Student stories: Landscape major focuses on roof of his profession

While on vacation, most people's goal is to forget about work and everything associated with it, but Jeff Erb spent a vacation in New York City chasing down his dream job. 

Erb, a 2007 graduate in landscape contracting, a few years ago became interested in Plant Specialists -- a landscape-design firm that creates rooftop, terrace and balcony gardens -- when he saw several of its vans buzzing around downtown Manhattan. Intrigued by Plant Specialists' advertising, Erb quickly wrote down the company's contact information, which he later used to look up the firm's Web site and contact its directors.
 
"It just sounded like such a neat company, so I decided to e-mail them about an internship," said Erb. "But they never got back to me, so I eventually had to break down and call them."
 
After several months of back-and-forth correspondence, the Lancaster, Pa., native landed an internship with the firm. He spent the summer between his junior and senior years at Penn State learning about the company's business and began discussing the possibility of a full-time job by the end of his internship. That fall, Plant Specialists sent Erb a formal job offer, which he immediately accepted. He started with the company just after graduation.
 
"I grew up on a produce farm and was always working outside with plants," explained Erb. "So taking the job just seemed like a natural transition for me."
 
Erb believes Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences did a great job preparing him for his career as a landscape designer for rooftop gardens, creating original garden designs for a variety of clients. He still works for Plant Specialists, now as the manager of its design department, overseeing installations and completing designs for rooftop gardens and private yards throughout Manhattan, Queens and New Jersey.
 
He even collaborated on an interior feng shui garden that promoted prosperity for a client. He continues to learn more about his field and has completed courses with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and spent time researching green-roof legislation for the initiative of a green New York City by 2030.
 
Erb reported that he will be installing 1,500 square feet of turf on a rooftop garden this spring to work toward that goal.
Contacts: 
Last Updated November 18, 2010