Engineering a naturally native wildlife garden

Soil&Ink: Putting pen to paper in a digital world

Angela den Hoed has not always had an attraction to the great outdoors.

Growing up in Dodge City, Kansas, the dry windswept plains didn’t really inspire outdoor activities. Since then, however, she’s come to appreciate those wide open, windy prairies and big blue Kansas sky.

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Her love for the outdoors took root after college when she landed a job with The Coleman Co., the prestigious and well-respected outdoor camping gear manufacturer.

Here, Angela used her mechanical engineering skills obtained at Wichita State University to create many of the camping necessities we’ve come to depend on over the years.

I remember designing flashlights and lanterns, particularly a flashing LED light for kids and a tent light that attaches to the tent wall using magnets,” she recalls. “I learned a lot about the interactions between engineering, marketing, and manufacturing. It was great being able to see something I designed go from idea to being on the shelf at a local retail store.”

So how did an engineer go from designing high-end camping gear, to creating exquisite gardens for her world-wide clients?
Like a good garden path, her journey certainly didn’t evolve as a straight line.

While working at The Coleman Co. her husband’s job provided the family with a chance to live in Annecy, France.

It’s been an interesting path from being an engineer at The Coleman Co to creating beautiful backyard gardens. It’s a path, however, Angela den Hoed is happy to take and one that is providing her with new discoveries at every turn with her company Soil&ink.

It’s been an interesting path from being an engineer at The Coleman Co to creating beautiful backyard gardens. It’s a path, however, Angela den Hoed is happy to take and one that is providing her with new discoveries at every turn with her company Soil&ink.

Angela has created an impressive meadow garden. For more on how she created the meadow go here.

Angela took the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom to her two children, Kaitlynn and Emma and take in the incredible culture France had to offer.

Included in the culture change was a fresh view of gardening that Angela admits may have cultivated new roots in her eventual career choice.
Since returning from France, the family called Western North Carolina home, as well as a brief stint back to Wichita, and finally to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where she now operates Soil + Ink, her on-line landscape design and garden coaching business.

Angela is quick to point out that everywhere she has lived has been in growing zone 6. But, she adds, “the native plants in each location have been different.”
At home in Carlisle, she spent much of her time working on her own garden. “I’ve been a gardener and DIYer for more than 20 years,” she says.

Her hard work did not go unnoticed

Her work at home did not go unnoticed. Before long, neighbours recognized her gardening skills and attention to detail and began asking for gardening advice. The next step was creating garden plans for friends and family.
“One day a local landscaper approached me while I was working in my own garden and asked me to help some of his clients. That started me on the path to owning my own landscape design and garden coaching business, Soil + Ink,” she explains.
“Most people think landscape design is a long leap to make from mechanical engineering, but to me, they are very similar,” she adds.
“The process of designing a product to be sold in a store is very similar to designing a garden. In both cases you must keep the end user in mind, the design must be functional as well as beautiful, and you must take into account environmental factors (sunlight, temperature, etc.) on your materials.”
There is one big difference, however, between working at The Coleman Co. and as a landscape designer that suits her just fine.
“The difference is I get to design with living plants rather than plastic and metal as my materials,” she says.
Since starting her business in 2018, Angela has created more than 20 gardens and coached countless rookie and experienced gardeners on how best to tackle their gardening problems.
One of her favourite designs is one she just finished. “I love working with young homeowners and getting to teach them about using native plants and ecologically sound practices. They often have small children, and I like to include a small path for a child to run through the perennials and get up close and personal with them. Interacting with native plants helps children and adults create a connection and ‘sense of place’ with where they live. I’m so glad more and more home gardeners are asking for native plant designs.”

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Vic MacBournie

Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and shares his photography with readers.

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