A Sustainable Career: Landscape Designer Amy Dutt

Reader Contribution by Wendy Gregory
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Amy Dutt is the Owner of Urban Wild Ltd, a sustainable landscape design/build and consulting company operating in Ohio since 2001. “We create landscapes that bring ecology into lands and lives.” Her specialties include landscapes that manage rainwater (Green Stormwater Infrastructure) and Nature Playscapes.  

Nature Playscapes are the most rewarding places to design and build. Young children today live an indoor life full of technology and stressors. Watching a child play happily outside at one of our Nature Playscapes touches my heart and gives me hope.”

 My outfits vary dramatically. I wear business clothes under my Carhartts so I can do a quick-change into a blazer for a business meeting.

Some days Dutt will be on a construction site, other days she’s meeting with parks and organizations looking for creative ways to fund land conservation. There are days potting up plants and driving a tractor, or days in the workshop building cedar ‘mud kitchens’ for a preschool.

 “I love the variety and the challenge of being a pioneer in the field of ecological land design.”

This year Amy joined with 5 other partners to purchase Scioto Gardens, a Delaware, Ohio nursery specializing in container grown native plants. Birds, bees and wildlife in Ohio evolved with native Ohio plants, yet the typical landscape installed in the growing suburbs of Central Ohio contain few plants beneficial to life. For years, Amy had been purchasing landscape quality plants from Scioto Gardens, native plants grown in real soil, which couldn’t be found at other nurseries in the area. “When the previous owners announced they were retiring, we jumped in together because we couldn’t imagine a world without Scioto Gardens.”

“I took a crooked path to find my passions.” With a degree in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University, Amy quickly climbed the ladder as an engineer at Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc. She was the Engineering Quality project leader for the first luxury car Honda produced in the United States (the 1999 Acura TL). When she left Honda in 2003, she was managing a department of 110 engineers. “Pregnant with my first child, I went on maternity leave. I didn’t want to pay someone else to raise my kid.”

Always inspired and awed by nature, she felt a calling to work on land and water, so she pursued that without having a particular plan. Dutt allowed the way forward to open to her by paying attention when people or opportunities came that felt right.

“I could never have imagined I’d be designing or building or growing native plants when I was an automotive engineer. I’m so engaged and fulfilled by what I do, and I feel grateful that much of my work is outdoors. “I didn’t realize what I was missing…I need to be outside”

Projects include a rain garden design for Columbus, Ohio’s COSI, AHA! Children’s Museum Nature Playscape, Mary Evans Child Development Center, Montessori School in Cleveland, and Liberty Park design concept and team leader for Steam Restoration and Green Stormwater demonstration. Dutt is also co-founder of Central Ohio Natural Playscape Inititative.

Wendy Gregoryspent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

The Living Landscape 

Written by Rick Darke and Douglas W. Tallamy, two of the most important voices in sustainability and horticulture, it is the definitive guide to designing a beautiful, biodiverse home garden. The authors first explain each layer of the landscape and what role the plants within them play in the larger environment, from providing berries for birds, food for bugs, or a place for bees to pollinate. The authors then put this information into context and offer design strategies to implement into a home garden. Helpful charts offer suggested plants, including natives and nonnatives, for each region.
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