February 17, 2020
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Learning How to Think About a Landscape

Published May 30, 2019 • Last Updated 11:37 am, May 28, 2019

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The number of landscape-related courses of study available surprises a lot of people. One that is receiving a lot of attention in our current times is landscape design.

Christine Darnell of Lyme is an adjunct professor of landscape design and horticulture at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury ( With an MFA in sculpture from SUNY-Purchase and an M.S. in landscape design from Columbia University, she runs her own design and installation firm,

She says that spatial and three-dimensional thinking are critical to the imagining and creating enduring landscapes.

“Learning to see things in a two-dimensional map called ‘plan’ view is always a stretch at first,” says Darnell. “The idea of a 2-D drawing becoming an actual 3-D landscape, with hills and valleys, or ledge and marsh with a house requires a big leap.”

She leads students through a series of exercises to help them learn to visualize.

“The result is always a wonderful surprise. Suddenly, the new student is thinking outside the box,” she says.

Darnell’s students come from a very wide variety of backgrounds.

“I see older students, career changers, and some retirees. But about 75 percent are young people who are interested in getting jobs or increasing their responsibilities in the industry.”

In addition to landscape design, she says many have interest in nursery management and propagation.

Like everyone I know in the land-related industries, Darnell says we need more young people to understand the opportunities in horticulture, design, and land care.

“They will take over for us,” she says.

—Kathy Connolly

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