I’m a Landscape Architecture Student!


I may have mentioned that I’ve gone back to college, taking classes at the University of Maryland campus near me, tuition-free.

I got my feet wet last semester with an art history course recommended by a friend. It was pure fun – learning things I’ll never need to know or will ever write about from a very lively and opinionated teacher.

But this week I began my first class in the building I’m supposed to be in – Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture – taking a course that might have been designed to appeal just to me – the History of Landscape – and I’m so psyched!

The teacher is Dr. Caren Yglesias, who worked in private practice before turning exclusively to teaching, most recently at Berkeley, and writing. Her books include ones about Steve Martino and Andrew Jackson Downing and a well-used text on materials and construction.

So here’s what I loved about her before I even knew all that – she has a career’s worth of knowledge and experience, assets typical of the growing ranks of adjunct professors. (The treatment of adjuncts is a hot topic, but not for this blog. Moving on.)

Also, I may pick up some fashion ideas from her; I aspire to her level of stylishness. Grandmothers rule!

Our one required textbook is The Course of Landscape Architecture by a European author, and all 13 of the sites it focuses on are from somewhere else. Not the U.S.

Caren (she insists) loves this book so I have high hopes (despite the boring cover, which seems to be mandatory for textbooks).

From our first reading I suspect that there may be more to it than exotic (to me) landscapes and hundreds of great photos – maybe a bit of ranting. I spotted this in the introduction:

“We ought to question the dominant moralistic posture behind the ecological and sustainable, and allow ourselves to demystify this version of nature critically, while acknowledging the reality of new necessities.” I’ll let you know. Who knows? I may be blogging the whole course.

I’m also curious to see how classes that prepare students to practice an actual profession are taught differently than the typical liberal arts classes I took in college. For example, instead of taking exams and writing papers, these students will research and present projects.

Tomorrow’s Landscape Architects
So what I’m looking forward to even more than the text are the students’ 10-minute presentations of their research projects about interesting landscapes, mostly in the DC area, many that I know well and have photographed throughout the season.

Most of all, I look forward to getting to know this diverse bunch of landscape architecture students, hearing about their reasons for entering the field and their various paths to it, like one young woman who, I learned, came to the plant world via military service near San Diego. She’s working 40 hours a week on top of a full courseload. Another classmate already has his own business creating and maintaining organic edible gardens.


  1. OMG you are taking a *free* course in landscape architecture from the woman who wrote The Desert Gardens of Steve Martino?! And is an authority on Andrew Jackson Downing? Do keep us posted, at least on the projects you and your classmates come up with.

    It’s astounding the influence Downing had considering he only lived to the age of 37.

  2. Congratulations on becoming a landscape architecture student! I myself enrolled in the MLA program at Ball State at the age of 61 and am finding it both challenging and mind-stretching. Not having had a design education or much computer literacy has made for a steep learning curve, but I would never have thought about the future the way I do now . The Girot book is the best history textbook out there; you can’t absorb all of it in one semester, so think of it as a reference book you’ll dip into again and again over time and let it be a gateway to the work of Christophe Girot himself, for my money one of the field’s true geniuses. I came to this field as a gardener with lots of historical interests; now I’m thinking about lots of other paths. Will soon launch my own podcast, IMMINENT DOMAINS! Best of luck!

  3. How much fun is that, and how lucky to find a tuition-free class on landscaping.

    Here’s hoping students start with mostly native plants– as our local and migrating birds, and pollinators including butterflies and moths need our gardens to thrive.
    Another, excellent “textbook” (with an arguably more attractive cover design):

    Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens (Douglas W. Tallamy, 2007)

  4. “We ought to question the DOMINANT MORALISTIC POSTURE behind the ecological and sustainable, and allow ourselves to demystify THIS VERSION OF NATURE critically.

    OUCH! I can’t wait to have my dominant posture demystified. I’m looking forward to the author question my moralistic interest in protecting the eastern monarch butterfly which, in news released this week, had a great year, perhaps the best in a decade, with the help of the American gardening community:

    And, if one of the students wants to write a report on one of those mystical monarch eco yards, he or she can call me.

    Definitely blog the course. UMD has a top notch program.
    Bring it.

  5. Garden Rant does you a disservice by not giving your name in the actual blog writeup. I only found it by going to “Comments.” Please include it in future blogs, as you should get credit for your thoughts and writings!

  6. Wish I could take such a course. I don’t suppose something like this course could be taken for free online? (I’m retired.) Am definitely interested in any updates to your course experience.

    On a side note, I’ve noticed that we who read GardenRant, the blog, and not GardenRant on Facebook receive updated posts quite a bit later than Facebook folks do…How come? I’m not on Facebook for good reason, but I am an avid GardenRant follower and have been for quite awhile.


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