Coming to Oehme, van Sweden & Associates in 1986, with a master’s in landscape architecture from the University of Virginia, Eric Groft was the first associate to join the firm, founded in 1977 by Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden. Drawn by the OvS reputation not only for residential-garden design but also for horticulture, says Groft, “At UVA they didn’t teach us what a perennial was, and when I saw Wolfgang’s work around Baltimore, I was on a quest to learn more.” Groft also holds a bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental science from Shippensburg University, which continues to influence him, with the vernacular of each site front and center in his creative process. “I like to say ‘know your site’ and listen to what the location, neighborhood and region tell you. I make sure everyone in the office knows what watershed we are working in to heighten their environmental awareness.” Having worked on so many projects that he admits to losing count, Groft considers himself a jack-of-all-trades, enjoying all phases of the process, from the first site meeting to the last plant going into the ground, and even to consulting on ongoing maintenance. His advice to anyone entering the field: “Landscape architects need to get out of the studio and see things — gardens, buildings, cities, national parks — and most important, have fun. If we aren’t having fun, we shouldn’t be doing it.”
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