The Art of Landscaping

Nature’s beauty knows no rival. The allure of a stately shade tree, the calm of trickling water or the joy of a colorful garden are difficult to deny. Through landscaping, homeowners can harness these natural elements and incorporate them into their own property, boosting the appeal and value of the home. 

Andrew J. Marble, owner and landscape designer at Billings Nursery & Landscaping, understands the inherent importance of landscaping in both an aesthetic and financial sense. He started learning the business from the ground up. After earning a B.S. in biology from Rocky Mountain College and developing a “mind for science,” he worked in the healthcare field but soon shifted his original focus from medicine to landscape design.

“This was a big shift,” Andrew says. “But by teaching myself design theory through time spent observing designers and reading many landscape architecture and design books, I have grown to love what I do more and more.”

He also enjoys working out in the field with his crews from time to time, gaining further enrichment and learning through hands-on experience.

“I especially enjoy creating environments people enjoy. Using plant-driven designs, water features and artistic stonework, spaces come alive,” he says. “In a time where nearly everything calling for our attention is a screen, we can connect people with nature.”

The benefits of improving a yard extend beyond pleasing the eye. Landscaping projects are an investment in the property.

“The national average for landscaping is 10 percent of the home value,” Andrew says. “However, this can easily reach 20 to 30 percent of the home value if the site is built on a hillside needing retaining or elaborate water features or other elements are desired.” 

For long-term value, he says your best bet is simply planting a quality tree in a desirable area.

“A few hundred dollars will be valued in the 10s of thousands in a few decades, as well as provide many assets to your home such as shade and habitat for animals.”

If you don’t have the time to wait 30 years for a tree to mature, curb appeal wins out.

“If you are selling or going to be selling soon, updating the front of your home is generally easy and will make an impression to potential buyers.”

First impressions are always important, so creating an inviting environment around your home can help make guests or potential buyers feel an immediate connection to the property. 

As with any home improvement, homeowners should choose their contractors carefully, always have a firm plan and work with the end goal visualized.

“Landscaping is a large investment, so choosing your designer and contractor is important,” Andrew says. “See what kind of work they normally do and if they are a good fit for you. If you are doing the landscaping yourself, ensure you have the proper plan in place and know your limitations. Design is the most important part of landscaping if you want to achieve something with order, simplicity, balance, rhythm, proportions, focalization and unity.”

Whether you are hiring someone or tackling the job yourself, Andrew believes you should always integrate professional knowledge into your landscaping endeavors.

“Going to a local nursery, you can ask questions about materials, such as the size and growth rate of plants, so you know where to plant them. Online information can sometimes be incorrect, and true nurserymen and nurserywomen know how plants actually behave in their specific areas. Correct installation of plants and hardscape is critical for long-term success, and many resources are available from local nurseries.”

Additional tips from Andrew on choosing the right landscaping project for you can be found on BillingsLifestyle.com.

Essential Elements of Habitat

When deciding on a project to undertake, homeowners may consider the four essential elements of habitat: food, water, cover and space.

“These four elements, though generally for wild animals, can be designed exclusively for humans and will bring great joy,” Andrew says.

Here are some ideas Andrew believes incorporate each of these four essentials:

  1. Food “Edible plants are simply fun. Nearly every child (and most adults) love to pick fresh strawberries, grapes or apples. With many other edibles available to grow, even in a pot on a patio or a tree in espalier form, everyone has room for something edible. People love having a connection with their food.”
  2. Water “Who doesn’t delight in the sound and movement of water? This can be as simple as a birdbath or a small basin in the ground with a bubbling rock above, or a small pond filled with fish and aquatic plants. With more resources and time, a larger system can be achieved such as a swimming pond or large water feature.”
  3. Cover “Cover can be achieved with a tree as the canopy grows to provide shade. A pergola is a wonderful element that can provide a partial sun screen, but still allow for an open feel. An arbor covered with vines leading to a backyard will provide an element one desires to walk through. Large screening trees or shrubs can provide privacy and wildlife cover, especially evergreens.”
  4. Space “Space is generally achieved by lawns and provides us areas to play, walk and lie down in the shade under a tree. A granite or flagstone path can provide space through a garden. A paver or flagstone patio will last longer than any other surface and will provide a space to dine, relax or enjoy the warmth of a fire pit. Play areas for kids to enjoy are yet another use of space.”