• Ian Hollingbery

    Planting New Roots

    Portrait of Ian Hollingbery.
    Ian Hollingbery
    Garden Design Certificate Graduate

    George Brown helps make garden designer’s new career a natural fit

    Ian Hollingbery has always had a green thumb. Through George Brown College’s Garden Design Certificate, he’s turned a lasting passion for gardening into a new career path.

    Ian didn’t wait until retirement to pursue his true love; he left behind a corporate financial career for a rewarding day’s work outdoors. “I said, ’There’s got to be something better and richer in life,’ and I always had a love of gardening,” he recalls. “My grandparents and parents were always out in the garden, and I was always helping them.”

    Ian’s landscape design business, The Artful Gardener, has been growing since he began his continuing education certificate in 2013. The easy commute to George Brown’s downtown St. James Campus and evening course schedules allowed him to spend his days developing his business.

    Ian quickly found himself taking advantage of his course skills. “It was perfect timing because everything I learned in class I was able to apply and use in my business.”

    Ian’s teachers not only served as mentors, but also became friends. “They were incredible resources,” Ian recalls, noting that indoor classes were complemented by field excursions to see local gardens in action and to identify landscaping techniques, plants and trees. “It was a very comfortable atmosphere in terms of exchanging information. We were encouraged to bring in stories about gardening and working with clients as well as the challenges we experienced on a daily basis.”

    Ian’s classmates proved as helpful as his teachers. They came from a diverse mix of age ranges and backgrounds, exposing Ian to unique gardening perspectives and techniques. “Some students were from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and brought very different ideas of what gardens are to the table.” He stays in touch with his teachers and fellow graduates about their projects, new products and useful practices. “I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed being back in the classroom,” he notes. “I was very fortunate to have great teachers and small classes, so the student interaction was full on.”

    The Artful Gardener caters to small gardens in Toronto’s east end, near Ian’s home in The Beach. “I work for myself and by myself,” he explains. “All of my work comes through word of mouth.” His gardens are living, breathing advertisements for his skill and drive. “I’m a firm believer in refurbishing the garden if possible. I’ll identify problem areas and what I can do to make them look better.” He works with several thousand dollars’ worth of plant inventory, which requires a keen eye for what, when, where and how things will grow. Ian’s small business is a healthy mix of design projects and ongoing garden maintenance, but he treats every job as a passion project.

    Ian has continued to take advantage of the benefits of lifelong learning since finishing his George Brown certificate in 2015. Through the Toronto Botanical Garden (a partner of George Brown’s Garden Design Certificate), he is working on a certificate in horticultural therapy and hopes to develop a therapy program for teenagers with autism. He also plans to take construction courses through George Brown to help him work more knowledgably with contractors.

    “I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed being back in the classroom. ... It was a very comfortable atmosphere in terms of exchanging information. We were encouraged to bring in stories about gardening and working with clients, and the challenges we experienced on a daily basis. ... I was very fortunate to have great teachers and small classes, so the student interaction was full on.”

    Ian takes pride in and ownership of every garden he nurtures. “I always say to my clients, ’Don’t be surprised if you see me walking through your garden one afternoon looking at the plants,’” he says, noting his ongoing commitment to seeing his gardens thrive through suggestions about watering and pruning. “When I go into a garden now, that garden becomes my garden. I make sure I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve done, because I want to make sure it looks nice and that my clients are happy.”