Brooke Garcia began her college journey at Kansas State University in the College of Architecture. While inside the studio, she would see other students taking classes outside studying plants. Uninspired by architecture, she knew she wanted a career path that would still allow her to be creative. When she saw landscape design listed as an option under horticulture, she had a change of heart. To confirm if this was the right decision, she worked on the horticulture team at an eco-retreat center on the Big Island of Hawaii. She says there was no turning back after that, switching her major immediately after her return.
She met Southern Botanical, based in Dallas, Texas, when they came to the Ag Industry Career Fair at Kansas State University. Prior to attending the career fair, Garcia looked up every company online and was blown away by Southern Botanical’s presence.
“I am very picky on companies that I choose to work for,” Garcia says. “When I say that, I am specifically referencing online brand presence. If a company’s branding doesn’t look professional or visually appealing, I won’t even consider the company. It needs to stand out.”
For Garcia, Southern Botanical had that presence and she knew she wanted to work there. After shadowing with the team in Dallas for a day, Garcia was offered a garden manager position.
“I actually had no idea what the job truly entailed,” Garcia says. “I knew I was going to be taking care of gardens, but I still didn’t quite understand the industry or scope of the job.”
Garcia worked for Southern Botanical for about two years. When her husband took a job at KSU, Garcia says it was a tough decision, but they decided that Manhattan, Kansas, was the next best step for them. She landed a job with the university as a training support specialist, using her horticultural expertise to develop educational resources for both the statewide Extension Master Gardener Program and Pesticide Safety and Integrated Pest Management Program.
Garcia pursued her master’s in business administration in management while working full time for Kansas State. She chose to pursue her MBA to help separate herself from others in the landscape industry. After working as a garden manager, she realized she had to not only practice horticulture but understand many other aspects of the business.
“My goal was to always get back into the industry,” Garcia says. “I wanted to bring my horticultural and business expertise to a high-end landscaping company.”
In her job search after completing her MBA, Garcia had a list of locations and landscape companies she wanted to look into. In her research, she would find company websites with misspellings or site designs that looked like they hadn’t been updated since the 90s.
“Online presence is everything to me,” Garcia says. “If I look up a company online, I always think about how that will look on my resume if someone goes to look it up. A lack of quality presence would affect the perception of who I am as a young professional. By sharing this, I hope it serves as a reminder of what candidates you may lose as a result of your website or social media. Truly it could come down to branding.”
While searching for positions, she discovered the newly created garden director role at Magnolia, based in Waco, Texas. Garcia says the position was perfect.
“I love Magnolia,” she says. “It goes back to brand presence; they’re doing amazing things. I knew that I could also bring both my horticultural and business expertise to the garden team. At the heart of my role, my job is to bring the Magnolia vision to life through the garden.”
Since joining Magnolia in October 2021, Garcia’s week consists of site visits to various Magnolia properties, such as Chip and Joanna Gaines’ farm, Magnolia Silos, Magnolia Table, and the Magnolia vacation rental properties. She is also currently developing processes and determining the best efficiencies for her team. Some of her other tasks often include staging planters and planning for large seasonal color changes.
Magnolia recently doubled their footprint in downtown Waco to be two city blocks long and one city block deep. They have a number of retail shops and food offerings, and guests visit from all around the world. Magnolia has hosted upwards of 80,000 guests in one weekend alone.
Garcia believes Gaines’ emphasis on the garden has inspired countless consumers to add raised beds to their landscapes and experiment with gardening.
“It’s great to see guests come and leave inspired,” Garcia says. “I think one large source of inspiration at the Magnolia Silos is the garden. We continue to see a shift in this industry because consumers want their outdoor spaces to look beautiful. They want to figure out how to incorporate cut floral, vegetables, and raised beds into their landscape. I have never seen this much volume of interest in these areas until just a few years ago.”
Despite Magnolia’s popularity, the company is still considerably new. They recognized the need for someone with both the horticulture and business expertise to keep the multiple locations associated with the brand perfectly manicured and pristine.
Garcia says they have a small garden team, but they always manage to find a way to get the work done.
When Garcia joined Magnolia, she knew she wanted to be involved with the professional development and networking opportunities that NALP has to offer.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved with NALP,” Garcia says. “I just haven’t really had the right position and the right opportunity to do so.”
As for her plans for the future, Garcia says she is happy in her current role and calls it the opportunity of a lifetime. She plans to network as much as possible and is anxious to begin the Navigate Program through NALP.
“I have the opportunity to collaborate with Chase Mullin of Mullin Landscape, based in New Orleans, Louisiana,” Garcia says. “I feel honored to have the chance to learn from such a successful, standout company in the industry.”
“It is my hope that I will also have the opportunity to educate and inspire others within the industry during my career,” Garcia says.
This article was published in the March/April issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.