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Oceanfront landscape design project launches second career

Career switcher Jerry Zsoldos says he lives by the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Go constantly in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

An engineer with a local company for more than 30 years, Zsoldos retrained for a new career at 60. “It was not easy coming back to school at my age. But people are people, and TCC was a great place for me,” he said.

“I’ve always had an interest in gardening, plants and landscape design, so I came here to study horticulture,” he added. “With my engineering training and experience, I was looking for a broad education focusing on a variety of areas from pesticide use, soil management, trees, lawn maintenance and landscape design. We learned a tremendous amount in a very short time.”

In addition to classroom lectures, the horticulture program includes hands-on work in Tidewater Community College greenhouses and area businesses.

In a friendly class competition, Zsoldos and several other students provided landscape plans for the Four Sails Resort at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. They met with managers and developed individual plans for the ocean view of the resort and an outdoor eating space. This spring, Zsoldos’ plans were selected and soon after, installed.

“We’ve done many designs for residential and commercial clients,” said Kristina Bezanson, assistant professor of horticulture. “Jerry listens to clients, does his research and then delivers plans that meet the needs. He became a mentor of sorts to other students, sharing his insights with them.”

Zsoldos’ design included plants that would survive the hot summer sun and cold winters, as well as the salt, sand and wind.

“I chose native plants and included a drip irrigation system to ensure moisture in the summer,” he said. Plant selections included Sweet Pepperbrush, Switchgrass, Winter Jasmine, Holly Fern and Rosemary.

An avid plant collector, Zsoldos calls his yard his oasis. “I’m very big on native plants and ecology, and working to build a solid foundation for the environment,” he said. “My space includes 25 Japanese maples, my favorites.”

Zsoldos graduated this May with his Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture. He earned a 4.0 GPA and is ready to launch his landscape business. “Plants and the environment are my passions. I’m hoping to develop a clientele that will allow me to make their spaces beautiful. I can’t think of a thing that I’d rather be doing.”

Zsoldos also designed landscaping for the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center. That project will be installed this fall.

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