Ornamental horticulture is a field that focuses on artistic landscape design using flowers, plants and trees. Learn about related careers and job duties, salary info, educational requirements and course topics.
Professionals in ornamental horticulture design and take care for plants surrounding public and private buildings, including homes, schools, businesses and public spaces. They often work with decorative plants and trees in varying capacities, including growing plants in labs, designing floral arrangements for displays and managing the landscaping for a golf course or other recreational area. Some move into research in order to develop new ways of growing plants under varying climatic conditions. An interest in studying plants, combined with an artistic flair, can be useful in this line of work.
Ornamental horticulturists commonly work in the area of groundskeeping. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects jobs for grounds maintenance workers to grow as fast as the national average, at 13%, for the period between 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2012, the median annual salary for landscaping and groundskeeping workers was $23,970, and that for tree trimmers and pruners was $32,310, per the BLS. Closely related jobs may be found in park curation, floristry and professional gardening. According to the BLS, floral designers earned a median annual salary of $23,810, as of May 2012.
With a bachelor's degree, you could work in landscape architecture helping to design and improve gardens, parks, residential and public areas in terms of visual and functional value. The BLS expects jobs for landscape architects to grow by 14% between 2012 and 2022, a rate as fast as the national average. However, jobs in large, well-known landscape architect firms may be competitive. The median annual salary as of May 2012 for landscape architects was $64,180, per the BLS. In addition to horticulturist, other job titles you could qualify for include agricultural inspector, environmental designer, greenhouse manager, grounds maintenance manager and arboriculture technician.
While many ornamental horticulturists learn on the job, formal training may be required for certain jobs. Degrees in this field are most often available in the form of certificates, associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees; however, degrees in horticulture are also available at the graduate level. A certificate in ornamental horticulture can qualify you for work as a horticulture technician, manager or supervisor. Some schools may allow you to apply work done in a certificate program towards major coursework of an associate's or bachelor's degree program.
Master's and doctoral degree programs in horticulture often have specializations in ornamental horticulture or closely related areas, like landscape design. In addition, you may consider a master gardener program, available typically through university extension schools. In an ornamental horticulture program, you may be able to develop further specialization in areas that include floral design, nursery technology and sustainable landscapes. Major coursework in these programs generally cover topics in biology, plant structures and functions, nursery practices, pest control, irrigation and soil science. You'll likely acquire more hands-on learning as well through lab-based courses and an internship, which is a requirement of some programs. Some related coursework may be available through distance learning, such as online gardening courses.
The Association of Horticultural Sciences (ASHS) offers various professional development opportunities, including conferences, regional interest groups and job postings, as well as two certification programs (www.ashs.org). ASHS certification as a Certified Professional Horticulturist requires a degree in horticulture, work experience and continuing education, while the Certified Horticulturist program also requires work experience and continuing education, as well as a passing score on an exam.