If a neighbor hadn’t spotted Lauren Linden planting marigolds with her mother, it’s possible she wouldn’t be studying plant science at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio.
Linden says that in high school, she didn’t realize she could combine her love of art with her passion for working outdoors. Even after the neighbor, who worked at a nearby greenhouse, helped Linden line up a job there, Linden couldn’t see a potential horticulture career.
After spending three semesters at the Columbus College of Art and Design — where she felt like she was getting the “art being beaten out of” her — Linden finally landed at Cuyahoga Community College, where she has emerged as one of the school’s most esteemed students.
But Linden hasn’t forgotten the lessons she learned in the greenhouse, where she took on a new sense of pride in the plants she helped grow.
“From there, I learned that you can actually make money off of working with plants,” Linden says. “In high school and stuff, that’s never advertised. They’re like, ‘Be a lawyer; be a doctor.’ They never said anything about the green industry at all.”
Now Linden uses her artistic talents in hand-sketching designs or using software. She says her art background has helped her get an idea of what she’s going to create before she even officially designs it. This renewed focus is working out well for her: She won the National Collegiate Landscape Competition’s CAD competition out of 34 competitors in 2018 and won it again in 2019.
While Linden says she’s unsure what she’s going to do long-term after graduation, she’s become fond of working with flowers, far more than she ever thought she would be. She locked down a seasonal job with the public gardens at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo this summer.
Last year, she worked at a residential company and wants to diversify her experience with the commercial jobs. While there, she created an urban garden for a resident. She designed it, ordered the flowers for it and maintained it all summer.
“It was a learning curve for sure, but once I got an idea of what they were expecting of me and what materials I was allowed to use, it came easier,” Linden says.
She’ll join the industry next summer when she receives two associate degrees — one in plant science and landscape technology and one in fine arts — and yet Linden worries about what it may be like to work in a profession that varies so much seasonally. That said, she also knows there are ways to work around it. She’s largely excited to graduate and says she can’t wait to see where she can take her passions next.
“It does seem like the industry is getting bigger and bigger every day and there’s more opportunities, which seems to be more exciting for me,” Linden says. “Because ultimately what I want to do is be happy, and make money being happy.”