The College of Applied Science and Technology’s “A Day in the Life of a CAST Alum” series is designed to shed some light on how CAST alumni spend their days. As with many careers, our alumni will tell you that every day is different, but this series aims to provide a peek into an alum’s world.
Meagan (McDonald) Provencher ’94 is the senior landscape designer for Wasco Nursery & Garden Center in St. Charles. She has been a landscape designer since just a few days after she left campus in May 1994 with her agribusiness/horticulture degree. Her clients are mostly residential, but she has a few commercial projects that she’s proud of around town as well. Provencher holds the title of 2016 Illinois Certified Nursery Professional of the Year. “No two days are ever the same,” said Provencher, and that is what keeps her motivated and excited each year.
7 a.m.—I get my two boys (ages 10 and 15) off to school without a hitch (that happens about 70 percent of the time).
7:30 a.m.—I have coffee with my installation foremen and nursery manager to discuss the day’s projects. At Wasco, nothing happens before coffee. We will go over what crews are going where, any shortages or changes to the design plan, as well as speculate the rest of the week’s jobs and if the schedule will remain on time. During the busy spring season, my crews can be booked out as far as six–eight weeks in advance, so I run a tight ship with my calendar and crews in order to keep all of my clients happy. I have two amazing crews and the hard work and dedication they put in each and every day, no matter the conditions, is admirable.
8 a.m.—After I get my crews off for the day, I sift through voicemails and emails. I delegate as much as I can for follow-up to my assistant and the rest I take care of as quickly as I can. Usually clients just have questions regarding care of new plants, holes in leaves, watering, etc., but sometimes issues can be more serious and take a bit more time or a site visit to handle.
8:30 a.m.—I take a walk through our retail sales yard. Most of the plants that I specify for my landscape designs come from our 10-acre retail yard, so I like to keep ahead of what we have a surplus (or a shortage) of, what looks good currently, and also personally tag specimens for my clients. I’m a plant person before all else, so it’s imperative that I get out in the yard at least once a week. The plants inspire me. It’s also fun to interact with our retail shoppers, as they are usually excited that they snagged the landscape designer to help them with their plant choices!
10 a.m.—My days always have client site visits. I will meet with a potential client at their home, go over their wants and needs for their landscape, measure, take photos, and discuss our fees and installation services. I usually try to keep on-site client meeting to two or three per day, but in the spring, that can balloon up to five or six per day.
12 p.m.—I rarely take a long lunch but when I do, I like to eat with my boss and co-workers so we can all keep each other in the loop about what’s going on in the different departments in the nursery. I always try to make sure I’m around if it’s Taco Tuesday!
1 p.m.—In-house client meetings. I usually meet with clients again about two–three weeks after my initial on-site visit at their home. Within those two weeks, I’ve drawn their landscape design using CAD (computer-aided design) software (no time to draw by hand anymore!) as well as prepare estimates, care sheets, photos of the plants I’ve chosen, and other pertinent materials to their project. When I meet with them again at the nursery, I like to have every aspect of the project prepared so that I can easily answer their questions and also show them any plant material they may not be familiar with.
3 p.m.—DRAW! I sometimes forget that I have to actually take a moment to draw the landscapes! A full-scale, detailed landscape design for a typical property can take me up to four hours to prepare from start to finish. I tend to do designs in the order in which I met with the clients so that keeps me on schedule. I draw and install over 300 designs per year organization is key!
4:45 p.m.—Check in on emails/calls again—I also serve on the Illinois Green Industry Association’s Committee for their winter seminar, InvigorateU. Occasionally I’ll have conference calls with the other committee members to discuss the seminar.
5 p.m.—More client meetings off-site. In the busy season, I work long hours and often have to meet with clients in the evening. I book appointments as late as 7 p.m., but since I also work weekends, I try to limit my meetings during the week so I don’t miss too many of my kids’ activities.
6 p.m.—Head home for the day and hang out in my own backyard with my husband, Ben ’95, and the boys or catch some baseball, either the Geneva Vikings or the Cubs!
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