Growing Admiration Series | Q & A with Horticulture Leader Leslie Halleck

A self-professed “plant geek,” Leslie Halleck is also an educated horticulturist, an author, an entrepreneur, and a consultant. We interviewed her this week to get the details on her passion and career.

Leslie Halleck

Leslie Halleck began her career in horticulture in 1992 by working at and helping run a retail plant nursery. Now, she’s received her Masters of Science and is a Certified Professional Horticulturist via the American Society for Horticulture Science. Leslie has accepted many esteemed positions throughout her career, including but not limited to positions at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Roundtree Landscaping, and North Haven Gardens.

Leslie also has a prolific career as a writer. Most recently, she published Gardening Under Lights; The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers and will release Plant Parenting; Easy ways to make more houseplants, vegetables, and flowers in May 2019.

In 2000, she launched her own company Halleck Horticultural and started consulting in her spare time. Nearly twelve years later, she began running her consulting business full-time. At Halleck Horticultural, she provides a variety of services to the green industry, including horticultural consulting, business strategy and development consulting, company and product branding, digital content marketing, and copywriting. Essentially, she plugs in with green industry companies to support them where they need her most.

1. How did your passion for plants develop? Do you keep a garden personally?

I think we can all trace our personal plant addictions back to the very first plant we were given or the experience we had in a garden with an elder. My mother was a gardener who grew both flowers and vegetables, so I was regularly recruited to help with garden tasks. We also had neighbors who gardened, and I often spent time gardening with them. Growing up in Germany, gardening was an embedded part of village culture.

I remember the first potted plant I was given as a young child was a bird’s nest fern in a yellow plastic pot. I became very attached to that plant and remember feeling very responsible for its care! I was an art major in college for the first couple of years, but the urge to work with plants finally overcame me. That’s when I got a job at the garden center and changed my major so I could study plant science.

Oh yes, I’ve kept gardens in many forms since those college days. You couldn’t see in or out of the windows of my rental house for all the potted plants I kept indoors. I was lucky enough for most of my landlords to allow me to garden in-ground around the houses and apartments I rented. I’ve gardened extensively — both indoors and out — in each home I’ve owned. I currently grow a wide variety of ornamentals, vegetables, and fruits at my city home in Dallas, as well as keep chickens and beehives. I also do a lot of indoor gardening year-round.

2. What is the most fulfilling aspect of what you do? What is the hardest aspect of what you do?

I love being creative and to spur progress. Whether I’m helping a client manifest a horticultural project, or helping a green industry company grow their business, I love the feeling that I made the project more successful. When my clients win, I win.

The hardest aspect of what I do? People are always harder than plants! Working with many different clients and vendors, I deal with a wide variety of people and personalities. We don’t all always see eye to eye and my personality doesn’t always resonate with potential clients. Having the courage to say “no” to work and acknowledging when something isn’t the right fit for both parties is something that requires ongoing diligence. Self-reflection is a daily responsibility.

3. Based on your website, it looks like you wear many hats. How do you balance all of these responsibilities and keep the ball rolling forward?

Leslie Halleck

I do wear many hats because variety keeps me excited and engaged. I consider myself a multi-passioned entrepreneur and modern-day renaissance woman! I love to keep learning new things.

In terms of balance and juggling all the different things I do with my business, having good help is crucial. There’s no way I could do everything all by myself and still do a good job. I have great staff and contractors who work with me to help me help my clients. Hiring the right people makes all the difference.

4. Last, and most important, why do you think plants are important? And why do you think it’s important for people to interact with plants regularly—or do you?

Firstly, I like breathing! We can thank plants for that. Secondly, I like eating. So of course, plants are fundamental to our human existence, and I think we can all appreciate that. Beyond our survival, plants are beautiful, and they enrich our lives both from a visual and a mental well-being standpoint.

I do think it’s very important for people to interact with plants daily, as plants have a strong positive impact on mood and physical health. Plant-keeping also fosters a culture of caring and nurturing other living things. More and more, people these days are filling their homes with plants, and in some cases as pet replacements. And really, who would rather look at concrete versus foliage? As far as I’m concerned, plants make everything better.

5. Anything else you’d like to share that is integral to your philosophy as a plant-lover, career-woman, and human?

All it takes to garden is one plant and one pot. When you grow lots of plants, you’ll kill lots of plants! And that’s ok, I officially absolve you of any “green guilt.” You can always grow more plants, and learning how to properly kill a plant teaches you a lot about how to grow it successfully. Becoming a good gardener takes practice.

As a career-woman and human, authenticity is my rule. Represent yourself authentically and don’t apologize for who you are. Know who you are, and be confident in that truth; but also, be willing to improve how you work with others and the quality of what you do.  Never compromise on what you know you shouldn’t — do compromise when doing so makes sense and is the right thing to do. Do what you say you’ll do when you said you’d do it. If you can’t, ask for help. Under promise…over-deliver!