Photo courtesy of Freyja Kendrick

Freyja Kendrick’s first career was in finance, but she wasn’t satisfied working in an office and not impacting the world. So, she went back to school, earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and became a landscape designer. In 2009, she was hired by her current employer – Chicago-area landscape company Dig Right In – and hasn’t looked back.

“I love the variety in my day. I love working with clients,” Kendrick says. “I love working with earth restoration. We are very focused on sustainable installation and organic maintenance, so I love that we’re doing things in a more natural way.”

As a senior designer, Kendrick also runs the company’s design and style division. Below, she answers questions about what plants are trending, why consumers are interested in native plants and how she works with growers to best serve her customers.

Greenhouse Management: What are some of the plant trends you currently see in the landscape market?

Freyja Kendrick: Very much on most people’s minds right now is planting natives. I’m planting things that are more indigenous to the area, that attract beneficial pollinators and create a habitat for all wildlife, need less maintenance, meaning less water, and [have a] reduced need for any kind of pesticides or herbicides. I think doing native plants is a huge trend, and we’ve been doing it for quite some time because that’s always been our slant. We’re very happy that the marketplace is now catching up to that. I think that another one of trends is edible landscapes. People are a little more health-conscious. It’s all about personal taste. Not everyone likes the same exact plant. You have to ask [customers] what is it that they like and we put a design together and we say ‘Here’s what we recommend’ and then we ask their opinion on it.

GM: Why do you think the market’s interest has shifted towards native plants?

FK: I think a lot of it has to do with the decline in the bee population, the decline in our food sources, and in general, people being more interested in organic vegetables. I think that trend in valuing the way we take care of ourselves is carrying over into how we take care of our property as well.

GM: How do you work with growers to get the type of plants your customers are looking for?

FK: We have a variety of nurseries that we have a good relationship with. They reach out to us and are trying to provide customer service to us. If there’s certain plants that I’m looking for, I turn around and ask them for those things. I will ask them to source them for me. I don’t try to make it too difficult. I think there are so many plants that are so easily and readily available that I don’t try to circumvent the system too much. That said, I think that demand from homeowners and demand from designers to provide native plants is a trend and the nurseries are responding.

This interview was edited for style and clarity.