening and learning about plants and was interested in growing this interest into a professional career. The Horticulture program seemed like a good way to formalize my interest in plants and make the transition from amateur gardener to professional horticulturalist.

What is/was your favorite course in the program?

It’s a toss-up between ‘Gardening Practices’ and ‘Taxonomy and Plant ID.’

Who is/was your favorite instructor?

Darlene Pickel

What are you doing professionally these days?

I opened a design and maintenance business called Yard Queen (www.yardqueen.net).

If the phone rang right now and someone offered you your dream job, what would it be?

Running my own business is my dream job and fortunately it’s going really well. However, being a horticulturalist at a botanic garden would be pretty incredible too. I recently visited Portland’s Japanese Garden, for example, and it would be an amazing honor to maintain and nurture that garden.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself maintaining client gardens I designed and creating new gardens that add value to my client’s lives.

Do you have a favorite plant or genus?

No, can’t say that I do – it’s always the latest new plant I fall for.

Where is your favorite botanical place to visit?

Locally I love Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont. Out of state, Springs Preserve in Las Vegas is well worth the visit.  Right now thought I can’t get enough of Japanese Gardens and love Seattle’s and Portland’s.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

Go at your own pace, take your time, and do the extra work to get more out of each class.

What book are you currently reading?

‘On Garden Style’ by Bunny Williams.