Connecting Gaia College to the East Coast
By Brenlee Brothers
Richard Greene and his stepdaughter Caroline Hall
Richard Greene is a Red Seal Landscape Horticulturist and Gaia College Diploma graduate who is passionate about spreading awareness and education about organic land care, while working to promote Gaia College on the East Coast.
Greene spent most of his life living in Prince Edward Island, but relocated to Nova Scotia almost a year ago.
After working in the fish farming industry for a couple decades, Greene wanted to make a career change toward something more aligned with his interests. In his spare time, if he wasn’t trout fishing, he was working in his yard, or gardening - often giving away the veggies he grew to his neighbors.
So when someone suggested he get into landscaping as a career path, he started looking online. There were a lot of options for online learning, but he liked the natural approach that Gaia College offered, so he signed up for three courses right off the bat: Organic Horticulture Specialist, Ecological Plant Knowledge - Natives, and Business Skills for Landcare Professionals.
When it came to gardening, “I thought I knew what I was doing,” he joked. But he was blown away by the material offered in the courses. “It changed me completely,” he said.
Knowing the course material is accessible on an online library platform after you finish each course is something he really values about the college, he said. “I like to be able to have all the material at your fingertips whenever you want.” Greene thinks landscape companies should be required to take these courses to expand their ecological awareness, “they should have this knowledge” he said.
Loon Haven: A SketchUp of their property in Lahave, Nova Scotia where they are creating a vast collection of gardens.
It was during the business skills course that Greene had the idea of becoming a Red Seal Horticulturist. In order to attain it, he needed to have experience in irrigation, stone work, retaining walls, and lighting. He did his apprenticeship under Mike Gallant of Beyond the Garden Landscaping in Summerside, P.E.I., where he learned all the necessary skills, while continuing to work toward his Diploma in Organic Land Care. The courses he took through Gaia helped prepare him for each block in his Red Seal, which he completed in March 2022.
A lot of people are interested in stone work, he said. But oftentimes there is not a lot of plant material that goes back into the area, so the challenge is finding a balance between hardscape and soft scape to enhance biodiversity.
Greene’s stepdaughter, Caroline Hall just completed two courses through the college as well, so the two have started a business where they can offer landscape design, property assessments, and health management plans to property owners within the maritimes. “We really have to encourage the east to get involved with this and start educating ourselves...a little bit of knowledge goes a long way,” he said.
Hall and Greene recently visited plant nurseries in their area to drop off business cards and talk with the owners, and from the conversations they had, it seems as though there is a need for the kind of services they want to offer.
This herb spiral garden was made from old block wood.
Now located in Lahave, Nova Scotia, Greene lives on an established property with lots of trees, shrubs and flowers, where he has intentions to start growing native plants and open a nursery in the future. They have started around 30 different perennials and some annuals (mostly vegetables) that will be going into the ground soon. Greene also plans to become a Certified Organic Land Care Professional, a two year process administered by SOUL. The goal is to become confident at growing food, and using his property to showcase what native plants can do. He says, "we've got big plans, but it's just baby steps right now". Hall is currently working on developing a website for their business: The Greene Hallway to Ecological Landscape.
A water feature rock garden to provide a water source for insects, birds, and plant material for pollinators.