1. How has landscaping design changed in South Lake Tahoe over the past 20 years?
Landscaping models have changed dramatically. In the past a company would go onto a site, grade, add sprinklers, install lawn and call it good. These days, especially with the water rationing and the current drought, we have to put more thought and design into every garden. People want different, more natural landscapes, with lower maintenance, and landscapes that use less water and fertilizer. I love problem solving and landscaping in South Lake Tahoe is definitely that.
2. When did you start working with Tahoe Outdoor Living?
By the 1980s I had moved to South Lake Tahoe and had set up my own design/build company and became friendly with one of my competitors, Pat Baginski. At that time, Pat was running his first company ‘Tahoe Turf’. We began to partner on jobs and when Pat created Tahoe Outdoor Living, I decided to try something different and came to work for Pat. This allowed me to focus more on my landscape architecture and design work, while Pat took over the managerial aspect of the company. We have been working together now at Tahoe Outdoor Living for 11 years.
3. What is an interesting fact about the South Lake Tahoe climate/environment that people should know?
People assume that natives don’t need water, but all living things need water to some extent, whether they are native, adapted native or ornamental-everything needs water. Here in South Lake Tahoe, we don’t have regular rainfall and so we need to guide the water to our landscapes and gardens. Native plants need regular watering for at least 2 years until they are well established.
4. What is your favorite and least favorite plant? Why?
My favorite is definitely the Burning Bush. I try to plant one in every garden I design; I guess you could call it my signature plant. I started planting them in and around the Davis area and I am so glad that even in the Tahoe environment, I can still work with this shrub. It is rounded in shape and is naturally very pleasing and versatile in any garden. It is extremely hardy. The name describes its coloration in the fall-when the days are still warm and the nights are cold- it turns from an unassuming green bush to this bright vibrant red. Every year is different dependent on the temperatures and environmental conditions.
My least favorite is Spanish Broom. This is an invasive plant in California. It looks spectacular for two weeks of the year and then for the remainder it looks awful. People love it, but it should never be planted!
5. What are the Top 5 things people can do to improve their gardens?
- Analyze and inspect their watering systems
Lots of dry spots on your lawn means you have poorly functioning sprinkler heads. Many of the issues can be resolved by having proper watering.
- Look after you lawn
Thatch will build up which will limit water penetration and increase runoff so dethatching and aerating will help maintain your turf for years. Both will help your lawn to retain water and stop runoff.
- Have a fertilizer schedule for your plants
Use liquid fertilizer with water or time release fertilizers which help increase your plant and flower production and maintain the beauty of your garden.
- Proper pruning will invigorate your plants and shrubs.
I hate to see gardens that are unpruned because the potential is there for so much more.
- Always plant new plants
Beautify your garden for different times of the year, add wind blocks to protect your garden, use plants as living fences.
6. Do you use organic fertilizers?
In certain areas we use only organic, like within the Tahoe Keys where the water from the gardens runs directly into the canals and lake. Elsewhere the customer has options and we provide organic alternatives.
View Some of Our Work
Check out our photo gallery to see some of our work designing and installing landscapes in the Lake Tahoe region.
7. How do people best take advantage of the nursery?
People visit the nursery and are wowed by the array of colors and blooming flowers. But I have to explain to them that what is beautiful now will be gone in a few weeks. To enjoy their garden year round they need to have seasonal interest with changing colors in the fall, spring and summer flowers, interesting leaf shapes. Flowers and plants and colors are very emotional for people and I help to guide them through those decisions.
8. How did you become a Landscape Architect?
During High School I really enjoyed drafting and I was somewhat artistic. But I lacked the math skills to become an engineer. So I went to Michigan State to become a Landscape Architect. After graduation I moved to Ottawa, Ontario to work with a large architectural firm who focused on large scale, long range projects. This meant I never saw anything finished or come to fruition so when the opportunity arose to move to Davis to work for a residential contractor I decided to make a positive move.
9. Who influences your design and aesthetics?
I borrow from what I see in life and the environment around me. I am influenced by nature- for example if a customer would like a water feature I try to incorporate that water into the most naturally occurring area- the vision is to create something natural and I allow what I see to guide me. I want a landscape to flow and relax the senses. Most importantly you must always listen carefully to what the family wants- understand their physical and emotive needs – do they want sound for ambience or to drown out other noises, do they want motion for the feeling-a calm gentle flow or a rush and torrent to invigorate.
10. What is the most satisfying part of your job?
I get the most gratification when a customer says “I love the yard/landscape” and that I have exceeded their expectations. In South Lake Tahoe things are very transitional, and the vision of one person is very different to another’s. Many times I will work on a garden for one customer only to return in a few years to redo the garden for a new owner. So when a customer returns after 5 years and still says to me that they use and love their landscape then that to me is the most satisfying thing about my job.
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