Landscape Design Manager. Happier outside, from Batesville to Chicago and back home again
Emily Placke came to Altum’s after we put the word out that we were looking for “a natural at bringing ideas to life, breathing new life into established landscapes and getting down to what matters to homeowners.” We couldn’t believe our good luck.
Emily had just come from designing landscapes along the north shore of Chicago and needless to say, she had a hand in some gorgeous transformations.
We sat down with her to learn a little bit more about where she came from, why she does what she does and where she finds her inspiration.
Why do you do what you do?
I love to be outside, I believe in the environment and working to support and preserve it and I enjoy working with plants.
Where did your interest in the outdoors begin?
I worked on my family farm and there was never a shortage of things to do. Always something new each day. And I found I was happiest—and still am—when I’m outside. Even if it’s just finding a new park to explore or walking along a favorite path.
Maybe second happiest (or most interesting) was working at a bakery with a never-ending supply of cheap doughnuts. But there definitely comes a time when there’s too much of a good thing.
What makes you an expert? At landscape design, not doughnuts.
Ha! Well, for starters, I have a B.S. in Landscape Architecture from Purdue. A lot of people don’t know that that’s a 5-year program, which says a lot about the art and science of landscape architecture and how much goes into creating a good, sustainable design.
I also have a Certificate of Natural Areas Management and have designed and managed installation for smaller phased projects and refreshes up to elaborate backyard retreats in some of Chicagoland’s most exclusive neighborhoods.
I draw on all of that experience when I talk with homeowners and help them plan their spaces.
So if you had to have a favorite plant, what would it be and why?
Hydrangeas because they are gorgeous yet reliable. There are so many varieties and they have large, showy flowers. If I could cheat a little and have a second favorite, I’d say shrub roses because they flower for a long time and add a lot of color to a landscape.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Pretty much everywhere. I pay attention to things other people probably don’t even notice. Retail landscaping, the elaborate lengths hotels and hospitals go to with warm and welcoming landscape touches, public spaces like parks, zoos and universities. These spaces may look effortless, but there’s a lot of planning that goes into achieving a consistent, sustainable and attractive look in every season.
I also love Landscape Architecture Magazine, the House & Garden site and go-to’s like Pinterest and Houzz.com.
We talk a lot about all the benefits of gardening, but when it comes to you and your life, what is the biggest benefit to gardening or planting?
I get to be outside and it’s my all-time favorite place to be. I also love to give away the vegetables I grow to friends and family. It makes me feel good to do something I love that they appreciate.
So happiness is having the time to grow?
Yes! And a walk to see what other people have grown is pretty great, too.